2017 - The Teacher Studio: Learning, Thinking, Creating
classroom community
As I have taught longer and longer, I realize that this "back to school" season has taken on new priorities for me.

I remember scouring the back-to-school flyers looking for bargain school supplies.  I remember thinking about what colors my bulletin boards would be--or if I wanted a "theme".  I am still wondering what led me to the "fish" theme that one year...I think it was the clearance glittery fish I saw at the party store, but I'm not 100% sure.

With the growth of Pinterest and other social media sites, I have seen even more attention paid to these things...the colored bins.  The coordinated bulletin borders.  The works.  And you know what?It's FINE.  I know that we, as teachers, need to be happy in our classroom environments and creating that space can be a creative release for teachers as well.  That being said...I do hope that we always remember that we are there for the students and their academic and social growth.  Because of that, I wanted to share with you some of my current thoughts about back-to-school preparations.  When I plan my classroom environment, THESE are the ideas that help steer my thinking.

Teach Students to Work Together

One thing I expect ALL year is that my students work collaboratively and cooperatively.  This is not something all fourth graders do innately!  Early in the year, I immerse my students in practice opportunities where I coach and we work together to establish "norms" for partnering.  I truly believe that investing time early in the year in teaching students how to work in partners will pay off so much as I move to larger cooperative groups later in the year.

First, I encourage a discussion where we keep track of what students know about working in pairs. We FILL the white board with ideas and then work to group things together.  I later record the key ideas on a chart that I display ALL year. When partnerships are struggling, I send them over to refer to the chart and identify and work on the issue.
working in cooperative groups
I also get my students reading from DAY 1 that we work in partners a ton...and that we often don't get to pick our own partners.  I use "people picker" sticks a lot...and also use cooperative name tags that make it super easy to form groups of different sizes.  We talk about how important it is to be able to work with ALL students...regardless of friendships, skills, gender, or any other variable.  I also want students to understand how damaging a heavy sigh or an eye roll can be...and those are not allowed when partners are picked.  Ever.
picking student names
back to school teaching ideas classroom culture
Just click the image to learn more...


Immerse Students in Growth Mindset Language and Practice

Talking about growth mindset is quite trendy...but when I first started reading and studying the brain research years ago, a few things became clear.  This truly is a CULTURE that needs to be nurtured.  It isn't an "activity" or a project--it's a way of DOING things--all year long.  I do a lot of activities at the beginning of the year to get students comfortable with the language and ideas related to growth mindset...from reading picture books that represent it to using sentence stems to working with this bulletin board to really keep these ideas visible.
back to school teaching ideas classroom culture

teaching growth mindset activities
I also start the year off by providing students with a bunch of challenging tasks that help us practice a growth mindset and to build this culture.  This leads to my next point...we want to create a climate where mistakes are made, acknowledged, managed, studied, and even celebrated.  If you are interested in these growth mindset activities, click HERE or the images above.

Nurture of Culture for Mistake-Making and Productive Struggle

If we want students to be risk-takers and to be willing to try new things and receive feedback, we need to make our classrooms places where the pressure to be correct and perfect is absent.
productive struggle
It isn't enough for US as teachers to believe this...we have to clearly model it and communicate these truths to our students.  We need them to trust us implicitly--and that we actually VALUE mistakes and are there to help coach them through challenging work.

A few ways to encourage productive struggle…
1.Model it! Show your students how to tackle new concepts with an “I can do it” spirit!  Admit when you don't know something...and show them what you do next!

2.“Name it” when you see it!  Highlight student work and effort…show you value it.

3.Teach students how to work in teams and how to support each other through challenges.  Give them sentence stems to support their language.  I like to help them learn how to "coach" each other without simply giving away the answer.  I also want them to learn how to politely refuse help if they want to keep forging ahead on their own.

4.Remember YOUR mindset…students will value what you value.  I also love to find real world examples and examples in the books we read.

5.Think about ways to regularly celebrate challenge…tough math problems you tackle together, digging into rigorous but engaging literature, celebrating exciting new vocabulary words, cooperative puzzles…the sky is the limit!

Encourage Deep Thinking 

I know some people like to start the year off with a lot of low-stress activities--but I am a believer in digging right in and getting going!  In those first weeks, I do provide students with the chance to really practice those "culture" pieces--discussion, partnering, discussion, and so on.  This fun cooperative activity gets so much great discussion going--and the students just love it!  Click the image to go the blog post all about it...(and it's free!)
back to school teaching ideas classroom culture
Although I certainly do stick to the curriculum sequence, I also want my students to have to think deeply from the first day--and to realize that there ARE going to be problems this year that they can't solve right away--or alone.  We work collaboratively to tackle these back to school word problems, and it's a great opportunity for me to watch how students are working and what strategies they have dealing with problems that require a little thinking.  It is almost like a little assessment for me to see how they work together and how willing they are to tackle challenges.
back to school teaching ideas classroom culture
Just click the image to see more about these problems (also available in a digital version)
Another way I really get my students thinking from the first day is with my read alouds.  I start the year by reading picture books that get them thinking...and I also start my first chapter book read aloud of the year.  For the last few years, I have used Fish in a Tree as my first read aloud because it has SO much to offer...it helps us learn to talk about books, about bullying, about life at school, and about how we each have our own journey at school.  If this is a new book for you, I can't recommend it enough.  I have put together a resource with a lot of the writing and discussion prompts that I use along with this text in case you are interested.
back to school teaching ideas classroom culture

Help Students Recognize and Value Their Personal Learning Journey

Fish in a Tree is the perfect novel to kick of our year-long discussions about how we EACH have our own educational journey and a different path to success.  We start with a lot of interest surveys and self-reflections where we check out our strengths and do some goal setting.  This math behavior checklist is one of the things we do--and it really helps students start to move away from the idea that "good" math students are fast at math facts--and they learn that math (and other learning) is so much more than this.
back to school teaching ideas classroom culture
This is a part of my math practice standards self-assessment resource.  Click the image to see more.
Getting students to recognize and "own" their own strengths and goals is a great way to work on that culture for learning...that idea that we are all on this journey together.

Culture of Fun and Joy

I hope you can see that I firmly believe that despite all the demands placed on us by our policies, our administrators, our peers, social media, and more--we really CAN create a culture in our classrooms of acceptance, fun, and excitement.  Students need to feel like we are on their team and will support them unconditionally--and when we have this culture in our classroom, we CAN have fun and do amazing things.  So...go ahead and search Pinterest for the perfect classroom theme and have fun. But please remember why we do what we do...we nurture humans to become better humans.  Have a great school year.

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first weeks of school classroom community

fraction professional development
I'm excited to announce that my third and final webinar is ready to roll!  I can't wait to chat with you all about fractions--a topic that is often seen as the most difficult math concept to teach our younger students.  Year after year, I get the MOST requests for help with lessons and ideas related to fractions.  To help, I have crafted this webinar to address some key issues faced by teachers who want to make fractions accessible and meaningful for their students.

The webinar addresses a few key ideas...

1.  What makes fractions so difficult to teach and learn?
2.  What common teaching practices should we be mindful of?
3.  What is the role of math discourse in fraction instruction?
4.  What are common fraction misconceptions that we need to address?

If you are interested in the discussion, sign ups have now opened up!  I would love to see you there...and there are four August dates available for you to choose from.  Just click the image below to take you to the fraction freebie handout--and the sign-up link is right in the description.  The links for my other two webinars--problem-solving and place value--are included as well and are my final sessions of the summer so grab a spot while they last!
fraction professional development
If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that I have blogged extensively about key fraction concepts--and, in fact, I created an entire fraction unit out of a series of 16 of those posts.  I recently added some new features to that unit, so if you own it, make sure to go redownload it to grab the new elements!  If you don't own it, check it out and see what you think.
fraction lessons and teaching ideas
I've also had many people ask me to take all my fraction resources and put them in a huge bundle to make things easier...and so I did!  I'm excited to offer this bundle of 10 fraction items which will provide you with everything you need to really dig deeply into fractions.  Make sure to download the preview to see exactly what you get!
hands on fraction activities and lessons
Finally, I have had such positive feedback on my formative assessment toolbox resources--but people were begging for fractions.  Here they are!  I hope you find this resource helpful.  It includes 78 different half-page formative assessments to use throughout your year.  See what you think!
fraction fraction assessment
 So...this begins my "Fraction Fest 2017"!  I plan on blogging more soon...but I wanted to get the word out on the webinars for those of you who want to participate in these webinars in the waning days of summer.
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Interested in some food for thought about self-assessment---and the importance of creating a culture to nurture it!  Come visit over at Upper Elementary Snapshots to learn more!  Click HERE or the image above!  Before you go...

By the way...not sure if you have noticed but I have added a few new products to my store that might help you out next year!  Just click the images below if you are interested...
Another set of task cards perfect for developing student writing skills with quick writes!

So much fun for students--they can finish the narrative and YOU can easily assess!
Sets 1-3 are my best seller--and here is set FOUR finally!
Perfect to help students REALLY understand the standards for mathematical practice and to help them be more reflective.

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productive struggle
If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that I am a huge believer in helping students learn the "behaviors" needed to be successful students and human beings.

Whether this means immersing them in the Standards for Mathematical Practice...coaching them on discourse and accountable talk strategies...or helping develop life skills that will extend far beyond my time with them--I firmly believe that spending instructional minutes explicitly working on these skills will pay off BIG time.

A few years ago I started digging into the work of Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler because I knew what I believed--and wanted to understand the research behind it.  I blogged about Carol Dweck last year...just click the image below if you missed that post about the need to nurture "productive struggle".  There's a short video clip that is super powerful as well.
teaching growth mindset lessons and activities
So over the years, I have started to formalize the work I do in my classroom related to this idea of "productive struggle" and "growth mindset"...and the beauty of teaching intermediate grade students is that they can LEARN about these ideas.  I love to teach students about how their brains work--and the truth about how they learn.  It has become more and more clear to me that I send messages to my students without doing so deliberately...the "hidden" curriculum.

If I insist on silence during work times, it shows I value working independently.
If I give time tests, it shows I value speed in math.
If I use wait time, it shows I value thinking and reflection.
If I teach students to work in groups, it shows I value collaboration.

So you can see, this "hidden" curriculum can be a GOOD thing--or a negative thing and we need to be more mindful of the message we are sending.

For that reason, I try VERY hard to be transparent with students.  I try to explain WHY we do what we do.  "I want you to work in pairs today because I think it's important that you try to coach each other and push each other." or "Today I'm going to give you a precision grade because it's important to look over your work and check for accuracy and completeness." or "Let's study our mistakes on this problem because investigating errors helps us grow connections in our brains--research shows us this."  I really believe it helps build the culture in our classrooms--that it gives students ownership of the learning and helps cement my role as "facilitator", not "boss".  I want them to know why I do what I do.  It's important.

This leads to very explicit instruction in some of these ideas early in the year that I then revisit all year long as routines and behaviors might start to break down a little.

What are some of these "learning behaviors"?

We talk extensively about "helping" each other...how it's ok to offer help and also ok to "give it a try" on our own--as long as we are respectful about how we do it.  We also talk about the different ways to OFFER assistance without being a "boss" or taking over.  We want a climate where students know how to manage help!

Also, I talk about how our brains grow and learn and how important it is to make mistakes, to recognize the feedback of others, and to be willing to tackle challenging tasks.  I purposely put students in positions to practice this...with collaborative activities, challenging math problems, and more.  I want to establish a culture where it's acceptable and ENCOURAGED to say, "I don't understand," or "Can you please help?" or "Let's try something different."  The real world is NOT fill-in-the-blank, is it?

I explicitly teach the language of "growth mindset" and "fixed mindset".  We brainstorm the language associated it and post examples that I leave up all year. One of my favorite things is when a student recognizes these behaviors--perhaps in a book we are reading--and says something like, "Hey!  Elise is really using a fixed mindset in this part."  The discussions we have then are amazing.
growth mindset bulletin board

I use discussion starters to keep us talking about writing about these behaviors...we make anchor charts...we take surveys...we assess our own behaviors...we set goals.  We immerse ourselves in these "learning behaviors".

lesson plans growth mindset

Why?  Because if students don't have a true awareness of these behaviors, the fractions and verbs and summarizing and map skills just don't matter as much if students are missing the other piece.  We can continue to work ourselves through our textbooks and our curriculum documents.  We can write learning targets on the board and do our assessments and fill out our spreadsheets and track our data.
We can continue to go skill by skill, day by day--or we can stop, help students understand how they learn, and create a climate where learning is exciting, meaningful, rigorous, and extends far beyond the objective on the board.

I think it's worth it.


Interested in what I do to help teach growth mindset?  Check this out...
Want to see some of the problems I use to encourage productive struggle?
What a fun freebie to help students learn to work collaboratively?
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word problems
One thing that I really try to be mindful of when planning my math instruction is how I "spend" my minutes.  There are some things I really try to minimize as I plan:

  • Transition delays 
  • "correcting" things
  • passing out/collecting materials
  • filling out practice pages
And I try to spend as many minutes as possible doing the following:
  • high-level problem solving
  • math discourse
  • small group teaching/coaching
  • partner work
  • open-ended tasks
Apparently, a lot of you feel the same way because I am constantly being asked to provide MORE open-ended, rigorous tasks--because they are VERY hard to find!  I also think it's important to realize that this type of task can be used in a variety of ways...as enrichment work, for fast finishers, as math "rotation" work, and more.  I would like to challenge you to think more "instructionally" as you look at some of these tasks--because ALL our students deserve quality math experiences!


"But my struggling students don't even know their math facts!"

Agreed.  Mine don't either.  That being said--problem-solving doesn't require students to know their math facts--especially not quickly.  If we withhold quality math tasks from our students until they know their facts...I think you know what will happen. #stillwaiting

"So what am I supposed to do to support ALL of my students so they can be successful?"

 Plenty!  I like to think of teaching as being like working construction...construction workers need to have a host of skills, know how to use a variety of tools and know WHEN to use them.  Same with us!  Here are a few of those "tools" that can help us make these rigorous math tasks accessible to even our most struggling students.

1.  Explicitly teach students how to work together.  I start this conversation from the very first day of school and hang up the chart we make together and refer to it OFTEN.  We practice it often with short, simple tasks so they learn how to work together when it matters!  By doing this, you can get creative with your pairs/trios for problem-solving--either by grouping students together with varied abilities to support each other OR "like-abilitied" students can work together and then get extra teaching coaching or a simplified list of expectations.  Math is a collaborative activity, so it's critical that they learn how to work well together!
teaching problem solving real world challenges

2.  Vary the "tools" you have available.  If students struggle with computation, they may still be able to solve challenging problems when given tools...calculators, manipulatives, graph paper, number lines, and more.  Here's the deal.  When we make these "tools" available to all students all the time, students can learn to access them when needed.  When we pass out rulers and TELL students to use them, we are taking all the decision making away from them.  Have your materials accessible, teach them how to use them, and then--if students are struggling--gently encourage them to "find a tool" to help.  You may even need to coach them on how to use them.
teaching problem solving real world challenges

3.  Teach problem-strategies explicitly.  Just like teachers need tools in their "toolbox", so do students!  When we help give them strategies to try when faced with a problem, they are far more willing to dig in.  One of the first things I talk to my students about is VISUALIZING.  I'm not sure this is mentioned in any research anywhere--but let me tell you...it helps so much.  When I introduce a problem to students, I always ask them to IMAGINE what is happening.  If there is a bakery shelf with 3 trays of cupcakes--picture that.  If there are 24 cupcakes on each tray, picture that.  If a customer buys 3 cupcakes off each tray--picture THAT.  When students learn to do this, it helps avoid that common problem-solving strategy--ADD ALL THE NUMBERS.

There are a ton of other strategies I like to teach explicitly as well--so that students have some base experiences with them.  I have put together a sequence of problems I use...but I always want to make sure I explain to students that we are practicing them so they can USE THEM LATER.  So many math resources have a page called "Draw a Picture Strategy"--where students know exactly what strategy to use (because of the title!), but they don't really understand that the reason we teach the strategies is so they can recognize them later and solve those types of problems.  Interested in what I do?  Just CLICK HERE for the paper version or the image below to see the digital version!
Also available in a digital version
Once students understand their role--to be ACTIVE problem solvers, then we know what to say when they are struggling.

"What have you tried?"
"What tools have you used?"
"What strategies have you tried?"
"Can you visualize what is happening?  Tell me."
"Tell me something you can do to get started."

By "coaching" this way, students maintain the power and ALL students have access to challenging work!  We may need to come back in with more detailed coaching if they are still struggling...but giving them that toolbox gives all students something to grab onto.

4.  Find real-world experiences to help students realize that we learn math to solve REAL problems in the REAL world...it isn't just filling in a workbook!  When we create a climate where students understand the purpose of problem-solving, where they have the strategies needed to tackle them, they know they aren't in it alone (they have classmates and a teacher coach to help), we are helping students build confidence, their perseverance, and their understanding of WHY we learn math.  Have a problem at your school that needs to be answered?  Solve it!  Do you have something in YOUR world the students might like to investigate?  Try it.  A perfect example of this was a few years ago when I took a trip to my local apple orchard and it turned into a great problem.  Click HERE to read about it and grab that freebie!
Because I know how crazy the school year can get, I have been building my own collection of "real world" problems that I use with my students...from a bakery trip to saving for a new video game to planning a party to helping at an animal shelter...students LOVE solving real problems that matter.

You may have seen the first three sets that I've been using for the last few years, and I've had countless requests for more.  I finally dug in and got going!  Set 4 is ready for you...a shelter problem, a bathroom tile design challenge, and a present-wrapping challenge!  Take a peek and see what you think.  I worked hard to add extra challenges with each of the 3 tasks as well so that students who handle the tasks with ease can continue the learning.  See what you think!

Click HERE to read a post from last year where I go into even more detail about open-ended tasks and give you some great teaching strategies!

So remember...we may need to guide some of our students more than others, but let's remember to not save our best math experiences for only our top students!
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helping struggling math students


It's here!

I am so excited...I have SO much enjoyed interacting with you during my place value webinars in June...and I can't wait to share some more ideas with you in my new problem solving webinar!  (You missed the place value one?  No worries...due to popular request, I've added a few new sessions!)

One thing that I have always been passionate about is trying to get students AND TEACHERS excited about math--and my goal with my summer webinar series has been to share a little of my knowledge, share some research, and then give you LOTS of tips and strategies to use in your classroom to make learning math meaningful and fun--and teaching it easier and more enjoyable.

I really hope you'll join me to keep the conversation going...we can work to make a difference in how students feel about math and how we can be more effective in delivering the rigorous curriculum expected of us.  I hope you find it helpful.  To keep things fun this summer, I am also entering all registrants into a drawing for a $10 voucher for my store--each webinar will have a winner drawn.  If that winner is in attendance at the end, they can pick out $10 of resources to use!

Click the image below for the freebie note taking document and to see the sign-up schedule.
Miss the place value and number sense webinar? I added a few July times!

Click the image below to see the details or to sign up.

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problem solving webinar



Kylene Beers
It's time to share our thoughts about the second section of "Disrupting Thinking" by Beers and Probst--a week late but here nonetheless!  Sorry about the delay--it's been an eventful few weeks for me.

When I first read this section, I think that what first piqued my interest was that we truly got into the "meat" of this book--this idea of "disrupting" our thinking and reading to be changed.  If this idea that reading should trigger change in us is new to you--you aren't alone.  For years we have read (and had our students read) to make connections, to find out how it ends, or to make a story map--but to be CHANGED by it?  Certainly not something most of us have discussed with students, especially at the elementary level.

Without giving away too much of the book--because no one can state it as articulately and as passionately as the authors, the gist of this section revolves around reading around what is in the book, what is in your head, and what is in your heart.  A simple formula, right?
Kylene Beers
If you haven't read the book "Notice and Note", you might want to grab a copy of it to help you understand more about what the "signposts" are.  These signposts truly changed the way I interacted with students about texts--and they helped ME be a more thoughtful reader.  Again, it's too much to include in a blog post (#readthebookitisworthit) but giving students language and ideas to dig deeper into texts is so powerful.

So after this next section, I have a few MORE questions that I need to ponder--and would love for you to add your thoughts about!  If you haven't read the book, feel free to add your comments as well, but if you HAVE read this section, I'd like to know your reflections on all or some of the following:

1.  What are some of the best questions you ask to get these deeper discussions going with students?

Like I said last week, I love our social issues unit--but I have found that by carefully choosing texts to read aloud (picture books, articles, novels, etc) students have NO shortage of ideas they wish to talk about!  I really love it when we find connections between texts.  For example, we read "The Tiger Rising" early in the year and later in the year read an article about poaching.  I didn't have to plan out too many questions because the text selection made it happen.  I think I said something like, "Hmmm...so what are you thinking?" and that's all we needed.  Some of the best questions I use aren't specific to the text but are more general--like "I wonder what the author was thinking when she wrote that..." or "What choices did ____ have?".  What are YOUR thoughts on quality questions?

2.  This section also refers to the idea of teaching social activism through our reading instruction--at a developmentally appropriate level, of course.  Think about texts you have used that might lend themselves to this idea and share them.

It's interesting because I teach in an area with very mixed political beliefs and have always been extremely careful about how I present social topics.  That being said, by tying everything back to EMPATHY, I think I am always helping students look beyond the obvious, beyond what they see on the news, and beyond what they hear at home.  We want students to be thinking about the impact words and actions have, right?  It can be a slippery slope if not handled with finesse.  Thoughts?

3. The book refers to the BHH framework (book, head, heart).  What are some ways that we can work to get students thinking about texts (both informational and fictional) at each of these levels?

I think by their very nature, children are curious.  As teachers, I believe we need to put them in positions to be able to tap into that curiosity, share their ideas, and LEARN about their ideas.  Being mindful of how we introduce texts, how we create a climate where reading to learn and reflect is expected and enjoyed, and how we reward "good" reading...and by "good" I mean thoughtful and meaningful.  I think we need to have more discussions as teachers about what "good" readers are!  I'd love to hear your ideas as well!

I hope you are enjoying the book and are starting to do some thinking about the implications for you and your students.  Like last week's post which you can find by clicking HERE,  I'm hoping to get some great ideas from the rest of you!  Still need a copy of Disrupting Thinking?  Here is an Amazon affiliate link if you are interested.  Stay tuned for the ending next week--and please share your ideas below or on my FB page.  Let's learn from each other


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Kylene Beers

It's officially time to share our thoughts about the powerful first section of "Disrupting Thinking" by Beers and Probst!

When I first read this book, I think that what first piqued my interest was the title of the section..."The Readers We Want".  Interesting, right?  After all, we've talked about "backward design" when designing our units for years.  Doesn't it make sense to start thinking in reverse--when students area finished with us, what DO we want them to look like and do as readers?

I'm guessing if you take some time to reflect on this, that none of you would say any of the following statements...

"I want them to be able to test well."
"I want them to be able to make 3 text-to-self connections per chapter."
"I want them to be able to able to improve their fluency rate by 25% over the course of a year."

Right?

So what DO we want?

In the STEM fields, we constantly talk about preparing students for the ever-changing world of science and technology. We tell them that we are preparing them for careers that may not even exist yet! So...Beers and Probst are sending the same message--but are we thinking differently about how we teach reading to meet this changing world as well?  The more I think about it, the more I realize that we aren't.
In this section, the authors write about being "responsive" and "responsible" readers.  They say it isn't enough to have students attend to the messages in the text but is equally as important to pay attention to their feelings and reactions to the text and how the two interact. This is directly related to the ideas shared about reading the news and other information responsibly--and making decisions on what to do with the information (true or not) that we read.  With social media at the tips of even our youngest readers, the power to share information is often more accessible than the mature thought processes needed to make these decisions.

Finally, the fourth chapter refers to the "compassionate" reader; and I know that in my fourth grade a word we use a great deal is EMPATHY.  We try to empathize with different characters in books to "feel" their side of the story.  We try to empathize with people and animals that we read about in the news to more deeply understand the experiences they are living.  After reading this chapter, I realize that I am on track--but need to do more. Much more.

So after this first section, I have a few questions that I need to mull over--and would love for you to chime in about!  If you haven't read the book, feel free to add your comments as well, but if you HAVE read this section, I'd like to know your thoughts about any or all of the following:

1.  How much does this idea of  "empathy" come up as you do your literacy instruction?  Are there resources you have used that are helpful?  For example, I think Eve Bunting's picture books are AMAZING for this...as are many quality novels...from The One and Only Ivan to Out of My Mind to Rules and TONS more.  Feel free to add other titles to the comments as well as ideas, grade levels, or other ideas to help teachers know how they could best be used.

I love that we have a "social issues" unit with book clubs we do at the end of the year...it's so great to really push their thinking outside themselves and see how these stories unfold and impact all the characters.  This year, I read several of the books I listed above plus "How to Steal a Dog", "Hoot", "Because of Mr. Terupt", and "Shredderman".  I also used many different picture books to get students thinking and talking.  I also did searches on Amazon and our local library for books on all sorts of issues from race to gender equity to homelessness and more.  We had some amazing discussions--so make sure to share any book titles that would help others!  To tie in, we also read a variety of articles and nonfiction texts to help us build our understanding of some of these issues.

2.  How do you balance the amount of informational reading and fiction reading in your class?  What is the ratio you currently have?  Is it what you want it to be?  What are your thoughts about increasing the amount of reading done with these more intense "social issues" texts?

Over the last years, our district has worked hard to incorporate far more informational units into our curriculum from kindergarten on.  I still see many students self-selecting primarily fiction texts, however.  For every content topic we study--human body, forces and motion, chemistry, pioneering, immigration, etc--I try to immerse the class in informational texts to help build background for deeper understanding.  Share out any ideas you have for getting more varied texts in your students' hands!  

3. What strategies have you found most helpful in developing readers who are thoughtful and responsive?  What can INTERFERE with this?

I think the selection of powerful read alouds is the great equalizer!  Not all students need to be reading at grade level to be exposed to deeper ideas and discussions about quality texts.  Finding texts with interesting characters, problems, and issues can help teach students to think deeply and talk meaningfully about texts.  I also think providing students with lots of independent, "just right", self-selected reading is critical.  There are lots of things that can interfere with this of course...challenging schedules, curricular demands, and behaviors.  Sometimes resources are scarce as well.  Often certain texts and reading lessons are prescribed and mandated which may make teachers feel as if there isn't time to do more.  What do you think?

I hope you are enjoying the book and are starting to do some thinking about the implications for you and your students.  One thing I am ALWAYS worried about is finding ways to impact and motivate my most reluctant readers.  I'm hoping to get some great ideas from the rest of you!  Still need a copy of Disrupting Thinking?  Here is an Amazon affiliate link if you are interested.


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It's almost here!
Congratulations to Karen Freemantle who was the winner of the Disrupting Thinking book giveaway!  I hope you are all as anxious to get started talking about this powerful book as I am!  As a reminder, the discussion schedule is as follows:

June 7:  Discuss Part 1
June 14:  Discuss Part 2
June 21:  Discuss Part 3 and the Conclusion

Participation is easy!  Just get the book (I have included an affiliate link below if you need it) and be ready to add some comments in on June 7 about the first part!  I will be posting about it both on my blog AND on Facebook, so you can participate in either location.  Be ready to share "aha" moments and goals.

There will be more information coming soon about my Summer of Learning Webinar Series as well...but I am excited to say that the first webinar is ready to roll!  This one is all about teaching place value and number sense in the upper grades, and I hope you will join me.  There is a freebie handout in my TpT store to use to take notes if you want--or just tune in and listen!  There are currently 5 dates available for this webinar (It's free--don't worry!), and I can't wait to release information about the second webinar in the series--all about word problems. Stay tuned for FB live and email reminders as well.  Interested in signing up?  Click the image below to take you to the freebie and sign up link.
teaching place value and number sense

Still need a copy of Disrupting Thinking?  Here is an Amazon link if you are interested.


Stay tuned for more updates...and I hope you find this book as powerful as I do!  Want to make sure you don't miss any details?  There is a sign up link for my emails on the right side of my blog!  Watch for a FB live with more details Tuesday night...8 pm central.  See you then by clicking HERE!


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