Curriculum Updates of Savannah Elementary | February Edition
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From the blog of... Math Coach's Corner
Consider this problem:
Mario and Terrence have both been saving their allowance. Mario has saved $35 and Terrence has saved $52.
What math is the problem asking you to do? If you said you don’t know, don’t feel bad! Without the question, there is no way to solve the problem, because it’s not really even a problem yet–just a collection of facts. Each of the following questions could be answered using the information given above:
- How much more money has Terrence saved than Mario?
- If the boys pool their money to buy a present, how much will they have?
- If the boys combine their savings and buy a present for $78, how much money will they have left?
In her book, Building Mathematical Comprehension, Laney Sammons writes that good readers use the structure of texts to make meaning. For example, the structure of a narrative piece is very different from a nonfiction text. She goes on to say:
“Students benefit from knowing about the structure of word problems–considered by some to be a unique genre.”
Sammons describes the structure by outlining three typical parts: the introductory information (beginning), the factual information (middle), and the main idea (end). Look back at the problem at the beginning of this blog post. You see two of the three parts. What’s missing is the main idea…the question…the part that tells the students the problem they need to solve.
I’ve been working with my group of remedial 3rd graders the past two weeks to help them understand the importance of the question and analyze it for meaning. One strategy I’ve used that has been quite successful is to have students read through the problem once and then actually have them cover up the introductory and factual information and just analyze the question. The truth is, students are often blinded by the numbers. Taking the numbers out of the picture and having students concentrate on the question is a powerful comprehension strategy.
Having students write their own word problems is another way to improve comprehension. I have several easy versions that I like.
- You Write the Story. Give students an equation and let them write a word problem that can be solved using the equation. This requires little or no prep as a workstation activity, and you get a lot of bang for your buck. Of course, students need to be familiar with the structure of word problems and you need to model the process of writing a problem before the students try it on their own. You can differentiate the activity easily by giving students different equations based on need. For example, while most of the class is writing a problem to match the equation 32 x 4 = ____, students on a lower level could use 12 x 4 = ____, while students who need more of a challenge could use 328 x 4 = ____.
- The Answer Is. For this version, give students only the solution, for example The answer is 32 books, what is the question? This frees students up to use any operations and numbers they are comfortable with (even two-step problems) and will result in a wide range of story problems.
- You Write the Question. Give students just the information part of the word problem, without the question (similar to the way I started this blog post). Let them write a question that can be answered using the information.
For more blogs from this author, click here: http://www.mathcoachscorner.com/
English Language Learners
Supporting our ELL students and ALL students
In order for students to understand content/concepts, they need to have background knowledge. It would be very hard for any student, especially an ELL student that does not have a lot of words, to make an inference about photosynthesis if that child does not have any background knowledge related to the process.
Thus, as teachers, when we are introducing new concepts; realia (real items), photos, and illustrations are important. Using these items help learners develop a clear understanding of the unknown word, concept, or content.
STRATEGY #1 (99 Ideas and Activities for Teacher English Learners with the SIOP Model)
1. Introduce key vocabulary/concepts with realia, photos, illustrations
2. Post words and pictures on word walls, charts or in personal dictionaries
3. Have students share with a partner key ideas about the word/concept using the realia, photos, illustrations
4. For beginning ELLs, provide them with an illustration or picture and a sentence frame until they are familiar and comfortable with speaking to a partner
Create and maintain picture files related to content that is going to be taught. Store these pictures in a file folder with the topic written on the tag. Having picture resources quickly available makes planning SIOP lessons much easier.