The RoundUp

November 2021

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Elementary Literacy Updates

The only greater joy than reading a good book is perhaps writing your own. Writing a good book challenges children to use all of their literacy skills. Create a space in your classroom with abundant writing materials: paper, construction paper, scissors, tape, crayons, markers, pencils and pens. Give your students materials and space to become an author and illustrator of their own book or collaborate with a peer to create a book. Students can collaborate around their strengths and those of their peers to formulate relationships, build friendships and engage in inquiry based learning. It might be fun to have your students create an “About the Author/Illustrator'' page. Don’t forget the opportunity to share!


Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy: Prekindergarten

Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy: Grades K to 3

Grades 4-5 Essential Instructional Practices in Literacy

IES Practice Guide: Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers

IES Practice Guide: Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively


Looking for a read-aloud to connect with? My Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World, written by Malcolm Mitchell, a former NFL wide receiver, tells the story of young boy who disliked reading and could never find the just-right book until...he writes it himself!

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Secondary Literacy Updates

Secondary literacy is for EVERYONE, not just ELA Teachers. “Disciplinary literacy instruction helps students learn the content and practices of important academic disciplines and also helps them develop critical literacy and thinking skills. This includes, but is not limited to, the use and production of a wide range of texts. Disciplinary literacy instruction also helps to prepare students for critical media consumption, college-level learning, and a range of career trajectories.” This language can be found on page 32 of the Essential Practices for Disciplinary Literacy Instruction in the Secondary Classroom under the meaning of Disciplinary Literacy.

If you haven't had an opportunity to check out the Essential Practices for Disciplinary Literacy Instruction in the Secondary Classroom yet, here are a few resources to get you started.


*An Introduction to the MAISA General Education Leadership Network's Essential Practices for Disciplinary Literacy Instruction in the Secondary Classroom

*Disciplinary Literacy Professional Learning Offerings

*Disciplinary Literacy Task Force Webinar

*Exploring Disciplinary Literacy Blog

*A Dialogue About Disciplinary Literacy Essentials with Jenelle Williams and Dr. Darin Stockdill


Please feel free to reach out to Geanice Miller, Coaching Coordinator and Consultant, at gmiller@vbisd.org to discuss large group, small group, or individual learning around these essential practices.

Summing Up Math

Help! My students don’t know their math facts!


We’ve built arrays. We drew pictures. We’ve skip counted. We’ve made flashcards. We’ve done dozens of worksheets. We even play games online with every spare minute. Why don’t my students know their facts yet?!


Sound familiar? If this is a frustration for you, you are not alone! The lack of progress on this learning target is easily the number one most common lament heard from teachers of mathematics. After considerable amounts of instructional time is spent on single digit operational work in multiple grades, so many of our students still don’t demonstrate basic fact fluency in a way that frees up working memory for more difficult skills. Let’s examine what teaching and learning practices must be occurring in our classrooms to support fact fluency for all learners...


Cognitively Guided Instruction explains how students progress toward fact fluency. Students begin at a direct modeling phase, where accuracy is only found by showing the fact concretely. For addition this might look like four counters and two counters being pushed into one pile, and the student “counts all” to find the sum of 6. Students will then progress to being able to “count on'' from the first (or larger) addend to find the sum. For multiplication this might look like students making equal groups with counters and being able to write the equation that matches. What happens next is the key to climbing the rest of the ladder!

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When students understand what it means to add or to multiply, a number string is a great way to provide an opportunity for students to notice patterns in fact types. A number string is a series of related math problems that when presented together can be used to prompt discussions that allow students to notice patterns or practice applying a strategy to increasingly difficult problems. The examples of number strings below show the value of making a ten to add and using a friendly 10 to solve multi digit multiplication problems. More information on number strings can be found here, here and here.
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Christina Tondevold (The Recovering Traditionalist) explains in this video (skip ahead to 3:40) how we really need a balance of practices based on memorization and the meaning behind the math facts! She goes on to explain how true fluency is a three part goal: Accuracy, Efficiency, and Flexibility!


What accuracy looks like:

  • Students using manipulatives or drawings to find an answer.

  • Students use counting all or counting on strategies to find a sum or product.

  • Students making generalizations about the operation (the total is the largest number in addition equations, the first factor is how many groups/rows of another number there are)


What flexibility looks like:

  • Students use the commutative, associative, or distributive property to add or multiply.

  • Students use fact families to find an answer

    • Extend this to having the missing number in all positions

  • Students verbalize fact type strategies:

    • Multiply 2s by doubling the other number

      • Multiply 4s by doublings the other number, then doubling again.

    • X6 facts can be solved by doubling the x3 related fact or by finding 5 groups of the other number and adding one more group.

    • Find more fact strategies here


Christina reminds us that the more connections we have built through visuals and discussions, the easier it is for us to recall information. Here are some visuals and tools that can be used in your classroom. Each picture below is hyperlinked to a purchasable resource.

As students generalize patterns and noticings, you might want to display these great ideas on an anchor chart that can be referred to all year! You might even choose to give credit to the student that shares the generalization by labeling it as their idea. For example, if your student named Juliana shares that the 4s are similar to the 2s, but with another doubling, you might label this strategy as “Juliana’s 4s Strategy: double, double”. Each time this strategy is used it is referred to as Juliana’s, positioning her as a contributor to the field of mathematics and building her mathematical identity. An example of strategy posters that could be displayed as anchor charts made in class can be found here.



Students need ample time to think about strategies and apply them through purposeful practice. Guided practice that regularly includes the fact type in focus is a great starting place. There are also many math games that allow students to work with a partner and practice using a strategy to solve facts, while the teacher can circulate the room listening to student discourse (and formatively assessing for accuracy and strategy application). Students not given ample time to work with a strategy will revert back to more basic direct modeling and counting strategies. We bridge that gap between counting phases and fact fluency through the teaching, discussion, practice, and application of strategies!

OK, but where do I start???


Math Fact Fluency writers explain how children will naturally gravitate toward certain fact types (foundational facts). Next, they will be able to connect the more difficult facts (derived facts). This book also contains low prep games for strategy practice. Click here for a professional learning opportunity with co-author Gina Kling! Here is a list of fact types for addition and multiplication on a spreadsheet that may be used to collect your observational and formative assessment data. The foundational facts are listed first, and as students show proficiency on them, the teacher can progressively scaffold out the rest of the facts. For a really detailed report on what your students already know, consider interviewing them using Dr. Nikki Newton’s Math Running Record. Ann Elise Record explains the many benefits of Dr. Nikki’s work in this podcast (skip the first 6 minutes unless you want to know more about Ann Elise’s credentials).


With regular accuracy and flexibility, efficiency will result. If you have a favorite game or activity that is time based, it is most beneficial for the student that is already accurate, but slow. Timed practice may harm children who are still struggling to be accurate (Davenport et al. 2019).


What are your favorite ways to build fact fluency? I’d love to hear more about them! If you’d like to share your favorite resources for other Van Buren County educators, send to acook@vbisd.org and I can add your great ideas to my Virtual Office and my regularly shared documents.

Social Emotional Learning

SEL Supporting Practices:

The use of Calm Corners is a great way to help create safety and encourage Self-Management within the classroom. Check out this video and resources provided by Kathryn Lugten, South Haven School Social Worker.

Calming Corner


Another strong supporting SEL practice is the use of Rituals in classrooms. Rituals promote a sense of belonging and help to communicate to students “I see you, I hear you, and I value you”. This short video clip can help when creating classroom rituals.



Explicit SEL Instruction:

Wondering why we are focusing on Explicit SEL Instruction, and why specifically through TRAILS? See the table below for rationale on how teaching explicit SEL instruction supports each of the 10 Schoolwide SEL indicators through CASEL.


If you are still curious in learning more about Social Emotional Learning, please be sure to join our SEL Champion series. Resources for the SEL Champion Series are embedded into this Action Plan, so please feel free to take a look.

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Enter to Win Books from Scholastic through Meemic

The Meemic Foundation, in collaboration with Scholastic Book Fairs, will award 29 selected schools with a preselected assortment of over 300 diverse books for the K-6 grade reader, primarily hardcover and library-bound titles with a few paperbacks mixed in!

Applying is super easy. Simply log into your Foundation Club account and nominate yourself.


APPLY HERE