Teacher Talk

November 2019 Newsletter

Dear Educator,

Happy November! This month we are bringing you ideas for getting your students to think at the analysis level. Analysis thinking takes students into productive struggle and helps them make sense of new concepts, ideas, and procedures. Dr. Robert Marzano defines analysis as "reasoned extensions of knowledge and generation of new information not already processed." Students take in information through listening, viewing, & reading and are then asked to create new ideas using the information. Examples of analytical thinking include comparing, classifying, identifying reasons and errors in reasoning, drawing conclusions, developing arguments, and making predictions. Students learn more and are more cognitively engaged when asked to work in analysis, than in retrieval or comprehension.

We hope our ideas will be a stimulus for new ideas you can use with your students.

In December, we will be offering a virtual 2-hour seminar on Guided & Strategic Reading Groups. Learn from the comfort of your own home and register today!

Happy Thanksgiving & Teaching,

-Kelly Harmon, Randi Anderson, & Ashley Taplin

Big picture

Poem of the week

A great way to get students thinking at the analysis level is by using a song or poem of the week! Each day students will read and dive into thinking about the text through a different lens than before. Each time they reread, they grab another piece of new thinking and learning to add to their schema.

Start with a short poem or song that most students already know. (i.e. 5 Little Pumpkins or Taylor Swift's Shake it Off).

Example Questions to Guide Thinking to the Analysis Level

Day 1: What is the author's message? (Theme)

Day 2: How did the author say their message? (Author's craft)

Day 3: How is the speaker (character(s)) feeling? (Author's purpose)

Day 3: What words or phrases help you understand the speaker or character's feelings? (Inferencing)

Day 4: What is the author NOT saying in their text? (Inference)

Other Questions for Thinking at the Analysis Level:

  • Do you agree with the speaker of the poem? Why or why not?
  • What can the reader tell about the character or speaker?
  • How is the speaker similar to yourself?
  • How is this text similar to ____________?
  • What do you think the character or speaker will probably do next?

Poems for Young Learners

Big picture
Big picture

Poems Secondary Students

Big picture
Big picture

November Storytime Ideas for Young Learners!

One of my favorite children's authors is Pat Hutchins. This month I shared two of her booksthat captivate young children through the rich details in the pictures. I also shared Richard Waring's Hungry Hen, a story about a hen and a fox that has a surprise ending. With two books with fox characters, I couldn't help myself, so I included the song and book "What does the fox say?" Enjoy reading and singing with your children!
Big picture

Thinking at Analysis in Math

By Ashley Taplin of TaplinsTeaching

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend professional development by Robert Kaplinsky, cofounder of Open Middle. Each of his sessions focused on ways in which we can help students think at analysis and knowledge utilization levels. I believe it is important to know that every student may not immediately be proficient at thinking and applying themselves at these high levels. It is with consistent practice and meaningful exposure to strategies that impact student’s thought processes, that we will start to build more reasonable thinkers and resilient problem solver.
Big picture

Open Middle for Thinking at Knowledge Utilization

Open Middle is a resource of problems Kaplinsky co-created that helps push student thinking beyond the procedural and conceptual into the analysis and knowledge utilization level, thereby improving problem solving strategies. This site includes elementary, middle, and high school problems as well as a depth of knowledge matrix that increasingly raises the rigor of one problem (see below). Every time I have used Open Middle problems in class, the conversation that unfolds is so powerful and engaging. Students unknowingly start talking about, often arguing for, the method they chose to use. This dialogue is the foundation of Open Middle, showing that the problem has a closed beginning and end, but the middle is open to allow students approach the problem and solve it in multiple ways. Furthermore, Kaplinksy’s Depth of Knowledge matrix adapts one traditional problem (often lacking in depth and complexity) by rewriting it in an Open Middle form requiring an application of skills and strategic thinking. I encourage you to try out one column of a topic and see the cognitive demand of DOK 2 and 3 problems in relation to DOK 1. By doing these problems yourself first, you will be prepared to facilitate learning as students work through possible problem-solving processes and misconceptions.

Big picture

Improving Estimation Skills to Think at Analysis

Another tool Kaplinsky showed was using a number line to have students estimate a reasonable answer before solving a problem. My colleague and I added this idea to notes I created for systems of equations in Algebra I and had teachers work through the problem in a recent PD. The thought processes and conversations we had about incorporating estimation was profound. To begin, we used Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Task Coin Problem with a corresponding word problem: “Sam took his quarters and pennies to a money machine. He has 1400 coins and $62 total. How many quarters and pennies did he have?” Instead of simply directing to write the equation and solve, I showed the 3 Act Task video of a coin machine to hook students and also incorporated the estimation number line that asks students to find a number too high, too low, and a reasonable estimate for the solution of each variable before solving. The estimation required students to predict and deduce the number of pennies and quarters based on knowledge they were given. At first participants simply wrote “low: 0; high: 1400” for each variable. But then one participant said, “we can’t put 0 because we saw there are a lot in the video.” The conversation continued to deepen as one explained that since quarters are worth more, there will be less quarters than pennies. Another said, there cannot be more than 248 quarters because $62/$0.25 is 248. As the dialogue unfolded, participants chose a reasonable estimate between their newly discovered ranges. Now again, every student may not automatically think at this level. But, that is our exciting role as teachers to help facilitate this thought process by exposing them to methods of making and defending their answers like this estimation.

Big picture
Big picture

Refining Questions for a More Rigorous Thought Process

Finally, Kaplinsky talked about helping students communicate their understanding at higher levels by refining our questions in four ways. By pushing beyond yes or no questions, teachers help students think at analysis and knowledge utilization. He said,

1. Ask questions leading with “how” such as “how will you determine…?”

2. Use commands such as “classify, interpret, predict, explain” to replace “can you...”

3. Ask questions leading with “why” such as “why do you think…?”

4. Use alternate scenarios such as “what would happen if...”

He also suggested an idea from educator Steve Leinwand of posting these questions/command words like “how” “why” “explain” on the board as a reminder not only to teachers throughout a lesson, but also for students when learning and talking together.

By adding these ideas of reaching deeper for answers through questioning, reasoning through estimation, and offering challenge through Open Middle, we can provide more opportunities for higher level thinking and rigor.

Big picture

Guided Math Conference (Grades K-6)

November 18-19, 2019

St. Louis, MO

November 20-21, 2019

Chicago, IL

January 21-22, 2020

Richmond, VA

January 23-24, 2020

Columbia, SC

Choose from 21 strategy packed sessions during this two-day interactive math conference! Learn from a team of expert instructors in the field of math, Barbara Blanke, Kelly Harmon, and Amy Stark. Attend a keynote session to kick off each day all about preparing students for 21st century learning and the power of guided math groups. Register today, space is limited!

Choose from sessions on

  • number talks
  • problem solving strategies
  • technology
  • goal setting
  • math centers
  • organizing the math block
  • children's literature and math
  • math warm ups
  • fractions during guided math
  • writing in math
  • building computational fluency
  • and much more!

Guided & Strategic Reading Groups

December 14, 2019

9am to 11am CST (2 hours earned)


In this 2 hour virtual seminar, we will look at ways to provide structured small group reading instruction based on student data. We will discuss grouping strategies and how to coach students to becoming more proficient readers. Walk away with ready-to-use resources for building student's comprehension and fluency in small, teacher-led groups! Get more info!

STRENGTHENING YOUR GUIDED MATH PROGRAM: Practical GUIDED MATH Strategies to Increase All Your Students' Math Achievement (Grades K-6)

Richmond, VA

Dec. 16-17, 2019

Harrisburg, PA

Dec. 18-19, 2019

Learn how to better lead your school, grade level or district math team in this strategy-packed two-day institute led by popular national presenter, Kelly Harmon. You will discover how to work with teachers to identify and implement the most effective cutting-edge, Guided Math instructional strategies to greatly increase student math achievement in grades K-6. Kelly will share strategies for organizing the math block from beginning to end, as well as ideas for planning and implementing more intentional small guided math groups that meet the needs of all your students – from those who excel in math to those who struggle with concepts and basic skills. You will leave equipped to assist your teachers in using the top, research-based instructional strategies that will help your students learn and retain key math skills and concepts, as well as how to transfer these skills to math problem solving, all in a Guided Math format.

STRENGTHENING YOUR TITLE I PROGRAM: Powerful Intervention Strategies to Accelerate Achievement for Struggling Students (Grades K-6)

Seattle, WA

Jan. 7-8, 2020

Anaheim, CA

Jan. 9-10, 2020

Learn how to better lead your school or district Title I team in this strategy-packed, two-day institute led by nationally acclaimed presenter, Kelly Harmon. You will discover how to work with teachers to identify and implement the most effective, cutting-edge, research-based instructional strategies to increase school and district-wide student achievement. You will learn how to develop teacher expertise in working with struggling students along with ways to continually monitor and adjust instruction based on student results.

This is a unique opportunity to evaluate your own Title I program in light of current research that identifies the most effective instructional practices, and gain an in-depth look at the key components of highly successful Title I programs and how these can be applied to your own Title I school or district model. Take an intensive look at what works for struggling learners and how you can adapt it to meet the needs in your school or district. You will walk away with dozens of practical strategies and an extensive resource handbook to help you lead and teach your teachers.

Bring a Training to Your Campus!

Kelly Harmon & Associates offer onsite seminars, instructional coaching, and curriculum guidance! We also offer virtual seminars. Please contact us for more information.