ACE Math & Science Newsletter

3 - 5 Mathematics | FEB 2020 YEAR 4: VOL. 1

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In this Edition:


Mathematics Instructional Block: YOU DO (Independent Practice), Aggressive Monitoring & Small Group Implementation

Instructional Planning Tools: Instructional Planning Calendars & 4th Six Weeks CA Exemplars

Professional Development: Math Team Thursday Recap

Announcements: ACE Website

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Math teams across our campuses continue soaring high! Math instruction has been elevated to new heights and students are engaged in exploring and learning, and most importantly loving it!

As we visit campuses we are seeing evidence of the Lesson Cycle in all schools. As we continue on our journey, check out a little motivation to take our work to the next level.

You Do (Independent Practice)

With the direct teach model of instruction, the You Do (Independent Practice) is one of the most critical components of the Mathematics instructional block that will help us lay the foundation towards teaching and learning conceptually.

An effective YOU DO should adhere to the following criteria:

1. Aligned to I Do, We Do, LO & DOL

2. Be completed within 15-20 minutes or less

3. Student completes assignment independently

4. Teacher aggressively monitors providing feedback to students and responding to data

This segment offers teachers the opportunity to intentionally have students practice what they have been taught. If students are going to remember a particular concept, or how to address a specific type of problem, they must have an opportunity to try it on their own - sometimes multiple times. From a neurobiological perspective, allowing students to work out problems or answer questions on their own, ensures that the information will be transferred from short-term into long- term memory. From there on, it will be connected to previously acquired constructs, and become part of students' cognitive schemata.

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Aggressive Monitoring

As many of our campuses continue developing their systems for aggressively monitoring students' performance and comprehension, it is critical that we review both rationale and instrutional benefits for implementing this practice.


Actively observing, interacting (checking for understanding) and gathering data of students' understanding and performance throughout a lesson.

  • Raises the accountability factor in students.
  • Teachers are able to receive and provide real-time feedback about errors and misconceptions.


The intent is to check students' independent work to determine whether they are learning what you are teaching based on your exemplar and both conceptual and procedural anchor charts.


For a successful aggressive monitoring implementation teachers should have:

  • created a pathway within their classroom. High performing students are the first students interacted with during each lap, followed by average performing students and then lower performing students.
  • created a coding system that they will use with students. Students know what the symbols in the coding system mean. An anchor chart is visible to students with symbols and meanings.
  • printed a roster of the class.
  • created an exemplar of all student work.
  • predetermined the lap objectives for each section of the lesson cycle.
Aggressive Monitoring McDonald END Clip 001 HD

As teachers circulate to aggressively monitor students, the following practices should be enacted:

  • Announce the purpose of each lap.
  • Follow the pathway of highest performing to lowest performing student.
  • Provide written feedback to students using the established coding system.
  • Collect qualitative data to inform instructional decisions.

Aggressive Monitoring allows for teachers to gather and response to data in real-time. Qualitative data that is collected is used to inform instructional decisions related to whole group and small group intervention strategies.

If the teacher finds

  • only a few students with the same error, a small group of students can be created for intervention purposes.
  • almost one-half of the students lack proficiency, the misconception(s) can be addressed with the whole class using Show Call.
  • more than one-half of the students are lacking proficiency, a reteach lesson is planned.
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During the You Do (Independent Practice) students are working independently, solving similar examples and having additional at bats with the newly presented material. It's the perfect opportunity for teachers to closely look at individual student work and compare it against the teacher exemplar, providing students with individualized feedback to address any explicit misconceptions, and setting them up for success before administering the DOL.

Small Group Implementation

Small groups are on the horizon! Teams and teachers are planning to launch small groups with fervor and tenacity, strategically grouping students based on goals and performance, making sure differentiation is based on our differentiation tools, and using great questions to ensure conceptual understanding. Teams are also keeping a sharp eye for students not engaged in quality work assignments and how to best ensure students are working with rigorous materials and are able to self-monitor if they are working independently. In order to ensure consistency and effectiveness across our network, ACE has developed a framework to guide you in the process of small group implementation.

Small Group Tables

The expectation for small group tables is for the following to be present and organized:

  • Standard-aligned questions

  • Teacher exemplar

  • Teacher question stems

  • Dry-erase boards/markers

  • Paper & pencils

  • Manipulatives (if applicable)

  • Anchor chart

  • Accessibility Features (if applicable)

  • Designated Supports (if applicable)

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Small Group Preparation

Successful small group preparation involves thoroughly analyzing student work. Examining student work and talking directly to students about their work is the most reliable method for determining students’ misconceptions and determining if there is a procedural or conceptual gap.

These are the steps involved in planning a data-based small group session:

  1. identify students in need of support
  2. select student expectation
  3. select standard-aligned problems (standard aligned questions may isolate a particular part of a standard or may break the skill into bite-size pieces that are along the trajectory of understanding the standard to its fullest.)
  4. create an exemplar & sequence problems
  5. list common or observed misconceptions
  6. write diagnostic questions to isolate the misconception(s)
  7. teach/fine tune a specific strategy

Steps 4-6 are really not linear. As you create the exemplar, misconceptions may surface, and questions to ask to identify the gap or a misconception may also surface.

The goal of a small group session is to identify a gap and correct a misconception regarding conceptual or procedural understanding. Therefore teachers should focus on the concept or procedure within the context of a problem – not the problem. Use the problem as a vehicle to address the underlying issue. Then, strategically sequence the problems to be completed based on a learning trajectory geared towards comprehension and mastery of the targeted student expectations.

4th Grade Classroom 2 Small Group Instruction ~ Guided Math
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Instructional Planning Tools

The following tools can be found on the ACE website under Instructional Planning Tools.

Instructional Planning Calendars

When reviewing the Instructional Planning Calendars, pay close attention to the proposed unpacking of the targeted standards that support teaching using a conceptual trajectory of content development. Note the instructional resources section for suggested strategies, manipulatives, and anchor charts to incorporate into instruction. The links below can be used to access the grade-specific calendars.

4th Six Weeks Common Assessment Exemplars

We have developed 4th Six Weeks Common Assessments Exemplars for your reference. These tools are available on the ACE website under Teacher Portal tab, and are recommended as a framework for specific strategies to be incorporated during instruction as you address those targeted SEs.

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ACE Math Team Thursday Recap

ACE professional development involving mathematics finished strong on January 23, 2020, with a session that included participants receiving a new resource for intervention and a deep dive into geometric tasks.

All participants received John SanGiovanni’s book Mine the Gap for Mathematical Understanding. Mine the Gap is packed with quality tasks that target concepts and skills surrounding computation with whole number, decimals, and fractions. The author provides authentic student work samples along with diagnoses of misconceptions and suggestions for addressing the errors in thinking and performance. The book was received with enthusiasm. Participants brainstormed numerous ways to use the book between now and the end of the semester.

The remaining time was spent on understanding Van Hiele’s levels of geometric thought (listed below) and specifically the levels that are developed during a student’s elementary education.

Level 0: Visualization

Level 1: Analysis

Level 2 Informal Deduction

Level 3: Deduction

Level 4: Rigor

Participants engaged in a high-level task, The Geometric Heist, that made understanding Van Hiele’s levels of geometric thought more relevant.

The ACE mathematics team is grateful to the participants who brought their A-game to the sessions! A growth mindset begins with leadership!

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ACE Website:

Please visit our revamped Teacher Portal tab on the ACE Website where you will have access to a wide variety of instructional resources and planning tools to create great lessons for our scholars. Instructional Planning Calendars, Common Assessment Exemplars, TEKS Differentiation Tools, Routines, Anchor Charts, and Problem Solving Protocol resources are available for your implementation.
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Improving Science Reading Comprehension

Students in science classrooms are given numerous opportunities to read expository text in a variety of formats and for a variety of purposes. They read to solve a problem, understand the steps in an experiment, gain base knowledge about a concept, answer their own questions, compare their inquiry results with what others have found, expand their basic understanding of a concept, and for enjoyment. Students in science classrooms also read a variety of text formats. They read books, directions for experiments, newspaper articles, websites, and peer work. The reading tasks going on in science classrooms today are quite extensive and do complement efforts being made in schools to improve reading achievement.

However, science teachers need to support struggling readers with strategies that will enhance their comprehension of science reading materials. This article offers a few easy-to-implement strategies that science teachers can use before, during, and after reading.

Before-reading strategies

Front-load meaning when reading expository materials. This prepares students for reading and helps comprehension, as they have some prior knowledge of the subject matter. Specifically, prediction and vocabulary work are important for students to do before they begin reading.

Having students predict what the reading will be about is important because it can help activate prior knowledge they have on the topic. It allows them to start connecting the new reading with their established knowledge. One fun way to initiate prediction is the Probable Passage (Beers 2003). With this strategy, the teacher lists key words and concepts for the students. Then, based on these words, students must write a prediction about what they will be reading (see Figure 1).

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An Anticipatory Set

Students may be instructed to separate key words into categories to facilitate a prediction. Teachers may also provide students with the title of the reading to prompt predictions if it appears students need support. Students can revisit their prediction and discuss its accuracy.

Students can also participate in an anticipatory set (Readence, Bean, and Baldwin 1981, Vacca and Vacca 2001; Rasinksi and Padak 2004). An anticipatory set is a set of about five controversial statements about a concept (see Figure 2).

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Response Log

The teacher writes these out and shares the statements with students. They then have to either agree or disagree with the statement. This forces students to think about a concept before reading about it. Just like probable passage, students can revisit the statements after reading to see if their understanding of each statement has changed.

During reading strategies

Helping students process what they are reading while they are reading it has been shown to improve comprehension (Pressley 1999). Activities designed to have students reflect during the reading process are effective and easy to implement. Such activities allow the teacher to identify comprehension problems as soon as they occur, instead of backtracking to identify problems once the entire reading has been completed. This metacognition, realizing that meaning is interrupted, is critical if students are to read proficiently. Having students reflect on reading while reading also sends the essential message that reading is thinking and that a reader is actively thinking throughout the reading.

One strategy to increase comprehension while reading is to have students keep a response log. These logs can be structured or open-ended. Most structured response logs are two, three, or four-column charts that have the reader respond to specific information in a reading. In contrast, an open-ended log allows students to choose what they respond to. For example, in Figure 3, the reader is asked to locate something important in the reading, categorize it in one of four ways, and then provide a personal response to the information. Students should provide 5 to 10 responses to a given reading, depending on its length. The teacher can use these response logs to ascertain points of confusion, interest, and mastery. Teachers can do response log checks once or twice a week

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Say Something Starters

Another strategy that students can use while reading is Say Something (Harste, Short, and Burke 1988). This strategy also encourages students to think while reading. Students work in small groups and read a passage from a text chosen by the teacher. Prior to student reading, predetermined stopping points are marked. For example, a chapter from a text may be divided into 10 sections. Students mark each section as a stopping point. All students begin reading and read until stopping at point one. Students take turns “saying something” about what was read. All students in the group are expected to respond to the text. The groups are student-run, but the teacher serves as a rotating facilitator to assist and observe groups as needed. When everyone is done reading, students take turns saying something. Prompts like the one in Figure 4 can be used to help students articulate their thinking about the reading (Stubblefield unpublished). Students in the group support each other by clarifying questions that arise and/or further discussing points of interest. Talking about reading is a powerful tool that can assist in comprehension (Almasi, McKeown, and Beck 1996).

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Text Structures in Science

Students also need to be aware of text structures and their important link to main ideas (Dickson, Simmons, and Kameenui 1995). Text structures are captions, headings, illustrations, charts, tables, lists, subtitles, titles, and other conventions that authors use to organize a text. These send messages to students about what is important in the reading. Authors rarely place tables in a text that are irrelevant to the main idea. Therefore, students need to be shown that these text structures do indeed give additional information on what the author feels is most important. A teacher can have students connect these structures with the main ideas of a text while reading. One way to do this is to simply have students identify text structures and explain how they relate to the main idea of the text (see Figure 5).

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After-reading strategies

When students are done with a particular reading, their thinking and understanding of a text does not stop. Readers continue to process and make sense of what they read long after the actual reading event. Science teachers can provide students with opportunities to further process their reading, which in turn can deepen student comprehension.

Literacy teachers frequently use literature circles to help students process their understanding of a text. This strategy can also be used in science classrooms. Literature circles are small groups of students placed together to discuss what was hard, confusing, interesting, conflicting, questionable, or relevant about what they have read. Literature circles of four to five students can form for one assigned reading or can meet several times to discuss a longer reading assignment or unit of study. Some teachers assign roles such as discussion director, illustrator, and connector (Daniels 1994) for each student in a literature group so that everyone is encouraged to participate. We recommend that all students be prepared for literature circles by having a written response to the reading prepared, questions listed, or vocabulary terms in need of explanation so that there is a starting point for small group discussion. Teachers can assess student performance by observing and reading the written responses students prepare for literature circles. Teachers may also require a final reflection paper from each member of the literature circle.

Some teachers encourage each group to prepare a project or presentation that demonstrates the information learned or discussed by the group.

Another after-reading activity is to have students re-create what they’ve read in a different form. For example, students could re-create the journey of oxygen through the respiratory system in a skit. Students can also use a creative writing technique known as RAFT (Vanderventer 1979) to present the information found in a reading. Using RAFT, students are asked to write from a Role, for a particular Audience, in a particular Format, on a particular Topic. For example, students studying weather could be asked to write as a storm cloud, to an audience of sunshine lovers, in the form of an editorial, about the bias toward the Sun.

Special support to struggling students:

All teachers in every discipline have students who are poor readers. There are several ways you can provide extra support to these readers. First of all, put reading assignments on audiotape and allow students to listen to them once they have attempted the reading on their own. Teachers can have older students or adult volunteers make tapes for them. This repeated exposure can enhance comprehension and alleviate student frustration. Teachers can also provide students with a reading buddy. The reading buddy can serve as the first contact for answering questions about the text. This can eliminate a line of students waiting to ask the teacher questions. Teachers can also provide graphic organizers that assist students in focusing on the main ideas. These can be outlines for students to follow during reading, a list of questions to check for comprehension before a student moves on to the next section, or a dictionary keyed to the text to help identify essential vocabulary.

Partnering science and reading:

Concepts being taught in science often rely on students’ reading to build background knowledge or to follow inquiry procedures. Science teachers need to know strategies they can implement to aid in students’ comprehension of the specific concepts they teach. If students can’t comprehend the materials science teachers provide them, then their understanding of scientific concepts will suffer. When you teach science, you are also teaching students how to read for a variety of purposes and with a variety of materials—both of which will prepare students to become better readers.

NSTA Web-News Digest

Science Scope

By: Jill Caton Johnson and Lisa Martin-Hansen

Jill Johnson is an assistant professor of literacy education at Drake University. Lisa Martin-Hansen is an assistant professor of science education at Georgia State University.