Elementary Education Monthly Update

March 2019

Primary Connection (K-2)

As teachers we want students to experience success in school. Did you know that a strong predictor for later school success is early mathematics? From birth through third grade is the foundation upon which future learning is set, and mathematics should be a large portion of this foundation. According to research, there are five findings that show the power of strong mathematics skills in early schooling.


  1. Early mathematics is a predictor of school success. Mathematical thinking from toddler to preschool predicts how children will succeed in mathematics in high school. Doing more mathematics in early childhood, preschool, and kindergarten increases oral language abilities in vocabulary, inference, and grammatical complexity. (D.H. Clements and J. Sarama, Learning and Teaching Early Math: The Learning Trajectories Approach (New York, NY: Routledge, 2009)
  2. Informal play leads to complex mathematical thinking. As children play they invent solutions to solve problems, increase self-regulation skills, and executive function abilities. Through free play children explore patterns, shapes, spatial relations, and counting. High-quality mathematics must begin in preschool with free play explorations and continue through the early years so that children do not fall into a trap of mathematical failure. (B. Doig, B. McCrae, and K. Rowe, A Good Start to Numeracy: Effective Numeracy Strategies from Research and Practice in Early Childhood Canberra ACT, Australia, 2003)
  3. Teachers tend to underestimate what children know and can learn. When given a set of marbles 80% of preschoolers could count out 9 of them, but teachers predicted that only 20-50% of the children could do so. If we underestimate what children already know and what they can learn, we tend to present mathematics that is not challenging and/or appropriate. (C. Aubrey, “Children’s Early Learning of Number in School and Out,” in I. Thompson (Ed.) Teaching and Learning Early Number Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press, 1997, 20-29)
  4. Students from poverty need math intervention the most. There is a three-year difference in mathematics developmental levels for students that come from low-income homes. When these students enter kindergarten they could already be behind and therefore need to have math interventions immediately. (D.H. Clements and J. Sarama, “Early Childhood Mathematics Intervention,” Science, 333(6045), 2011, 968-970)
  5. High-quality mathematics instruction has meaningful effects on children's mathematical knowledge. From pre-k through the end of 1st-grade effect sizes of up to .51 have been shown. (D.H. Clements, J. Sarama, M.E. Spitler, A.A. Lange, "Longitudinal Evaluation of a Scale-up Model for Teaching Mathematics with Trajectories and Technologies: Persistence of Effects in the Third Year,” American Education Research Journal, August 2013, vol. 50 no. 4, 812-850)

Intermediate Connection (3-4)

Developing critical thinking in intermediate years is important for foundational learning. In regards to mathematics, rote memorization and worksheets will not help students develop the needed competencies for higher level math that is to come later in school. Taking time to invest in teaching students to think critically in mathematics will help students develop deeper engagement and understanding, give them greater independence and self-regulation, and increase competence with mathematical processes. Teachers at this grade level can help students become mathematical critical thinkers by doing the following:
  • selecting strategies for building number sense and mastery of basic facts
  • deciding how to approach a problem for which they have no ready-made solution or procedure
  • choosing the most appropriate way to represent a mathematical situation
  • monitoring their problem-solving strategies and adjusting as needed
  • analyzing responses by asking, "Does this make sense?"
  • communicating mathematical ideas effectively
  • connecting mathematics with their own lives and the world

All students can think critically about mathematics. Teachers can enhance this ability in the classroom by deliberately supporting a classroom culture in which mathematical discussion is part of the daily routine, give students many opportunities to share and solve problems through group discussion and analyzation of strategies, and by presenting problems that have no predetermined solution strategies. Finally, ensure that assessment practices in mathematics reinforce the value of showing work or explaining thinking. (The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2013)

Upper Elementary Connection (5-6)

One of the effective mathematics teaching practices is, "supporting productive struggle in learning mathematics." (NCTM, 2014) How does this happen in 5th or 6th grade without producing frustration with mathematical processes or concepts? What exactly is productive struggle? Productive struggle in mathematics happens when the intended goals and the cognitive demand of the task are maintained. It also occurs when students' thinking is supported by acknowledging effort and mathematical understanding. Finally, productive struggle is occurring when students are able to move forward with task execution.


When helping a student learn through productive struggle teachers should avoid "telling". Telling involves supplying students with information, like a strategy to use, that removes the struggle. Teachers should also avoid unfocused or vague feedback. For example, if a teacher's response is vague it does not direct a student to a particular strategy or build on the student's thinking. An example of this would be a student is struggling to begin working on a math problem and the teacher walks up to the student and says something like, "Why don't you read the problem again and look at the data table. I will check on you in a few minutes." Finally, using directed guidance should also be avoided. This happens when a teacher redirects a student to use a teacher's preferred method of problem-solving rather than the student relying on their own way of thinking.


When encouraging productive struggle teachers can use probing guidance or affordance. Probing guidance involves determining what the student knows or is currently thinking about the problem and encouraging self-reflection. The teacher then offers ideas and suggestions based on the student's thinking. Affordance is asking students to articulate what they have done with limited intervention - which allows them to continue in their work. When moving toward productive struggle in mathematics teacher should question, encourage, give time, and acknowledge. Asking questions that help students focus on their thinking and identify the source of their struggle can help teachers encourage students to build on their thinking. Encouraging isn't just trying to get students to the correct answers, it involves allowing students to reflect on their work. Giving time (which can be the most difficult for teachers) allows students to manage their struggle with proper encouragement, which builds perseverance in problem-solving. Finally, acknowledging that struggle is an important part of learning and doing mathematics is the mindset that teachers need to use when approaching student productive struggle. (Warshauer, Hiroko Kawaguchi, 2015. Peg Smith, University of Pittsburgh, 2017)

Poverty and Trauma Resources

The facts about poverty are staggering and eye-opening. A family of four that makes $24,563 lives at the poverty threshold and 50% of the people that live in poverty live below the poverty threshold. (US Census Measures Poverty, 2016). Poverty has an impact on children and the learning process. Children that live in poverty experience fewer resources for daycare, preschool, and WIFI access. Across America, students in poverty are primary children under the age of 18 (21.2%), which is 1 in 5 children. The impact of poverty on education can't be ignored.


Lack of access to health and dental care plays a role in learning due to lack of availability of nutritious food in utero and in early childhood. This results in low birth weights and premature births, which can lead to cognitive delays. Poverty can also contribute to deficits in executive functioning skills like self-regulation, task attention, and working memory. Children who live in poverty have more exposure to stress as it relates to family functioning. High levels of stress in children results in a regular occurrence of high cortisol levels, which impacts brain development and impairs cognitive function.


Children living in poverty are more likely to fall behind in school, be assigned to lower "tracks", are retained more often, are chronically absent, and over time earn lower scores on achievement assessments. How can this be changed? Teachers and school staff can create places where all children are emotionally safe, have high educational rigor and expectations, and are offered role models. Of course, teachers should employ different strategies based on the need of the student and understand that not children from poverty come from the same place developmentally. If you would like more information and/or resources on poverty, please contact me (my contact information is at the bottom of this newsletter).

Can't Wait to Read Initiative

The Kansas Health Foundation has launched Can't Wait to Read campaign to help parents and caregivers initiate early reading habits in their homes. Direct your parents to ReadWithThem.org to see TV spots, radio, and social media messages about this campaign. While on the site, parents and caregivers can sign up for 28 days of texts or emails which include free resources on literacy, tips on reading with children, and information about other resources that help children learn. The website and resources are in both English and Spanish. This is a wonderful resource for all families to begin reading with children and strengthen literacy development in the early years!

Babble, Talk, Read (BTR)

Another wonderful initiative for families with young children and early literacy is the Babble, Talk, Read website. This site is loaded with age level (birth to 5 years) skills and activities. Share this with your pre-k teachers and families with young children!

Classroom Management Tip of the Month

Based on the Smart Classroom Management article by Michael Linsin, below are a few tweaks that will provide instant behavior improvement.

  1. Make a conscious decision that you will remain calm no matter what happens. To do this you must first take some steps to center yourself and have two or three minutes of quiet time before your students arrive. Decide that you will remain calm all day - and students will feel your calm energy and feed off of it.
  2. Slow down, take your time, and pause. To use this strategy make a point to pause often in your day, slow down and not rush your students, and do not move on until you have what you need from the students.
  3. Cut the amount of teacher talk by one-third. Work to become direct, keep it simple, and use less repetition. The less teacher talk - the more students pay attention and focus.
  4. Review and practice your routines. Although it is March reviewing and practices routines is never a waste of time. Students need to be reminded of the procedures that you all worked so hard to master back in September.
  5. Follow-through is one of the most important management tasks, but the most difficult to do. You have made the commitment to be calm, slow down, and you've reminded your class that today we will be following the rules of our class so now all that you have to do is follow through instead of stressing out.

Social Emotional Learning

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This is a fun and FREE resource to use for your team, your students, or even yourself! This resource includes 101 Positive Thinking Affirmations, a Positive Thinking Fortune Teller blackline master - see above - (how fun is that?), and a Positive Affirmation List master so that you can write down 10 positive affirmations, post it, and remember them. This would be a great SEL lesson or PLC activity. Enjoy!
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Happenings Around KSDE

Just Add Arts Symposium July 24 - 26 Wichita Kansas

This symposium is to strengthen social and emotional learning through Arts integration. To sign up or for more information go to: https://ksdetasn.org/events/Rrqgiw


Kansas State Schools of Character Recognition Program

Calling all schools who are doing great things with social, emotional and character development. We want to recognize your efforts and share your success with other schools around the state. The Shifting School Culture Recognition is for schools that have developed and implemented an SECD initiative or program for at least one year and are transforming the school culture as well as growing student SECD skills. The Enhanced Spotlight Recognition is for schools that are implementing new initiatives or are enhancing existing initiatives that will strengthen the SECD skills in their students and school climate.

Applications are due March 22, 2019, and can be emailed to Noalee McDonald-Augustine at nmcdonald@smokyhill.org. The application fee for both is $25.00 and is payable to Smoky Hill Education Service Center. Click here to go directly to the applications.

The Promising Practices Recognition application process must be completed online through the Character.org website, www.character.org, and is for schools or districts that have developed and successfully implemented a unique character practice. The application deadline is March 15, 2019, and has an application fee of $100 payable to Character.org.

For more information, contact Noalee McDonald Augustine nmcdonald@smokyhill.org or Kent Reed, kreed@ksde.org.


KSDE Impact Institute Dates Announced

Please join KSDE for the 2019 Summer Impact Institutes. These workshops will provide the help you need in providing students with the academic and cognitive preparation, technical and employability skills, and the civic engagement opportunities to be successful Kansas graduates.

Dates

June 27 - 28 Washburn University, Topeka Kansas

July 17 - 18 Pratt Community College, Pratt Kansas


To register please go to http://events.ksde.org/Default.aspx?tabid=704


KSDE Annual Conference Art Design Contest

All students in Kansas are invited to participate in a contest to design art for the 30th Annual Kansas State Department of Education Annual Conference which will be held October 28-30, 2019 in Wichita, Kansas. This contest encourages students to use their creativity by entering artwork in the KSDE Annual Conference Art Design Contest using the theme of

Kansans CAN: Ignite!

The contest is open to all students in Kansas K-12 schools, both public and private, with a winner being selected in each of the following grade level divisions:

· Grades K-4

· Grades 5-8

· Grades 9-12

From the three grade level winners, a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner will be selected and prizes will be awarded as follows:

3rd Place: $50

2nd Place: $75

1st Place: $125

The 1st place design will be featured in the conference materials and displayed at the conference. The three winning designs will be published on the KSDE website. All winners will be recognized at the Opening Session of the Annual Conference.

For contest rules and application form, click on the following link: http://events.ksde.org/Default.aspx?tabid=771. In the right column, Conference Information, click on “Student Art Design Contest.”

All entries must be postmarked by May 10, 2019.

For further information, please contact: Theresa Cote, Kansas State Department of Education, by email: tcote@ksde.org, or by phone: (785) 296-2303.

Non-Discrimination Statement – KSDE

The Kansas State Department of Education does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: KSDE General Counsel, Office of General Counsel, KSDE, Landon State Office Building, 900 SW Jackson, Suite 102, Topeka, KS 66612, (785) 296-3201

Cindy Hadicke, Elementary Program Consultant

Kansas State Department of Education