Monday, July 30, 2012

Reading-Research Monday: Reading + Math = Learning

Reading and Math.  Many assume that these two subjects are polar opposites—that someone is either a reading person or math minded, but that doesn’t need to be the case, and teachers’ instructional strategies shouldn’t be limited by this assumption.

Reading + Math = Learning

In the paper “A Review and an Update on Using Children’s Literature to Teach Mathematics” published in 2008, author June Gatsón discusses how literature can be used to teach math.  In her review, Gatsón found that when teachers use literature as a connection to and a resource for their mathematics instruction, students become more interested and motivated, develop better critical thinking and problem solving skills, are able to see connections between math and their lives, and are able to recognize that math is a life-long tool. 

Gatsón cites Welchman-Tischler (1992) when she lists seven ways to implement literature into mathematics lessons: 
  1. To provide a context or model for an activity with mathematical content
  2. To introduce manipulatives that will be used in varied ways (not necessarily as in the story)
  3. To inspire a creative mathematics experience for children
  4. To pose an interesting problem
  5. To prepare for a mathematics concept or skill
  6. To develop or explain a mathematics concept or skill
  7. To review a mathematics concept or skill
While this list does provide a foundation for how to implement a math-reading instructional strategy, it still remains somewhat abstract. To give more concrete and reproducible ideas, Gatsón provides links to the following websites as resources for teachers interested in using reading as an instructional tool when teaching math:

Comprehensive list of books divided by category (fractions, add & subtract, Geometry, etc.) and by grade level
Three lessons that illustrate how literature and mathematics instruction can be connected
Broad list of lesson plans broken down by grade level or math strand
Story mapping technology to create math stories

The books teachers use do not have to be math concept books or even directly related to mathematics.  These types of books obviously can be very helpful when relating math and reading since the content of the book clearly links the two together.  However, any book can be used.  Is there a book all students are reading?  A book they all love?  A book they can’t stop talking about.  Teachers can use these popular stories as a background for mathematics instruction.  For example, it would be easy to make a mathematical story problems based on important events in the book.  

For additional strategies and for lists of resources, five more websites are listed below.

A PowerPoint presentation in a pdf file that demonstrates how to use reading and writing strategies to solve math problems
Discusses effective math instruction using children’s literature in a Q&A format
A sample lesson plan from scholastic
Provides an overview and advice for starting literature-based mathematics lessons
Books listed by math strand with ideas for instruction listed next to each book

Math and reading do not need to be separated.  And in fact, when used in combination with one another, positive results are seen in student achievement.

What do you think?  Do you or have you used reading in your math lessons?  Would you ever try it?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

20 Twitter Hashtags for Teachers

 *UPDATED 8/1/12: 20+ Twitter Hashtags for Teachers

There are a lot of different educational hashtags and many have set days of the week and set times where educators, parents, and whoever else wants to can log in and chat about a predetermined topic.  Even if you miss a chat or forget about it, many hashtags have accompanying websites that archive the text of their chats so you can always go back and check anything you missed or review something you might have forgot.

Twenty hashtags related to education are listed below, along with their description and set chat times. Click on the listed hastags to be taken to their respective websites.  If they do not have an organized website, then clicking on the link will take you to their twitter feed.

Grade Level Hashtags

Chat Day & Time
Mondays, 9:00 EST
1st Grade
Sundays, 8:00 EST
2nd Grade
Wednesdays, 8:00 EST
3rd Grade
Once a month, 7:00 EST
4th Grade
Mondays, 8:00 EST
5th Grade
Tuesdays, 8:00 EST
6th Grade
Wednesdays, 3:00 EST
All Elementary Levels
Saturdays, 6:00 EST
Middle School
Fridays, 8:00 EST

Subject Specific Hashtags

Chat Day & Time
Mondays, 7:00 EST
English Language
Wednesdays, 7:00 am and 4:00 pm EST
Social Studies
Mondays, 7:00 EST
Teacher Librarians

Daily 5
Fridays, 8:00 EST

General Hashtags

Chat Day & Time
Everything Education Related
Tuesdays, 12:00 and 7:00 EST
Technology in Education
Education Reform
People Interested in Learning
Thursdays, 8:30 EST

To follow the chats you can use the search feature in twitter, or there are other sites that make following a chat easier.  TweetChat, for instance, has straightforward format that allows you to tweet, retweet, and reply while still tracking the chat.

If you know of any other hashtags I should include on this list, let me know in the comments section.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary in Language Arts and in Content Areas


Research shows three important findings for vocabulary:
  • Vocabulary directly relates to reading comprehension
  • Learning vocabulary is more effective when it’s related to existing knowledge
  • Direct instruction is more effective than just incidental learning
Vocabulary directly relates to a person's ability to comprehend and communicate effectively.

With keeping these three findings in mind, teachers can use an instructional outline for teaching vocabulary.  The 5th Annual Reading First Conference (2008) provides this guide for teaching vocabulary:
  1. Pronounce Chorally
  2. Explain vs. Define
  3. Provide Examples
  4. Quick Teach & Deepen Understanding
  5. Review & Coach Use
However, Reading First also stresses that not all words deserve the same amount of instructional time.  To make this clear, they broke instructional intensity down into three levels starting with the most intense:
  • Thorough Robust Treatment
    • All 5 levels are used, no limit to numbers of times a level is used, teach until students learn
  • Quick Teach
    • Only the first 3 levels are used, no more than a few minutes of instruction
  • Mention in Passing (Point of Encounter)
    • Say the word, give a quick synonym, have students repeat, less than one minute of instruction
Which vocabulary words deserve the more intense approach?  Which deserve the least?  Think about which words students will use both for the lesson and in the future.  Those words, words they will need in the long run, are the ones that deserve more instructional time.

So, when a word requires the “Thorough Robust Treatment” of instruction, what does that look like in concrete terms?  What strategies can you use?  Several instructional approaches and resources are listed below to answer these question.  

Implications for Content Area Instruction

The following list of eight strategies comes from a combination of experience while teaching and from Vocabulary Activities:
  • Four Square
  • Cloze Reading
  • List-Group-Label
  • Word Sorts
  • Word Maps
  • Linear Arrays
  • Word Analysis (and Polar Opposites)
  • Vocabulary Journals
  • Frayer Model
Students can also practice vocabulary in engaging ways through the use of technology.  The following is a list of websites for vocabulary instruction, learning, and assessment.  Clicking on the name of the website will open it for you in a new window.

Hundreds of vocabulary games from synonyms to oxymorons to phonics
Play pinball - as the ball spins around, try to hit letters to spell words
Play Hangman from word lists broken down by grade level, difficulty level, and topic
Many different types of games
Games based on grade level, game type, or part of speech
Compound word games, idioms, analogies, etc.
Create flashcards to study online in several different ways

Implications for Language Arts Instruction

Many of the above content area strategies also work for vocabulary development in Language Arts instruction.  

Here are a few more ideas that work well when helping students expand and develop their vocabularies: 
  • Teach more precise words: This can be done in several different ways.
    1. Word Walls: Interactive displays of words on any topic a teacher chooses; students can add to the display and reference it in their reading and writing activities
    2. Synonym Posters: When students repeatedly use the same word in their writing, teachers can use synonym posters to illustrate more descriptive words students can use in place of the over-used word
    3. Colorful Words: An activity where a "boring" word is written on the bottom of a paint strip and students use their knowledge and resources like thesauruses to create more "colorful" words for each line of the paint strip; strips can then be displayed on a bulletin board
Colorful Words Activity

  •  Root Analysis and Morphemes
    1. Students are able to build an understanding of new words based on their knowledge of word parts through direct instruction of morphemes and roots
    2. Example: 
      • the suffix -less means without, if students know this, they will be better able to understand the meaning of the following words: aimless, blameless, merciless

Do you have any other resources you love to use when teaching vocabulary?  Any effective strategies, materials, or approaches that engage your students?  If so, please share them in the comments section below.
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