The Fiction-Driven Classroom… Guilty as Charged? Creating Successful Nonfiction Writers

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Web_Reynolds_Creating Successful Nonfiction Writers_blog1One of those things teachers have to think about today—that maybe they didn’t so much before—is the difference between fiction and nonfiction.

Unless you’re a teacher and responsible for meeting the standards, you might think “It’s all reading, so it’s all good for our kids.”

Oh, if it were only that simple.

In your own school and district, your state standards have probably generated some talk (grumbling?) about adding a lot more nonfiction into your day.  In fact, teachers are being called to give equal emphasis to fiction and nonfiction. That’s a big change: Research shows students spend very little time in the classroom reading informational text. Merely five minutes a day is not unusual.

So what’s the thinking behind all this?

- Children have diverse interests. You’ve no doubt seen Continue reading

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Fractions and Division—Keeping It Real

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Web_Stipek_Success with Fractions-Next Steps-blog1Surely, in your teaching of fractions and division, you’ve had kids wonder (if not say out loud) –When in the world will we ever have to divide fractions?  Don’t feel bad if you were caught off guard and found yourself grasping for an answer.  It’s a good question.

Well, a good answer is that fractions are used all the time in our everyday world by people in all sorts of jobs. So when your little skeptics question the value of what you’re teaching, try posing questions like these to get them thinking:

Let’s say you have ¼ of a birthday cake and 3 people. How would you divide it?

Or, what if you want to share ¼ of a pizza among 4 friends?

Or, if each of your friends can eat ¼ bag of potato chips, and you have 3 bags, how many people can you have over?

Pizza … potato chips…birthday cake…the best Continue reading

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8 Mathematical Practices: Not a Mile Wide, But a Mile Deep

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Web_Samulski_8 Mathematical Practices 3-5_blog1We ran across a disturbing article. It described a study a few years ago that followed thousands of undergraduates for four years. It found that large numbers of these students did not know how to think critically or reason—two higher-order thinking skills that we, as teachers, are very aware of now that the Common Core has focused our attention on building them.

No one in K–12 education can ignore these findings. Virtually every one of us would agree that critical thinking is of the utmost importance. And not just because the Common Core says so. Our students need to see both sides of an issue, be able to reason, back up their claims with evidence, deduce and infer conclusions from facts. And the power of these skills is never as obvious as in the math classroom.

Students who think critically, reason, and solve math problems independently are Continue reading

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8 Mathematical Practices and the Two Words Teachers Love to Hear from Students

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Web_Samulski_8 Mathematical Practices_blog1Young children in the early years love to explore, discover, work together, and make connections in their classrooms. If they succeed at learning and it’s fun, they want to learn more. It’s during these years, specifically K–2, that they form attitudes about learning. Especially about math.

If they receive the right instruction, in the right environment, they will learn to love math now and, hopefully, the rest of their lifetime. As a teacher, the goal should be to instill in children an I-Can attitude about math. Knowing they can solve math problems builds self-confidence and motivates the learner to tackle other, more complex challenges. We don’t have to tell you how Continue reading

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Mistakes in the Math Classroom: Bring ‘em On!

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Web_Stipek_Math Interventions Diagnosing Student Errors-blog1Each time your students gather for math time, you probably have the same goals—to motivate them, teach them how to find the “right” answer, and (hopefully) prepare them to earn a good grade or test score.

What you don’t plan on them doing is make mistakes. But they will. And when it’s the same mistake over and over, you feel like pulling your hair out. How many times have you muttered to yourself, This kid isn’t even trying…

Mistakes in math, as we all know, are inevitable. But you shouldn’t dread them, ignore them, or allow them to cause you to run for the Tums. We challenge you to view mistakes differently—as incredible opportunities to learn and grow. Because that’s what they are.

Think about which math student you would prefer. Anne rarely makes a mistake and is great at Continue reading

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