MAT Blog

Next Generation Science Standards Champion Diversity in Science Curriculum!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jul 24, 2012 11:24:00 AM

Marygrove MAT encourages teachers to champion diversity in science in your classroom!The recently completed Next Generation of Science Standards document attempts to address the needs of a variety of learners. The team tasked with writing the standards document is dedicated to promoting equity in schools and addressing the challenges and opportunities present among a variety of learners.  This commitment to diversity in science curriculum is evident in the work they have completed so far.  As the documents continue to be revised and refined, this commitment will continue until every learner has an entry point and avenue for continued scientific growth. 

The most recently released National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) data shows that only 32 percent of eighth graders proved to be proficient on the 2011 science assessment. Specific sub-group data details some gender differences in scores such as male students scoring five points higher than females, and achievement score variations among some cultural and socioeconomic groups. This data strengthens the case for including diversity in the science curriculum and the necessity for a set of comprehensive science standards that is applicable to all students.

It is important to remember that the Next Generation Science Standards are still in draft form.  The first version was released to the public in May, 2012 and, after a three-week window followed for feedback, the committee is revising the draft, with the next draft due for public release in Fall, 2012.

Supporting documents were also released including an overview of the section which focuses on diversity entitled "All Standards, All Students." Created by the equity and diversity team, an arm of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), writers focused specifically on diversity in science curriculum. This section aims to address the needs of a variety of learners. It will identify instructional strategies, additional resources, and possible targeted adaptations and modifications to make the NGSS a document that benefits all learners. The final version of this chapter will include vignettes focused on support for student groups such as English Language Learners (ELL), students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and racial and ethnic minorities. The May release included research and additional information on the NGSS in regards to:

  • English Language Learners (ELL):  Because science education requires a vast vocabulary of technical and content-specific vocabulary, many English language learners struggle because of language skills.   The Next Generation Science Standards encourage teachers to integrate instructional strategies used for literacy development, such as activating prior knowledge, explicit instruction on reading strategies, and the use of graphic organizers.  Teachers may also want to teach the specific genre of scientific writing and record keeping.
  • Students with Disabilities: The Next Generation Science Standards are written for special needs students in the inclusion classroom, resource room setting, or self-contained classroom.  The writing panel encourages teachers to use a variety of instructional methods, based on students' Individualized Education Programs (IEP) or growth goals, so that students may fully learn the scientific concepts. Accommodations and modifications can easily be made to the standards documents to alter delivery, practice, application, or assessment.

Every child deserves the equal opportunity to learn science. We are very pleased about the steps that the NGSS will take to make science learning accessible to children of multiple intelligences, as well as those with diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is an exciting time in education!

Get a leg up on the NGSS—coming this fall. Download our FREE on-demand webinar, “Cutting Edge Science,” and see how the standards will impact your instruction.

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Tags: Next Generation Science Standards, equity in schools, curriculum, instruction and assessment, science curriculum, on demand webinar

A look at science standards nationwide. How do you measure up?

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jul 17, 2012 4:10:00 PM

science standards nationwideIn early 2012 the Thomas Fordham Institute released a study outlining the current state of science standards for grades K-12 in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. The analysis of the standards and the compilation of data are helping to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), currently being developed by a core group of 26 states.  

As the development of the NGSS moves forward, it is a perfect time for states and districts to continue refining their current standards.  Being able to concisely outline the student learning that should occur is crucial for ongoing academic success.

The findings from the Fordham Institute varied greatly from state to state.  Each state had strengths, weaknesses, and areas for continued improvement in regards to their state science standards.  It is important to note that although the Next Generation Science Standards are currently in development Fordham continues to examine current standards with the intent of making continuous improvements. There must be constant refinement of current science curriculum expectations and not the expectation of "waiting" for a better set of standards to come along.

After Fordham's analysis was complete each state earned a traditional letter grade based on the overall quality of the science standards.  In twenty six states the current science standards earned a D or an F, representing nearly 50 percent of the science standards being taught and assessed in the United States. Only 13 states, slightly more than 25 percent, received a B or better.  Only two jurisdictions, California and The District of Columbia earned an A after the analysis was complete. Both received high marks for consistency, quality, and careful design of the science standards.

One factor, in particular, places the California science standards at the head of the pack.  The California standards are extremely clear and concise. There is no ambiguity relative to what students are expected to know, understand, and be able to do. Examples include:

Second Grade:

  • The motion of objects can be observed and measured. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know the position of an object can be described by locating it in relation to another object or to the background. 
b. Students know an object's motion can be described by recording the change in position of the object over time.

Sixth Grade:

  • Sources of energy and materials differ in amounts, distribution, usefulness, and the time required for their formation. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know the utility of energy sources is determined by factors that are involved in converting these sources to useful forms and the consequences of the conversion process. 

The core standards (in bold) clearly describe the basic science core concepts students should understand. The outcomes are clearly defined. The accompanying indicators concisely describe more specific ways in which student learning should occur.  

If you currently serve, or hope to serve on a committee that is drafting curriculum, take note of California’s clear and concise descriptions. It makes all the difference in the world, especially to a teacher who may be new to teaching science, and less familiar with its content.

For more best practice tips and a sneak peek into the soon-to-come Next Generation Science Standards, register for the Cutting Edge Science Webinar at 4 p.m. Wednesday! It’s not too late… there are still virtual seats available! Register here.


Tags: Next Generation Science Standards, curriculum, instruction and assessment, webinar

Top 10 Tips for Teaching Fractions in Middle School.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jun 16, 2012 5:37:00 AM

Marygrove MAT lists top ten tips for teaching fractionsThere are many instructional tips and shortcuts to help new middle school math teachers; however, finding practical solutions for fractions can seem tiresome. Keep in mind, there are no quick fixes. Teaching and learning fractions takes time, focus and rigor. With practice, you'll soon see what works best for you and your students. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Take time to build conceptual knowledge. This tip is number one for a reason: it is critical! A big part of making sense with numbers includes using them in context. Without knowing the meaning of a number, it can become difficult for students to choose a proper strategy.

2. Relate to prior knowledge and draw from experiences. Students may lack conceptual knowledge due to inexperience— therefore you must give examples of everyday uses of the concept, such as figuring recipes in cooking, or determining retail costs at half-off sales.

3. Provide an activity that can give students everyday uses of fraction concepts. Make a concept more concrete by engaging children with things they’re interested in. Children of all ages enjoy food, sports and the arts. Bring in a few pizzas or pies and have them work out some authentic…and delicious exercises.

4. Use a “less is more” approach for math with both in class work and homework. When more than 10 questions are assigned, it typically means the focus of homework has changed from conceptual understanding to drilling of procedures. When emphasis is placed on using and mastering strategies instead of simply showing a student’s work, both written and verbal explanations of math concepts tend to improve. Assign a few key problems to solve by selecting from the strategies taught in class. This encourages students to draw from prior knowledge that is likely linked to other mathematics lessons. (Bay-Williams, 2010)

5. Always have an anchor to the lesson. It is helpful to have a versatile anchor to a lesson such as a number line that makes sense in more than one context. (Schaar, 2012)

6. Integrate writing often. A written response in mathematics helps strengthen student learning, which can build deeper understanding. It gives students an opportunity to organize their thoughts related to the math topic, which helps clarify their thinking. Student writing can also provide you with valuable insight into their mastery of math concepts. Teachers can use writing assignments as either an informal or formal assessment tool.

7. Use a variety of manipulatives. Multiple representations of problems help all learners better grasp mathematical concepts. No student is too old for using hands-on manipulatives to solve problems. Be creative! Students can use tiles, marbles, beans, rice, dice or any of the typical "learning store" items available to teachers.

8. Provide picture models. This is just another way to represent a problem for visual learners. Again, students are never too old to use drawings, photos, and graphs to express mathematics.

9. Use short cuts only when they can be explained. Be careful here, since using these last two tips improperly can generate poor results and misunderstandings. Short cuts or tricks should only be allowed when a student can explain the meaning behind their result. For example, researchers found that when students used the procedure for dividing fractions by fractions, many were unable to accurately explain their results (Perlwitz, 2005).

10. Integrate technology to open new ways of learning. Use computers and calculators only when it will increase efficiency and concepts are already understood. Although using these devices will help students become more accurate and speedy with answers, using them too often can lead to a procedure and answer-oriented classroom.

    In the end, a successful classroom is one that takes time to focus on concepts in a way that allows students to build their own knowledge. In order to build new knowledge, students need to experience math and be allowed to use their own strategies. They also need everyday context to problems, or an anchor, so that real meaning can be developed.

    You’ll gain practical advice and instructional best practices like these from the Marygrove Master in Art of Teaching Middle Level Mathematics program. Enroll now, and enhance your career! Fall classes begin September 4.

    Apply for the Marygrove MAT


    Heather Patacca is a fourth year teacher and will be graduating the MAT program in the summer of 2013. She has previously taught ninth grade algebra and sixth and fourth grade pre-algebra. She and her husband live in Ohio with their beautiful three-year-old son.


    Barlow, A. T., & Drake, J. M. (2008). Division by a fraction: Assessing understanding through problem writing. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 13(6), 326-332.
    Clarke, D. M., Roche, A., & Mitchell, A. (2008). 10 practical tips for making fractions come alive and make sense. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 13(11), 372–379
    Perlwitz, M. (2005). Dividing fractions: Reconciling self-generated solutions with algorithmic answers. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 10(6), 278- 283.
    Schaar, Richard J. (2012), Expert Commentary:  A New Anchor for fractions: Richard J. Schaar [Video]. San Francisco, CA: Teachscape.  Retrieved from
    Van de Walle, J. A., Karp, K. S., & Bay-Williams, J. M. (2010).  Teaching developmentally.
    Elementary and Middle School Mathematics (7th ed.).  Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.



    Tags: curriculum, instruction and assessment, middle school math, fractions

    Teachers need to teach to standards, not to standardized tests!

    Posted by Colleen Cadieux on May 24, 2012 5:36:00 AM

    Join Marygrove MAT Director Diane Brown as teacher talk explores the latests buzz in teachingThe National Education Association’s Tim Walker writes: “The already diminished reputation of high stakes testing took another hit…” This time it’s in Florida, as news broke last week that only 27 percent of that state’s fourth graders passed the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in writing. The figure represents a drop from 81 percent the previous year. Apparently, test scores for eighth and tenth graders were not much better.

    According to Walker’s article, “The news sent Florida’s board of education into a damage control frenzy, as the media, parent groups, and educators demanded an explanation. Are three out of four Florida students functionally illiterate?”

    To understand this issue, it is important to understand how writing is scored on a standardized test. Writing can be scored by looking primarily at content, by primarily looking at mechanical errors like spelling, grammar, punctuation or capitalization, or by a combination of both. The prior scoring rubric on the FCAT did not contain criteria dealing with mechanical errors. The new rubric takes these errors into account. 

    When the Florida Board of Education officials voted to lower the passing mark from 4.0 to 3.0, the results were far easier to swallow: Now 81 percent of the sunshine state’s fourth graders are proficient in writing. Without these drastic measures, the low performance score could have led to a number of schools being downgraded and untold dollars being spent on remedial programs to correct the problem.

    High stakes testing like the FCAT forces the “tail to wag the dog;” in this case, writing assessment drives writing instruction. Prior rubrics gave high marks to writing which created legitimate arguments with great ideas and coherent organization, but didn’t deduct points for mechanical errors. As a result, Florida writing instruction uses a highly scripted program: In this program, students are taught to write a coherent, cohesive five paragraph essay, and to write to a prompt, but are not instructed in ways to write accurately in a high-pressure situation. This holistic model does not take into account mechanical errors like spelling, grammar, punctuation or capitalization.  

    Holistic models can be a great way to learn writing, but if the writing is being assessed using a rubric that counts these mechanical criteria, the mis-match between teaching and assessment results in low test scores. Undoubtedly, there will be changes in the way writing is taught in Florida next year and the 81 percent of students who passed the proficient criteria in the past will once again pass proficient criteria next February.

    There is a bigger question, however, than which curriculum should be used to teach writing in Florida. As test and scoring rubrics are constantly in flux, and teachers and schools struggle to balance good teaching practice against the realities of high stakes testing, what real purpose do these standardized tests serve?

    Marygrove MAT Academic Director Diane Brown addresses some of these issues and more on Blogtalk Radio. She discusses the military origins of standardized testing, and how the validity of this kind of assessment for children has been tangled in bureaucratic red tape. Dr. Brown points out that every test is really a reading test, even if you are assessing other skills like math or chemistry. So struggling readers are probably also going to struggle on a math test, which may or may not be an accurate reflection of a student’s skills.

    “Teachers are the best ones to gauge their students’ learning,” she says. “Marygrove believes that teachers should be teaching to the standards, not so much teaching to the test.”

    Take a listen!  Then, let us know what you think.



    Tags: high stakes testing, standardized tests, core standards, formative assessment, curriculum, instruction and assessment

    Three Cooperative Learning Strategies in Middle School Math.

    Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Apr 22, 2012 5:32:00 AM

    middle school students benefit from teh more social cooperative learning activities.Middle schoolers are often naturally social and many of them love to work in groups during class. The middle school mathematics classroom is a wonderful environment for promoting these social learning connections while mastering math concepts. There are a variety of cooperative learning strategies that benefit the middle school math student. Here are three excellent ones you can use now:

    1. Jigsaw Lessons are not puzzling at all.
    Often implemented in social studies or science, a jigsaw lesson can work equally well in the math classroom. Certain mathematical concepts, such as geometry, lend themselves nicely to the jigsaw format. 

    As in all jigsaw lessons, the teacher will divide the class into groups and within each group assign students numbers. The number of students in each group is dependent on the number of concepts in the jigsaw lesson.  For a lesson on triangles each student is assigned the task of creating a specific triangle based on defined attributes.

    For example, one student in the group may be asked to create an acute scalene triangle while another student is tasked with creating an obtuse isosceles triangle. All students in the class with the same task form a temporary new group to complete it and plan ways to explain it to their original group. Once the triangles are created, the group will reconvene with their starting team. Each group member must then display the triangle, describe the assigned attributes, and clarify the process they used to complete the task. By sharing ideas and answering questions, students have the opportunity to reinforce their own understanding and learn from one another.

    For your reference, we found an excellent, thorough description of the jigsaw instructional strategy from Instructional Strategies Online, by Saskatoon Public Schools in Canada.

    2. Quiz Show helps students win at math literacy.
    Using the quiz show format teachers can plan a cooperative learning activity that spans an entire unit and provides a fun review session before the final assessment.  It is great for learning math vocabulary and reviewing concepts. 

    The teacher begins by assigning groups at the outset of the unit.  This is best done using heterogeneous, or mixed, groups so that students will collaborate, learn, and become stakeholders in the group's success. Over the course of the unit's instruction, the groups will meet periodically to write quiz show questions. The teacher can front load these collaborative question-writing sessions by providing a framework for questions or requiring a specific format (multiple choice, multi-step problem solving, true/false, etc). These questions will be submitted to the teacher as possible questions for the final quiz show competition.

    On the quiz show review day the students compete in their original teams and the teacher chooses the questions that will be asked.  (You should include some questions written by students and others that you have composed yourself).  The students will review the unit material, enjoy working in teams, and be thrilled when one of their own questions is used!

    3. Student Peer Coaching is more than a game…it’s leadership training.
    Teachers may choose to use peer coaching in the middle school mathematics class in an effort to give students the opportunity to observe how others approach problem solving.  Since students have different ways of solving the same problem, giving them the chance to learn from one another allows each to experience a different perspective.

    Implementing peer coaching as part of a math lesson requires a simple structure and is highly effective at expanding students' understanding. The teacher assigns students a partner (or small group) and they work together to solve a problem as a cooperative group. The group must come to a consensus on the problem solving steps, computation, and the final answer.

    Eventually, each student will be responsible for completing a similar problem independently. Adding a self-reflection journal question that asks students to identify a part of their problem solving process that was impacted by working with others will provide data about the effectiveness of the peer coaching.

    No matter which strategy you try, we know each of these promises to engage and enlighten your socially-oriented middle school students…many of whom are afflicted with severe cases of spring fever…especially on those seemingly never-ending Fridays!

    Download our Guide on the Highly Effective Instructional Strategy of Cooperative Learning for a brief refresher on how to conduct it with success!

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    Tags: curriculum, instruction and assessment, download, middle school math, cooperative learning in math

    Finding Joy in Ongoing Assessment in Math.

    Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Apr 20, 2012 10:05:00 AM

    Ongoing assessment in math is smart for teachers and students alike.  International best-selling author and wellness expert Greg Anderson once said, “Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.” This may be true, but for most teachers and students, joy is probably not a word either would associate with assessment in math. It’s undeniable, traditional methods of assessment carry a significant amount of baggage—for both teacher and student. Perhaps it is time to ditch this baggage, and rethink the old paradigm of how we evaluate student progress!

    More recently, discussion about assessment has shifted from focusing solely on the finished product to an ongoing, process-oriented approach. Unlike traditional methods, ongoing evaluation assesses students throughout the process of “doing.” Teachers constantly interact and collaborate with learners, and students continuously engage in self-reflection. This multi-faceted approach is happening all the time, in and out of the classroom.

    Ongoing assessment has long been used in the rigors athletic training.

    At each practice, a football coach continually provides feedback to players in order to improve individual and team performance. In every drill the coach analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of each player and the team as a whole, and modifies future practices to reflect their needs. Ongoing feedback is provided based on observation and analysis throughout the actual games, and the data are used to plan the next series of practices. This coaching model is very similar to the work of a teacher who uses ongoing assessment. It works.

    There are multiple benefits of implementing ongoing assessment in mathematics:

    • Clear, relevant criteria. Ongoing assessment in mathematics utilizes clear, easy to understand criteria that are explicitly articulated at the outset of a unit of study.  For example, in a primary unit on telling time the students understand that there will be informal, ongoing performance assessments. A teacher can utilize a variety of assessment to gather ongoing data such as performance assessment, student reflection, anecdotal observations, student/teacher discussion, and problem solving.
    • Frequent feedback. Students frequently receive feedback when a teacher is using ongoing assessment in mathematics. This feedback continues from the beginning of the unit to the final assessment, and at every instructional point in between.  In the previous telling time example; the teacher doesn't wait until the end of the unit to determine if the child can tell time to the minute. Instead, there is ongoing data regarding the child's progress in telling time to the hour, half hour, quarter hour, five minutes, and minute. At each of these points there is feedback to the students.
    • Instructional modification. Ongoing assessment in mathematics provides feedback not only to students regarding their performance, but also to the teacher regarding lesson planning.  As the teacher collects data from the ongoing assessments, future lessons can be shaped based on needs. These modifications can be for the entire group or targeted for students who need remediation. They may also be used to provide additional, more challenging concepts to students who are already displaying mastery. For example, the teacher may find that when monitoring students' ability to understand place value to 1000, there are some that need remediation and reteaching on place value to 100 and others that have completely mastered the skill. The teacher can then use this ongoing data to shape future instruction. 

    Ongoing assessment has a rhythm to it, and takes some time and practice to master. New teachers should start out slowly; soon you will feel the joy of doing it, as you are able to measure the impact on your students' progress! 

    For more ways to boost your students’ enjoyment of math, download our Math Literacy Guide full of helpful hints from teachers, for teachers!

    Download Our FREE Math Literacy Guide


    Tags: curriculum, instruction and assessment, elementary math, ongoing assessment in math., download

    Problem-based learning is a strategic solution for all students.

    Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Mar 15, 2012 5:45:00 AM

    small butterflyMost teachers will agree that cooperative learning activities are highly beneficial for their students' learning. They know that students benefit from working together, discussing varying opinions, and learning alongside a peer. Yet teachers often realize that to truly make cooperative learning activities deep and meaningful learning experiences, it will take something more than simple group work.

    This desire for in-depth learning is the exact reason Problem Based Learning (PBL) is regarded as one of the most beneficial cooperative learning activities available to the elementary classroom. 

    PBL is defined as " instructional (and curricular) learner-centered approach that empowers learners to conduct research, integrate theory and practice, and apply knowledge and skills to develop a viable solution to a defined problem," (Savery, 2006). Since the “problem” that students will be solving is generally interdisciplinary in nature, learners are challenged with integrating content and skills across a variety of curricular areas.  

    PBL benefits all learners by providing a unique, differentiated, and challenging task. Teachers and students alike have found that the rewards of PBL are:

    • Authentic, real world tasks that pique student interest.
    • Opportunities for cooperative work require students to work together to solve problems.
    • Interdisciplinary study connects curricular content areas.
    • Challenging tasks motivate students.
    • Core problems require both  critical and creative thinking.

    The only limitation on scenarios and topics to study for PBL is the teacher's imagination! The possibilities are endless for designing engaging problems, connecting curricular standards, and creating formats for gathering and sharing information. Teachers can introduce PBL in their classroom by first devising a problem that will engage students and integrate curriculum standards. Once these foundational pieces are established, the teacher can plan cooperative tasks and assign groups to find solutions for the problem.  Although this may seem like an overwhelming process, it doesn't have to be.  Here's an example of PBL in the elementary classroom, which we love for its simple, organic nature!

    Attracting Butterflies to the School Garden: The Perfect PBL Lesson for Spring!

    • The core problem second grade students will be tasked with solving is how to attract butterflies to a new butterfly garden in the school courtyard.
    • Students will work on cooperative learning activities in small groups assigned by the teacher.  This is important to ensure that groups are balanced and that a positive cooperative learning environment is present.
    • The class will visit the school courtyard to observe its current state and take notes about what is planted in the garden.
    • The groups will then begin researching what attracts butterflies to a garden.  This will be done using a variety of materials including library books, gardening and butterfly manuals, and the Internet. 
    • Once the groups have determined what attracts butterflies to a garden, they will work together to design a blueprint for the new butterfly garden. They may choose to draw a schematic or create a model.
    • The groups will also be given time to complete a written explanation of their plan highlighting what they think the butterfly garden should contain and how this will attract butterflies.  
    • Finally, each group will present their ideas to the class and provide an oral explanation for their design of the butterfly garden.

      The tasks outlined in this sample PBL will be challenging to students and will require them to use a variety of skills to solve the assigned problem. Implementing PBL in an elementary classroom is highly beneficial to all students—not to mention lots of fun— and will challenge all learners to do their best to solve the problem.

      Try it and let us know how it went!

    Savery, John R. (2006) "Overview of Problem-based Learning: Definitions and Distinctions," Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 3.
    Photo courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida.


    Tags: curriculum, reciprocal teaching, instruction and assessment, teaching strategies

    The QT on RT: How to Make Reciprocal Teaching Come Alive.

    Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Mar 13, 2012 5:43:00 AM

    Reciprocal teaching is about the interaction between teacher and student.I was introduced to Reciprocal Teaching (RT) several years ago while teaching Title One. Recently, I discovered the facelift that author and trainer Lori Oczkus gives it in her video, DVD and books. She provides multiple examples of the four comprehension strategies: Predicting, Questioning, Clarifying, and Summarizing, which are very helpful.  In the video, she models using each strategy at grade levels one through middle school and in several content areas, including science.

    Lori’s focus is on interaction between the teacher and students. Students learn to use and internalize the four main strategies in order to comprehend whatever they are studying. “The Fab Four,” as Lori calls them, are presented in engaging formats through the use of props and voice inflections. For predicting, she and her students use a fortune teller scarf; for questioning they use a toy microphone and reporter voice; for clarifying, oversized glasses; and for summarizing, a lasso which can be shortened and lengthened to get just the right length!

    For a hands-on aid, I have students make a paper plate model with each concept on a quadrant, and a dial to move to the concept being modeled.  As student understanding increases, they are told to “spin the dial in your head” and eventually just the words are clue enough. For this, I find it is important for students to create their own models with extra hints such as colors, pictures or word clues.

    In some states, predicting and summarizing are taught as early as pre-Kindergarten through picture walks and the teacher question, “What did we learn from . . .?”  To encourage retention, I ask parents to try to ask students, daily, “What did you learn in reading [math, science] today?” This encourages summarizing skills, too.  

    In RT, “question” means that students form questions about the reading or concepts being learned.  Many students enjoy this chance to take the questioning role their teachers have modeled for years. It also encourages teachers to model higher order questions!

    “Clarify” means looking for words, sentences, or major ideas that are unknown or seem puzzling; then seeking to understand them.  Because some students are reluctant to share their unknowns, “clarify” can be introduced as “What is something in this passage that somebody in the class might not know?”  This relieves the stigma of needing something clarified. 

    In her video, Lori models an important teaching method that provides sentence starters for student response. Examples of this approach might be, “Read page six and come up with a ‘who’ question.” Or “An idea the author could have stated more clearly is. . .” You could ask students to write a clear summary using 25 words or less, e.g., for science, you could write (on a transparency): “The word “atom” means…”

    The four comprehension strategies can be done in any order, and all of them do not need to be included in every lesson.  As students’ comfort levels increase, they automatically move back and forth between the strategies that best help them to understand what they are reading. When given the opportunity, they quickly learn to reciprocate as they take responsibility for helping each other understand.

    The complete RT strategy as outlined in the previous blogpost is just fine, but I have found that my students really love getting engaged with these activities—especially when we use props and the sentence starter prompts for the “Fab Four.” 

    Has anyone else found Lori Oczkus’ book or video on RT helpful?

    Lucia Schroeder is a 15-year elementary school teacher. She also taught pre-service and in-service teachers for nine years at the university level.  She is currently a substitute teacher for pre-K through eighth grade. This is her third year as Mentor for the Marygrove MAT program, and she especially enjoys including poetry reading and writing in the content areas.


    Oczkus , L. D.  (2005) Reciprocal teaching strategies at work:  Improving reading comprehension, Grades 2-6, VHS or DVD.  Newark, DE: International Reading Association
    Oczkus, L.D.  (2010) Reciprocal teaching at work:  Powerful strategies and lessons for improving reading comprehension (2nd ed).  Newark, DE:  International Reading Association


    Tags: curriculum, reciprocal teaching, instruction and assessment, teaching strategies

    How to Make Math Literacy Number One in Your Classroom.

    Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Feb 18, 2012 5:35:00 AM

    Marygrove MAT offers K-6 a new, free math literacy guide!New Guide! --Today's teachers face challenges and obstacles that they must strive to overcome. Teachers are dealing with budget shortfalls, lack of resources, larger classes, and mandated curriculum with scripted lessons. In spite of these challenges, it is our job to find ways to reach our students by making smart, purposeful decisions in our lesson design.  

    Math literacy, also known as numeracy, is becoming as important to students as language literacy. Teachers must be sure that students develop the ability to use numbers to help solve real-world problems, along with building a critical understanding of the language and terminology of mathematics. At a base level, students are not considered math literate until they know the fundamentals of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

    As teachers, we are all too aware that math proficiency is important for graduating students in order to ensure their success in our increasingly technological workplace. But finding time to nurture math concepts beyond the typical lesson is difficult for many teachers. With a little creativity and thoughtful planning, we can help students develop greater math literacy in many ways. However, developing a fundamental, positive attitude toward mathematics in the classroom is a great start to fostering a student’s overall love for math.

    Our free guide offers proven strategies that will engage your students while meeting your state and district curriculum standards. The use of math work stations, math focus walls, geocaching, math literature, hands-on manipulatives, and math games are ideal ways to keep your students motivated and interested in mathematics. Many of these tips provide great opportunities for soliciting the aid of parent-volunteers in your classroom. These are also excellent strategies to demonstrate during an observation by your administration.  

    Integrating these teacher-tested ideas into your classroom will surely boost your students' math literacy skills— and help your students reach and exceed their grade level content expectations— all while keeping your students excited and engaged in their learning.

    If you have a technique or tip that you found helpful in your classroom, let us know and we’ll add it to the guide. Simply add a brief description of it in the comments section below, and our editor will contact you!

    Download your FREE copy of the new Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching Math Literacy Guide for K-6 teachers; we’re certain you’ll find a tip or two that will strengthen math literacy in your classroom, today!

    Download Our FREE Math Literacy Guide

    -Kathleen Ader earned a BS from Eastern Michigan University, an MAT from Marygrove College and an MS from Walden University and has taught mathematics and science for 11 years.  She is also a National Board Certified Teacher in Adolescence/Young Adulthood Science.  Kathleen has been a Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching Mentor Advisor since 2008. Her professional interests include the International Baccalaureate Programme and the Network of Michigan Educators. 





    Tags: curriculum, instruction and assessment, elementary math, download, mathematics literacy

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