My Beliefs on Education!

I’ve been reading my way through “Teaching with Intention” by Debbie Miller and I am IN LOVE with the idea of determining what your beliefs are on education and making sure that your actions and classroom practices actually align with what you do on a daily basis.  Because of this, I couldn’t help but put my beliefs out there for the world to see.  Just for fun, I want to challenge each and every follower and blogger to do the same!

If you blog, I would love for you to complete a post telling about your beliefs on education and link up below.  You can also participate as a follower to be entered to win the fantastic prize below!

If you are a follower, I would love for you to create a little Facebook and Twitter “buzz” by sharing your beliefs on education and use #MyBeliefsOnEducation.  Then, tag two of your teacher friends in the post.  They can then take their turn at sharing their beliefs on education!  When I search #MyBeliefsOnEducation, anyone who used it to share their beliefs on education will be entered in chance to win a $50 Gift Certificate for TeachersPayTeachers!  You CAN NOT pass this up!!!

So….drum roll….I became a teacher because….
*I believe that education should be as individualized as possible.  I know I sound so special education right now, but seriously.  How often do we do one sized fits all types of instruction, activities, or assessments?  I try to do my best to make opportunities for differentiation and individualization.
*I believe that education should be as authentic and real life as possible!  Maybe it is just because of my learning style, but I like to dive in and figure out real life problems.  I like to see the way that skills learned in school are actually used to help it make sense to me.  I love doing the same with my students.  I love making it REAL LIFE!
*I believe that education is the most powerful tool in which we can give our students and should be done with love.  In my classroom, I often tell my students that I love them verbally, but I always tell them I love them non verbally as well.  I try to make the atmosphere of my classroom emit the feeling that they are loved, respected, and can be themselves.
*I believe that assessment should drive our instruction but should not dominate our buildings in the way they often do.  I know the anxiety that comes with getting back scores from statewide testing but should be forced to feel that pressure all year long?  We do because as teachers we are perfectionists and care about our student’s success.

Please feel free to share this image on social media as well as YOUR beliefs on education!  I’d love to hear them! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Guided Math {Chapter Nine}

I want to begin my final
*insert frown*Guided Math Book
Study post with an extremely grateful,


When I began this book study, I never imagined the
opportunities and connections that I would make along the way.  Throughout this book study, I have been
privileged to chat with many teachers about different chapters, questions, or brainstorming
solutions to classroom problems related to Guided Math.  It has been such an amazing experience.  I am also secretly hoping that you are
reading this post and feeling a little bummed that the book is complete.  Yet I also hope that you are totally pumped and
prepared to start implementing it into your classroom. 

I wish I could pick my favorite “take away” from this book
but it is nearly impossible, so I’ll just give a few really broad
statements.  I love how implementing
Guided Math allows for flexibility
and differentiation.  I love it incorporates a place for all levels
of instruction, such as whole group, small group, and individually.  I love how it
encourages students to work independently
and become responsible for their own
learning.  What more could we ask for?!?!

Lastly, what I love about this book study are the
communities of teachers who are voluntarily coming together for the sake of
bettering their mathematical instruction. 
I have had so many teachers send emails or message me saying that they
forward on my blog posts to their friends and staff members each week.  One follower said that her and her grade
level teachers meet for lunch every Thursday afternoon to discuss the chapter
of that particular week and make plans for how to implement it.  How amazing and really puts the pressure on!  Keep at it, ladies!  I’ll look forward to your messages as you sit
and talk at Panera this afternoon and I expect updates along the way! ๐Ÿ™‚

How do you share new information with your colleagues?

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Guided Math {Chapter Eight}

I know I’m a newbie teacher but I feel that assessment has
taken on a different meaning and purpose in the last decade of
instruction.  When I was in elementary
school, which was longer than just a decade ago, you worked on a given topic for
a week or two and then took a chapter test. 
Nowadays, assessment is an ongoing process in which we as teachers are
always provided with information to guide our instruction.  I don’t know about you but I think that’s a
change for the better.

Before you can begin to assess students on their learning it
is important to give them “A Vision for Learning” according to Sammons.  She says that “people tend to be more
successful in any endeavor if they have in mind a vision of success for which
to aim.”  (Sammons, 231)  By showing students what you expect them to
learn or anticipate covering in a given unit allows them to know what is coming
and what they must accomplish.  The
trouble is….how do we do this?

Establishing Criteria
for Success:

Checklists: I personally
LOVE this idea but can’t quite wrap my mind around its use in mathematics.  You can consider this another ‘To-Do List”
item.  By using a checklist, students are
given the opportunity to look at list of steps or procedures and determine if
they have completed the problem correctly. 
In my opinion, we do this all the time with anchor charts.  We show students how to complete a problem
using a given set of steps but how many times to we give them a tool to
physically refer back to it and check off that they have completed each step?  How often do we require them to comment or
reflect on their process versus the checklist given?  These are quality ways in which we can make
sure that students are evaluating their own success. 

Rubrics:  I’ll be honest, I don’t use rubrics in my
room often and I can’t really even think of a justification or reason why.  I guess that means I have another thing to
add to my “To-Do List.”  Rubrics allow
students to see exactly what is expected as well as evaluate the quality of
their own work prior to submitting an assignment.  When using a rubric, you should always give
them to students prior to completing the assignment so that they know what your
standards are.  It would also be a great
idea to post the rubric in the room for reference throughout the completion of
the assignment.  Rubrics also allow peers
to work together to begin assessing and assisting one another develop quality

The Value of
Descriptive Feedback:

Students who receive descriptive feedback throughout a task
are able to see what they complete correctly and what things need to be
corrected.  In this section I absolutely
enjoyed a metaphor about a coach and ball player that Sammons used to describe
the purpose of descriptive feedback.  “The
coaching is not given only at the end of an event, but instead, is given during training so that the athletes
are able to make adjustments to improve their performances prior to testing
them in competitions.”  (Sammons,
238)  DUH!  Do we usually coach our students BEFORE or
AFTER the game?  I’ve been in many
classrooms where the coaching is held off until AFTER the big test to give
descriptive feedback.  By that point,
students (especially my special education students) have repeatedly practiced
mathematical tasks incorrectly.  After
the assessment is too late to begin giving descriptive feedback.   When
giving descriptive feedback, Sammons suggests that it:

  *comes during and
after the learning

  *it is easily

  *is related directly
to the learning

  *is specific, so
performance can improve

  *involves choice on
the part of the learner as to the type of feedback and how to receive it

  *is part of an
ongoing conversation about learning

  *is in comparison
models, exemplars, samples, or descriptions

  *is about the performance of the work—not the person

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Guided Math {Chapter Seven}

I don’t know about you, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the
Guided Math Book Study and am kinda bummed to think about it’s conclusion here
in the next few weeks.  This week, we
dive into the world of conferring during Math Workshop, which is a fundamental piece
of the process.  Sammons says that “in
many ways, conferring is the heart and soul of teaching.  As we confer with students, we sit alongside
them at their levels and listen intently to their words, trying to follow their
reasoning and probing to determine the extent of their understanding.”  I couldn’t agree more that this is so
critical to the success of Guided Math. 

Research Student

The goal of a Guided Math Conference is simple.  Through this process, you are trying to “move
a student from what he or she can almost
do independently to what he or she can
do independently.” (Sammons, 213) But this simple goal doesn’t come
easily.  To begin a Guided Math
Conference, you must take time to listen intently to what your student is
telling you about a given problem or skill. During the research phase, teachers
are determining if students can display mathematical evidence of their
understanding of given skills.  In order
to do this, the teacher must observe students and ask questions in a careful
manner.  In order for the research phase
to be effective, teachers must “differentiate between the authentic ideas of
students and those that are automatic answer to leading questions.”  (Sammons, _____)  If we are leading students to answers, this
does not take from almost to can do a task independently.  Be sure that as you are researching, you

  *Learning Styles

  *Anecdotal Notes

  *Previously Mastered

  *Previous Skills
Causing Difficulty

  *Appears Confident/Unsure


  *Using Appropriate


Whoa!  Daunting,
huh?  Want to know the craziest
part?  This should be completed
quickly!  Conferences are intended to be
short and all four components should be balanced as far as the amount of time
spent in each phase.  You have to quickly
determine where you student’s understanding is currently and move on to the
second step.

Decide What Is

After researching the strategies, progress, and overall
understanding of a given task, it is time to begin the deciding phase.  In this phase, you will begin to determine
what does the student need next?  Begin
by complimenting the student and telling them what they are doing
correctly.  Many students struggle with
math conferences because it can be intimidating!  You can understand the thought of someone
hovering over you, watching your work, and telling you each and every time you
make a mistake or are not being efficient. 
So don’t do it to your students either. 
Build them up before you deliver your instruction and address their
needs.  This allows them to see what they
need to do in future problems as well as keeps them motivated and open to your
suggestions.  As a teacher, you may be
nervous or hesitant about math conferences and your ability to quickly and
effectively confer with your students. 
But the only way to get better is to PRACTICE!  Just do it! 
You may make mistakes in your conferences and struggle to know where to
take students next.  Careful planning and
a little research of the scope and sequence of the topic will be beneficial in
knowing where to go with students to take them to the next level. 

Teach to Student

Here is the FUN part! 
You’ve observed them and determined what you are going to do in order to
help them.  Now you get to teach it!  There are three ways in which you can do this
quickly and effectively. 

Guided Practice:

Depending on the skill and learning style of your particular
student, guided practice might be the best way to approach teaching a skill.  In using guided practice, you sitting next to
the student and allowing them to complete the problem with your
assistance.  The key to guided practice is
that the student is doing the work
and making their way through the process, NOT YOU!  Allow them to do it with your guidance. 


A demonstration is pretty much the opposite of guided
practice.  In a demonstration, they sit
back and watch you make your way through the problem. While making your way
through the problem, you model your thinking aloud with the student. 

You may personally relate to one of these styles more than
the other because most people learn according to a guided practice style or
more of a demonstration style.  Back in
the day when I worked in retail and trained new associates, I would always ask
them if they wanted to do the task or watch it. 
Everyone learns differently, try to appeal to what you know about your
students’ learning styles. 

Explain and Showing an

During this type of teaching, you rely on lessons and
activities that you have already discussed. 
Refer students to anchor charts that you and your students have
developed together.  Show them how to use
resources in the classroom such as interactive notebooks, anchor charts,
textbooks, and math-related literature effectively.  Many times, students are so close they just
need reminders of the steps in the process or terms needed.

Link to the Future:

And last but not least is linking your current task to
future learning.  Make sure that students
realize how these skills will relate to future problems and allows them to
generalize their learning.  This will
take encouragement to keep students from becoming overwhelmed.  You are simply building a mathematical

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Guided Math {Chapter Six}

In the last two weeks, the Guided Math Book Study has taken us through whole group and small group instruction.  For chapter six, we move on to thinking about what students do during Math Workshop.  Math Workshop can be called many different things however these components can be applied to any period of time where you are working with small groups and students are working on other tasks in small groups or independently.  

Review Previously Mastered Concepts:
We all know that math is a process in which students need repeated practice over previously mastered skills.  They need this practice because they will be continually building off of earlier skills in order to move on to more difficult tasks.  Throughout the school year, you may need to factor in centers or activities into Math Workshop that allow students to practice skills that were once mastered.

Practice for Math Fact Automaticity:
Oh math facts!  As a special education teacher, I see students struggle with these and it is so frustrating both for them and their classroom teacher.  I have many students who work and work at them and STILL can’t master them.  Poor memory skills are often common in lower achieving students.  As teachers, we know that students who have not mastered math facts struggle in so many mathematical areas because they are lacking a solid foundation and require their working memory to be focused on solving math facts versus solving complex math problems.  When possible, we need to provide students with resources to practice math facts during Math Workshop.

Use Mathematical Games to Reinforce Concepts:
I think that times are changing in the educational world.  The use of games in the classroom is growing more and more popular in order to practice skills in all subjects, especially math.  When I was in school, we did book work or worksheets.  Games were a reward and were rarely used.  Thanks to TeachersPayTeachers and other online resources, I see more and more teachers using these in the classrooms.  We are competing with computer and video games, a textbook full of math problems is not going to be engaging to them! Bring on the games!

Practice Problem Solving:
Students need a LOT of practice with problem solving and isn’t that the goal of math in general?  To solve problems and apply them to real life?  We need to provide students with the procedures and strategies needed to solve problems and then allow them the time to practice it.  Sammons suggests having the problem solving center stocked with “markers, chart paper, graph paper, stickers, glue, and scissors to create representations of the problems.”  If these materials are available to them to use while solving problems, they can show their understanding in journals or response sheets.  I don’t know about you, but I’m adding that to my “Summer To-Do List.”  She also suggests assigning jobs to students working in problem solving groups together.  One person could be the leader who is in charge of reading the problem and leads the discussion about how to tackle the problem.  While another may be assigned to gather and clean up materials used in solving the actual problem.  By assigning roles, this eliminates students arguing over how to approach or solve a problem.  They can just get to work!

Investigate Mathematical Concepts:
This is something that I am so excited to implement into my classroom.  I am working on finding and creating various investigations that allow students to investigate math in real life situations.  During Math Investigations, you provide students with a task relating current events or the time of school year.  Some suggestions from Sammons were to have students research election data and analyze it, planning classroom purchases of materials, planning a classroom garden, or researching types of transportation and the costs and time frames associated with travel.  Depending on your grade level, you could create many investigations for students to complete throughout the school year.  You could make them as big or as small as you wish based on the time you have to dedicate to it.

Write in Math Journals:
Writing + Math = Difficult for students!  I remember my first college class where I had to write a paper about math concepts.  Can you say difficult?  By the end of the semester, I was a master at it.  Did something change about my mathematical understanding?  Not really, I was just presented with opportunities to where I could practice my skill and receive feedback.  Overtime, I became a better writer about math concepts.  Students need this practice as well.  They need opportunities to “record mathematical observations, meanings of vocabulary words, write about conjectures they have made, to log steps they used in solving a problem, and write about their understanding of mathematical concepts.” (Sammons, 196)  I can’t wait to implement Teaching to Inspire in 5th’s Math Journals in my classroom next year!

Complete Computer-Related Work:
Just as mentioned with using mathematical games to help reinforce math skills, you can do the same with computer games.  By aligning them with the current curriculum or skills that need continual practice and teaching them how to use the properly while working independently, they can be an extremely effective use of independent work time.

Complete Math-Related Work from Other Subject Areas:
Since math is rarely used in isolation, math workshop is a perfect time to tie in other subjects to allow students to see real life applications of concepts you are working on.  Find engaging activities that allow students to relate what they are currently learning to other subjects!  Plus, you kill two birds with one stone!  ๐Ÿ™‚

Complete Work from Small-Group Instruction:
So let’s say you begin working with a small group.  You do a quick lesson.  You get them started on an assessment or assignment.  They are doing pretty well independently.  Do you have to hover over them until they complete it?  No!  Send them off to work on their own during Math Workshop time.  When they have completed the assignment, they can turn it in to a predetermined area.  This allows you to move on to the next group and be more productive during the allotted time.  Just remember, there isn’t a rule that says ‘What happens in small-group stays in small group.’  It is ok to branch off and allow them to finish on their own.

What do you do during Math Workshop?

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