Instructional Coaching

Instructional Coaching

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday Teaching Tips - 5 Helpful Hints for Close Reading

1. Number the paragraphs
The Common Core asks students to be able to cite and refer to the text. One simple way to do this is by numbering each paragraph, section or stanza in the left hand margin. When students refer to the text, require them to state which paragraph they are referring to. The rest of the class will be able to quickly find the line being referred to. 

2. Chunk the text.
When faced with a full page of text, reading it can quickly become overwhelming for students. Breaking up the text into smaller sections (or chunks) makes the page much more manageable for students. Students do this by drawing a horizontal line between paragraphs to divide the page into smaller sections.

3. Underline and circle… with a purpose.
Telling students to simply underline “the important stuff” is too vague. “Stuff” is not a concrete thing that students can identify. Instead, direct students to underline and circle very specific things. Think about what information you want students to take from the text, and ask them to look for those elements. What you have students circle and underline may change depending on the text type.
For example, when studying an argument, ask students to underline “claims”. We identify claims as belief statements that the author is making. Students will quickly discover that the author makes multiple claims throughout the argument.
When studying poetry, students could underline the imagery they find throughout the poem.
Providing students with a specific thing you want them to underline or circle will focus their attention on that area much better than “underlining important information”.

4. Left margin: What is the author SAYING?
It isn’t enough to ask students to “write in the margins”. We must be very specific and give students a game plan for what they will write. This is where the chunking comes into play.
In the left margin, ask students to summarize each chunk. Demonstrate how to write summaries in 10-words or less. The chunking allows the students to look at the text in smaller segments, and summarize what the author is saying in just that small, specific chunk.

5. Right margin: Dig deeper into the text  
In the right-hand margin, again direct students to complete a specific task for each chunk. This may include:
·     Use a power verb to describe what the author is DOING. (For example: Describing, illustrating, arguing, etc..) Note: It isn’t enough for students to write “Comparing” and be done. What is the author comparing? A better answer might be: “Comparing the character of Montag to Captain Beatty”.
·     Represent the information with a picture. This is a good way for students to be creative to visually represent the chunk with a drawing.
·     Ask questions. I have found this to be a struggle for many students, as they often say they don’t have any questions to ask. When modeled, students can begin to learn how to ask questions that dig deeper into the text. I often use these questions as the conversation driver in Socratic Seminar.
There are many other things students can write in the margins. However, we must model and teach these strategies so that students will have an idea of what to write when they are on their own.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tuesday Teaching Tips - Setting up a Math Routine

Setting up a math routine that meets the needs of all students is crucial.  

This is one model:

5-10 minutes:   Math Energizer/Number Talks
*Tips for Implementing Number Talks in Primary Grades
*Tips for Implementing Number Talks in Intermediate Grades

10-15 minutes:  Whole Group Mini-Lesson
*Standards Based

20-30 minutes:  Guided Math/Centers/Learning Tasks
*Teacher meets with small groups during this time.

5-10 minutes:  Share
*Verbal or written response

Here is a great video of a 3rd Grade Classroom:

Here is a link to the Multiplication Motivation CD she uses in the video.
Here is another great video. Check out the "silent signals" that are used within the lesson.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tuesday Teaching Tips - Who is talking?

8 Ways Teachers Can Talk Less and Get Kids Talking More
By:  Angela Watson

Who is doing a majority of the talking in your classroom? It’s the person who is doing the majority of the talking that tends to do the most learning, so what is the teacher/student talking ratio in your classroom? If you find yourself always talking more than your students, try and figure out some ways to empower your students so they are more involved in the learning.

Even when the learning has been turned over to the students, it’s still tempting to spend too much time giving directions, repeating important information, and telling students how they did instead of asking them to reflect on their work. Here are 8 ways teachers can talk less and getting students talking more:

1. Don’t steal the struggle.  It can be uncomfortable to watch kids struggle to figure out an answer, but they need time and silence to work through it. Resist the urge to talk students through every step of a problem and instead just observe. Letting kids think instead of rushing in to narrate or question builds anticipation around what’s going to be said next and increases participation as more kids are prepared to move into the conversation.

2. Move from the front of the classroom.  It’s easy to get in an instructional rut when you stand at the same place near the board all day long. Try occasionally sitting on the side of the classroom or in an absent student’s desk and say, “I need someone to go up and demonstrate ___ for us.” Because students are used to the person at the board facilitating the lesson, they are likely to talk for much longer than if you stay at the front and they’re in their seats answering you. (“What do all think? Is that an effective method–how do you know? Does anyone use a different strategy?”)

3. Teach students signals for your often-repeated phrases and for transitions.  Cut down on conversations about bathroom/water/pencil sharpening/etc by teaching kids to use sign language to request permission: use sign language to indicate your answer back: yes, no, or wait. Use music, a chime, or other auditory signal to indicate when it’s time to start an activity, pause, and clean up. The idea here is to give kids a break from hearing your voice: they are far more likely to tune in to a unique sound than to a 20 word direction.

4. Use non-verbal reinforcement for behavior whenever possible.  A lot of the talking most of us do throughout the day is related to student behavior, and most of the time, we’re wasting our breath. Resist the urge to lecture students every time someone forgets their materials, interrupts your lesson, or makes an inappropriate noise. It’s far more effective (not to mention easier and less disruptive) to give students “the teacher look” and keep the lesson moving. If you need to have a conversation about the behavior with a student or issue a consequence, try to wait for a break in your instruction rather than stop the whole class from learning while you discipline one kid.

5. Turn your statements into questions and prompts.  Instead of saying to a group, “Nice work over here, I like the strategy you used for ___”, ask the kids to reflect on their own work: “Tell me how your group has chosen to solve ___.” Instead of telling a child, “Take a look at #3, that answer is incorrect” say, “Would you tell me how you got the answer for #3?” Not only will these questions get kids talking instead of you, kids will also have the chance to reflect on and articulate their learning.

6. Instead of asking, “Does that make sense?” say, “Can you put that in your own words?”  If you’ve ever asked kids “Are you getting this?”, you’ve probably noticed you rarely get an insightful response. So, you either move on without kids understanding or you repeat something you’ve already said. Try inviting kids to put what you’ve explained into their own words, either repeating it back to you (if you were helping the child in a one-on-one conversation) or by turning and talking to a partner/doing a quick think/pair/share.

7. Stop repeating yourself.  It’s tempting to say important points and instructions a couple of different ways to make sure every child understands, but that strategy can backfire when it’s overused. Kids learn that it’s okay to tune you out because you’ll repeat everything you say. Instead, experiment with different strategies for getting kids to follow directions the first time you give them and use call-and-repsonse routines to get kids’ attention right away.

8. Notice moments when you summarize/review for students and instead get their input.  If you hear yourself saying once again, remember, as I said, as always, so to sum this up, or don’t forget, that probably means you’re about to drive home an important point for the second or third (or tenth) time. Practice making those moments a chance for kids to share: What’s the rule about this? Who can sum this section up for us? Who remembers the way to determine ___?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tuesday Teaching Tips - Teaching Math Facts

Top 12 Tips for Teaching Math Facts

1.  Limit the Number of Math Facts you teach at a Time.

2.  Only add more facts to learn as the previous set has been mastered.

3.  Practice should be cumulative.

4.  Students should memorize facts in a way that forms a verbal chain (say the answers aloud).

5.  Mastery = automaticity (fact fluency)

6.  Students should have realistic, individual fluency goals.

7.  A routine for daily practice sessions should be in place.

8.  A routine for corrective feedback during practice should be in place.

9.  Practice sessions should be short. (No more than 2-4 minutes)

10.  A process for progress monitoring should be in place.

11.  If students are to keep up with their grade level math program, they must begin memorizing multiplication facts in Grade 4 at the latest.

12.  Celebrate success!

To find out more information on these 12 tips, visit: