Hu?  Yet another math tool for your Kindergarten and first grade classrooms to practice basic understanding of numbers and addition/subtraction with out the algorithm? Yes!  Look at the pictures first:

Some say..is that an abacus?  Actually, it is the same idea just a much smaller scale.  This tool is can be used as a whole group lessons, calendar time, interactive carpet time, and center renforcements.  We created them at our school w/ card stock, a hole punch, pipe cleaners, and two different colored pony beads.  Great parent volunteer activity.

The best example I've seen of the use of this tool is for the teacher to have one and all students to have one.  Teacher asks "How can I make 4?".  All students use their own think time and build "4" on their rekenrek.  A student may have slide over four beads on the top OR bottom but they might have also slid over 3 on top and 1 on bottom OR two on top and two on bottom OR one on top and three on bottom.  This leads to the conversation on how to decompose the number '4'.

For a DEEP explanation of how Rekenreks came around and more activities please visit the K-5 Math Teaching Resources.

Want to see something cool! Look:

A fellow coach of mine made a big one!  This is my version on her genius work (that is also my adorable daughter playing with our kitten!)  This will be great for demonstrations for whole group but also for centers time.  From across the room, the teacher can see what the students are doing in that center.  I also added the dimensions incase you wanted to make one yourself.  All you need is a 10' pole, the joints listed above, a PVC cutter (totally worth having one on hand), and two different colored pool noodles.  Cut, stick together, and go!  We chose not to glue the pieces together because over time the pool noodles may need to be replaced.  You can make that choice.  Please, let me know how it goes if you dive in to Rekenreks!  

Lastly, for more classroom examples and deeper understanding on the Rekenrek.  I suggest getting your hands on the teacher book Number Talks.  It comes with a DVD that shows a classroom at work with the Rekenrek.  

Close reading...what are you talking about?

One of new catch term for Common Core is Close Reading.  Not Cloze but Close.  What does that actually mean?  Close reading is the ability for a student to follow a process in order to soak every drop out of a passage.

 Through my research (which I am not done with) I have found some great websites and have had others shared with me.

First, I would like to introduce you to Tracy Watanabe's article.  She does a great job (and has great printable for the classroom) to introduce Close reading to your students.  I can't explain it any better than her...start there and come back...

Now that you have the breakdown of what is in Close Reading, how can we actually apply this to your classroom.  Your first thought is probably...I teach (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th) grade, what does it look like for me?

Andrea from One Teacher's Take has a great post to start us off.  She is a fourth grade teacher that is spearheading this concept of Close reading at her school.  Andrea does a great job of bringing this concept down to the elementary level.  She has also spear headed a pinterest board all about Close Reading.

Now, you have the idea on how to use Close reading in your classroom but what do you use to DO the reading?

Court at iteach.icoach.iBlog gives us a great list of resources to begin with in our classrooms.  As you get more and more comfortable with Close Reading, you will begin to use it with your Scholastic Readers, Science Articles, and any frustrational-level reading going on in your classroom.

I look forward to seeing what my teachers have to say about implementing this with the reading passages they currently use.

Objectives - Intro Lesson for Instructional Coaches

Looking for a lesson to introduce or revisit learning objectives for your team:

Our school last year was to raze student cognition through beefing up subject objectives.  We made this decision based on data collected last year from a protocol called the Wing Observation or Instructional Profiling.  This process consists of 120 campus wide 3-5 minute classroom observations that take a snapshot of what is happening in the classroom based on student engagement and cognition level being observed.  That is a mouth full!  I hate sounding so serious about things...but that is how this roles.

It was very helpful that our districts Assistant Superintendent set up a powerpoint to help teach this concept, so I took this and ran with it!  To start this, at the grade level, we discussed what a good objective looks like in the classroom.  A good objectives answers this thought question:

What can students do (or do better) 
as a result of your teaching today
 that they could not do before this lesson

We then ranked a set of objectives based on their likeliness to produce learning.

1. Students will identify the plot elements in the chapter.
2. We will use metacognative skills to read our books.
3. Students will use pictures to retell a story to demonstrate understanding.
4. We will read the story (title) for comprehension.
5. Students will read for fluency.
6. I will mark idioms I find during my reading today.
7. Students will learn about weather.
8. Phonics Lesson. 

Your next step is to pick a subject to start this process with...if you try it with everything, teachers will be in overload.  We chose to do math and you can read some examples below:

I can identify, write, understand, demonstrate numerical the value of ___.
TSW compare, sort two dimensional and irregular figures
TSW identify, sort, justify, construct value with place value to 100.
I will order whole numbers (through four digits) using what we know about place value.  
TSW compose/decompose, understand place value (to the hundreds) through addition with regrouping. 
TSW identify and manipulate place value to the millions.

We continued to fine tune our objectives for the first 9 weeks of school on just math. We then moved onto other subjects.

Let me know how your lesson goes if you choose to do this with your team.  

Doing What Works: A Coach's Goldmine of RTI


I love when I stumble upon a site that answers the nagging questions in my head.  Doing What Works is a site that helps everyone from District Administrators to Classroom Leaders make decisions on progress monitoring, RtI, and research based information on good instruction.  It breaks down the procedures for setting up progress monitoring, creating a data-based dialog in your team meetings, and the basics of what RtI is to a school.  The 'goldmine' part is that it caters to all levels of users.  Once you find a topic you are interested it, you can start researching at your own speed.

For example, when I was looking into the information about progress monitoring, I was able to jump to the See How It Works section because we already have the first two tabs mastered.  From there, I was able to see district examples of forms used by schools and read excerpts from what other schools have done.  Videos, white papers, and example forms can be used during decision making meetings and to jump start team meetings and even professional development.

KISS right!  I love that I can land on this site, create some forms based off of schools that have been successful and implement it with my staff.