The Importance of Why?

Today was such a learning opportunity for me.  I had the chance to teach 6th grade Language Arts.  We were learning about how Ancient Greece has influenced modern times.  The students read through the story with my help and I found myself asking quite a few questions of the class.  One of the things I found myself constantly asking them was why?  Why?  Why?

The question why? is tied to common core instruction because it asks kids to justify their answer.  They have to defend and support their response using text or reasoning from inferences made by the author.  The question “why?” bumps learning to another level.  At one point, we were studying Socrates, and were reading about his important contributions to the teaching practice.  We went over the Socratic Method and the students discovered that I was teaching using this model.  They were frustrated beyond belief because they kept wanting me to give them clues, all I said was,” look back in your text and tell me what sentence explains or proves the answer.  I’m perfectly comfortable with wait time….”  I called on students that weren’t raising their hands, I called on students that were, I held all students accountable by asking them to share the answers with their partners and prove it.  It was exhausting, but I couldn’t help thinking that Socrates was truly an unbelievable teacher because those students went home tired today.

My proof, you might ask?  I asked one of the students as he left how he felt, and he said exhausted.  Of course, I asked “why?” He looked at me with this wonderful teenage expression you can all visualize, that said “really”, and then said “I had to think quite a bit today.”

Thanks Socrates!





Published in: Questioning Strategies on January 21, 2014 at8:26 pm Comments (0)

Math and Perserverance

Perseverance: : continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Standards for Mathematical Practice Practice 1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

Sometimes you are just in the right place at the right time. Recently I happened upon a 5th grade teacher whose class was at Specials. She stopped me and asked if I could join her class after math. She was introducing long division using manipulatives. She had started the lesson before specials. The students had struggled through the first problem. The students were to use ones, tens, and hundred blocks to solve the division problem. The students were struggling, many had not been asked to use manipulatives in math in years and the teacher new she needed to make adjustments. While the students were at Specials she did two things. First she quickly made and copied a work mat for the students to use.

The teacher did one more thing that I think really helped students….She went and found Sticky Notes. The students were confused as to what to do with the manipulatives as they divided. The sticky notes would represent the deviser.

The teacher displayed the problem for the students. 69 ÷3. First they had to make 69 using ones and tens blocks on their work mats. Then she discussed the deviser and asked the students how many sticky notes they will need to represent the deviser. She then walked the students through how to set up the problem with their manipulatives.


Step 1
Students show the number 69 with their ones and tens blocks


Step 2

Step 2
Students now divide their tens blocks into three equal groups

Step 3
Students have now divided 69 into three equal groups using ones and tens blocks










The teacher then had the students work another problem this time they had to use the hundreds blocks as well.

An interesting thought I had about this lesson, not only did the students have to persevere, but the teacher did as well. When she began the lesson before specials, the students resisted, they wanted to do long division the way they were comfortable doing, paper and pencil. The teacher could have easily given up the manipulative lesson and switched to solving the problems the way students are most comfortable with. Instead, the teacher did not give up, she persevered and thought of how she can better help the students use the manipulatives to solve the problem. Because she persevered, so did her students!

How do you help your students persevere in math?


Published in: Math, Math Practices on October 2, 2013 at12:36 pm Comments (1)

More adventures in CLOSE Reading

I LOVE when teachers let me come into their rooms and model lessons.  I recently visited more 2nd grade classrooms and four 3rd grade classrooms to model CLOSE Reading.  Every time I teach CLOSE reading, I learn more myself!  A big ah ha has been that CLOSE reading is really the way, in my opinion, to tie most of the Common Core ELA shifts together.  CLOSE reading has helped classroom teachers understand some of the shifts better.  They see the importance of text complexity, especially when we are asking students to do purposeful reading.  They are seeing what is looks like to see students grapple with text.  Teachers are starting to understand that text based responses are higher level questions.

The picture on the right shows a simple poster I use when I first introduce CLOSE reading to a class.

As teachers around the district become more familiar with CLOSE reading, some interesting conversations have come up in regards to DO WE OR DO WE NOT Build Background Knowledge before the students read when we are teaching a CLOSE reading?  I recently read an article in the Reading Teacher  I found this article very interesting and informative because they discussed this very topic.  They also discuss how CLOSE reading looks in the elementary setting. A team of Kindergarten through sixth grade teachers observed secondary teachers doing CLOSE reading.  The team then discussed how they could modify the CLOSE reading lessons and make them appropriate for the elementary school level.

As I continue developing my own CLOSE reading lessons I am pondering what CLOSE reading will look like in a kindergarten and first grade classroom.  If you have done CLOSE reading in a kindergarten or first grade classroom, I would love to hear your ideas!


Published in: CLOSE Reading, Text Complexity on March 4, 2013 at2:35 pm Comments (0)

CLOSE Reading

I recently had the opportunity to attend a one day training through ADE titled Close Reading In The Classroom.  I learned so much and was eager to put what I learned into action!  This week I had the opportunity to model a CLOSE Reading Lesson in 2nd grade.  The students and I worked on the story Dear Mr.
Blueberry by Simon James.  I think I learned as much as the 2nd graders did!  This was my first attempt at modeling CLOSE reading in the classroom.  One of the first things I learned is that students love the word Annotate!  We spent the first two days of the lesson annotating the text.  They annotated, discussed the text with a partner, watched me model how to annotate and then they annotated again!  On the third day of the lesson they learned about Text Dependent Answers.  A Big Lesson Learned for Mrs. Walker, the first time students do this takes a lot of time!  I had eight question prepared.  In a half hour we got through TWO! The fact that we only get through two questions is actually, in my opinion, AWESOME! The second question really required them to go back into the text and search for the answer. I cannot wait to model CLOSE Reading in the classroom again soon.  My next CLOSE Reading adventure will take place in a 1st grade classroom.  I will let you know how it goes!


Published in: CLOSE Reading on February 1, 2013 at9:49 am Comments (3)
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