Category Archives: Reading

Sheep Won’t Sleep #Mathematizing Read Alouds – implement tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving

How might we deepen our understanding of numeracy using children’s literature? What if we mathematize our read aloud books to use them in math as well as reading and writing workshop?

Have you read Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s by Judy Cox?

This week’s Embolden Your Inner Mathematician session is designed to learn and practice both a Mathematics Teaching Practice and a Standard for Mathematical Practice.

Implement Tasks that Promote
Reasoning and Problem Solving.

Effective teaching of mathematics engages students in solving and discussing tasks that promote mathematical reasoning and problem solving and allow multiple entry points and varied solution strategies.

Jennifer Wilson and I use the following learning progression to help teachers and teaching teams calibrate their work.

From the Standards for Mathematical Practice,

Construct viable arguments and
critique the reasoning of others.

Mathematically proficient students understand and use stated assumptions, definitions, and previously established results in constructing arguments. Elementary students can construct arguments using concrete referents such as objects, drawings, diagrams, and actions. Such arguments can make sense and be correct, even though they are not generalized or made formal until later grades. Students at all grades can listen or read the arguments of others, decide whether they make sense, and ask useful questions to clarify or improve the arguments.

We choose to reword this for our students. Instead of I can construct a viable argument, we say I can show my work so a reader understands having to ask me questions.

We use the following learning progression to help students self-assess and reach to deepen their learning.

Now, Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s by Judy Cox gives away the mathematical thinking on some pages. We decided to read the book and ask our students to listen and take notes as readers, writers, and mathematicians.  Mathematicians notice and note details, look for patterns, and ask questions.  To support listening and comprehension (a.k.a. empower learners to make sense and persevere), we created visuals for quasi-reader’s theater and spelled sheep, alpaca, llama, and yak.  (Level  2; check.)

We also practiced a keep the pace up and get kids collaborating instead of relying on the teacher strategy we are learning from Elizabeth Statmore.

And every day I used 10-2 processing to keep the pace up and get kids collaborating instead of relying on me. For every ten minutes of notes, I gave two minutes of processing time to catch up and collaborate on making their notes accurate. (Statmore, n pag.)

Instead of 10-2 processing, we took a minute after every couple of pages to intentionally turn and talk with a partner with the express purpose of comparing and improving our notes and mathematical communication.

As teachers, we are striving to implement tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving.   Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s is a counting book so 1st graders can tackle the math. 2nd and 3rd graders can use this to connect skip counting and repeated addition to multiplication and to use and connect mathematical representations. 4th and 5th graders can use this to use and connect mathematical representations while attending to precision. (Level 1; check.)

Here’s a messy version of how we anticipated student work and thinking.

These read-aloud moments open up the opportunity for rich discussion and engaging questions. Students have the opportunity for more organic and deeper understanding of mathematical concepts thanks to the book that brought them to life, and it is an engaging way to look at math through a different lens.

As Professor of Mathematics Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education Jo Boaler explains in her book Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching, “Mathematics is a subject that allows for precise thinking, but when that precise thinking is combined with creativity, flexibility, and multiplicity of ideas, the mathematics comes alive for people.”


Boaler, Jo. Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching (p. 115). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Leinwand, Steve. Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. Reston, VA.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2014. Print.

Standards for Mathematical Practice.” Standards for Mathematical Practice. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.

Statmore, Elizabeth. “Cheesemonkey Wonders.” First Week and AVID Strategies. 25 Aug. 2018.

Establish goals to focus learning – Reading Workshop 5th Grade

What if we design a lesson to orchestrate productive discussion, critique the reasoning of others, grow as readers and writers, and deepen understanding through reflection?

The 5th grade team invited me to co-labor with them to help our young learners deepen their understanding of reader’s response journals. As a team, they are focused on implementing and deepening their understanding of Wiliam and Leahy’s  five strategies in Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for K-12 Classrooms :

  • Clarify, share, and understand learning intentions and success criteria
  • Engineer effective discussions, tasks, and activities that elicit evidence of learning
  • Provide feedback that moves learning forward
  • Activate students as learning resources for one another
  • Activate students as owners of their own learning

From our Instructional Core work during Pre-Planning, we are working to  establish goals to focus learning.

The 5th Grade team drafted the following learning progressions to make their thinking visible to our new students. As a team, they have established these goals for students. (Level 3 for I can establish goals.)

How might we use these established goals to focus learning? What student outcomes should we anticipate, and what teacher moves should we plan based on prior experience?

At their invitation (#soexcited), I facilitated a lesson on using the drafts above to improve and strengthen reader’s response journal entries while modeling the use of assessing and advancing questions to focus student learning. (Level 4 for I can establish goals and Level 3 for I can focus learning.)

Here’s the plan:

And, the slide deck:

These learning progressions are in each student’s reader’s response journal so they can use them in class and at home.

It was a crisp 30-minute lesson. All of our anticipated outcomes presented during the mini-lesson.

We wanted our students to learn more about

  • making their thinking visible to another reader,
  • adding text evidence to support their ideas,
  • including details that support understanding,
  • participating in productive discussion,
  • critiquing the reasoning of others,
  • growing as readers and writers,
  • using learning progressions to improve their work.

After reading one of my reader’s response entries, our students’ frustration at not having read Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis surfaced during  their feedback loop to me. This offered me the opportunity to ask their teacher if he or she would have read every independent reading selection made by his or her students. It was a strong “ah ha” moment for our students.

The students’ comments could be categorized in themes. Samples of our students’ reflections are shared as evidence of effort and learning.

  • An ah-ha for me is that my teacher has not read every single book in the universe.
  • I learned to pay attention to text evidence and explaining my text evidence so the reader understands why I added the quotes and page numbers.  I also learned to pay attention to visuals and formatting.
  • I don’t know what an ah-ha moment is. (Oops! Needs more instruction and time to learn.)
  • I know that everyone has not read the book and that I need to add enough detail for people who haven’t read the book.
  • An ah-ha for me is that I think that adding the definitions was smart because I didn’t know some of the words.
  • I learned to pay attention to science experiments. (Yikes! Needs more instruction and time to make sense of the task.)
  • I learned to ask myself if it makes sense and if another person could understand.
  • I learned to ask myself “how can I improve this? What details should I add?”

We know this is not a one-and-done event for our students and our team. We learned about our students and know what me should work on next. We must continue to practice making our thinking visible and hone our skills to use goals to focus learning.

Our school’s mission calls for us to deepen students’ educational experiences and empower students as agents of their own learning while we help them build strong academic foundation.  We strive to make our thinking visible to each other and to our students.

What is to be gained when we make our thinking visible to our students and use established goals to focus learning?


Wiliam, Dylan; Leahy, Siobhan. Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for F-12 Classrooms. (Kindle Locations 493-494). Learning Sciences International. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Traverse session: Experiential and Instructional: Promoting Productive Mathematical Struggle #tvrse18

At Traverse Boulder, I facilitated the following session on Tuesday, June 5, 2018.

Experiential and Instructional:
Promoting Productive Mathematical Struggle

How might we implement tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving to deepen conceptual understanding? Let’s identify and implement high quality tasks grounded in real experiences. Advancing the teaching and learning of mathematics cannot be accomplished with decontextualized worksheets. Discuss, sketch, and solve tasks that promote flexibility, creative and critical reasoning, and problem solving. Learning math should be anchored in depth of understanding through context – not pseudo context – and built on conceptual understanding as well as procedural fluency.

Here’s my sketch note of our plan:

Here’s the slide deck:

Just say no to worksheets.

Say YES to productive struggle and grappling.

Embolden your inner storyteller and leverage the art of questioning.

Context is key.

#KSULit2018: Mathematizing Read Alouds

At the 27th Annual KSU Conference on Literature for Children and Young Adults where the theme was Reimagining the Role of Children’s and Young Adult Literature, I presented the following 50-minute session on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.

Mathematizing Read Alouds

How might we deepen our understanding of numeracy using children’s literature? What if we mathematize our read-aloud books to use them in math as well as literacy? We invite you to notice and note, listen and learn, and learn by doing while we share ways to deepen understanding of numeracy and literacy.

Let’s debunk the myth that mathematicians do all work in their heads.  Mathematicians notice, wonder, note, identify patterns, ask questions, revise thinking, and share ideas.  Mathematicians show their thinking with details so that a reader understands without having to ask questions.

What if we pause during read-alouds to give learners a chance to analyze text features, to notice and wonder, to ask and answer questions in context?

How might we inspire and teach learners to make their thinking visible so that a reader understands?

Here’s my sketch note of the plan:

Here are more of the picture books highlighted in this session:

And, a list by approximate grade levels:

Early Learners, Pre-K, and Kindergarten

Kindergarten and 1st Grade

2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade

4th, 5th, 6th Grade

I know something!

A motley band of brothers traveling as a pack ambled in at 7:58 for Pre-Cal. Just in time. From a distance they are handsome and well dressed in coats and ties. Up close, they are a little disheveled, like they stepped out of their clothes last night and into them again this morning.  My favorite part is the peacock-ness of their hair.  They slept hard, and it shows. It helps me remember how young they are when they look so grown up. I wonder how many of them brushed their teeth and decided not to go there.

They live together, play together, and learn together. Boarding school builds family and familiarity and deepens connectedness.  Yesterday’s test results require a preface. I prep them by explaining what I learned about them and what we need to do now.  Learning is our focus, and this moment in time tells us that we need to do more, go deeper, and practice harder. This milestone marker says that we need to back up and try again.

I made a 42!” he exclaimed with genuine jubilation. It’s what he said next that confirmed his glee.  “I know something!

“I know something!”

I am in awe of what happens next.  Every man, child, boy learner, in their coats and ties, stands and high-fives him as if he as won a gold medal, sunk the winning shot, made the field goal in the final 30 seconds.

And then, just as quickly as it started, they were all seated as he said “Bring it, Ms. Gough. What do we do now?”

Group culture is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. We sense its presence inside successful businesses, championship teams, and thriving families, and we sense when it’s absent or toxic. (Coyle, xvii pag.)

Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do. (Coyle, xx pag.)

Live, learn, work, and serve in a community that highlights what is going well. Focus on learning. Build living relationships. Work toward shared goals.

CULTURE: from the Latin cultus, which means care.


Coyle, Daniel. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Available for learning

I feel it coming.

Have you seen surfers catch big waves? They paddle out, wait and watch.  Some waves pass by. Others crash over them. Sometimes the surfer gets up, punches through and rides it out.  Other times they wipe out. It is fascinating that they get back up and go back out. They persevere. I wonder how I can do that.

I feel it coming, but I cannot predict how I’m going to handle it. It is different every time. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I turn and fight an internal battle to stand my ground to punch through the wave. Sometimes I can ask for help, but not always.

I am afraid it won’t be perfect.

I am afraid I can’t do it.

I am afraid others will laugh at me.

I am afraid I’ll disappoint my parents.

I am afraid I’m not good enough.

I am afraid I won’t be accepted.

I am afraid I don’t belong.

I am afraid I am not enough.

I am afraid.

I am afraid.

Labels make it easy to attribute student disengagement to a lack of ability or motivation, when disengagement often results from a lack of confidence. (Hassan and Lennard, 70 pag.)

The key to creating psychological safety, as Pentland and Edmondson emphasize, is to recognize how deeply obsessed our unconscious brains are with it. A mere hint of belonging is not enough; one or two signals are not enough. We are built to require lots of signaling, over and over. This is why a sense of belonging is easy to destroy and hard to build. (Coyle, 13 pag.)

How might we learn more about our learners? What actions are needed so that learners know they are psychologically safe?

What conditions must be set so that more learners punch through and rides out the wave?

CULTURE: from the Latin cultus, which means care.


Coyle, Daniel. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hasson, Julie, and Missy Lennard. Unmapped Potential: an Educator’s Guide to Lasting Change. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., 2017.

Notice success, celebrate multiple milestones, level up

Learning intentions are more than just statements to convey to students what the learning is composed of; they are a means for building positive relationships with students. (Hattie, 48 pag.)

It is what I didn’t notice.  The bell rang. As always, I heard a chorus of “Thank you, Ms. Gough. Bye, Ms. Gough.” It was normal practice – and a much appreciated practice – for my students to say thank you and goodbye as they left for their next class.

I thought to myself “what a great class, everything went well, and they are so nice.” I busied myself straightening my desk, organizing paper, and mentally listing off the things I needed to do before my next class rolled in.  Eat lunch was at the top of the list.

Then, I sensed it. I was not alone.  It is what I didn’t notice.  There she sat, so still, except for the river of tears falling out of her beautiful, sad, green eyes. The river ran off the desk and pooled on the floor. “What is wrong?” I asked as I sat down beside her.

As I gently placed my hand on her arm, her shoulders began to shake as she said “I f..f..f..failed!” Whoosh, another flood of tears.

Now, she had not failed from my point of view. Her test score, damp as her test was now, showed a grade of 92 – an A.  And yet, she deeply felt a sense of failure.  As we sat together and looked at her work, we discovered that there was one key essential learning – in fact, a prerequisite skill – that caused her to stubble.

Tears, still streaming down her face, she said “I don’t know where I’m going wrong. I don’t miss this in class, but on the test, I fall apart.”

The point is to get learners ready to learn the new content by giving their brains something to which to connect their new skill or understanding. (Hattie, 44 pag.)

So, of course, the stumbling block for this sweet child is a known pain point for learners who master procedures without conceptual understanding.  Consistently, she expanded a squared binomial by “distributing” the exponent – a known pitfall. #petpeeve

When our learners do not know what to do, how do we respond? What actions can we take – will we take – to deepen learning, empower learners, and to make learning personal?

Kamb’s insight was that, in our lives, we tend to declare goals without intervening levels. We declare that we’re going to “learn to play the guitar.” We take a lesson or two, buy a cheap guitar, futz around with simple chords for a few weeks. Then life gets busy, and seven years later, we find the guitar in the attic and think, I should take up the guitar again. There are no levels. Kamb had always loved Irish music and had fantasized about learning to play the fiddle. So he co-opted gaming strategy and figured out a way to “level up” toward his goal:

Level 1: Commit to one violin lesson per week, and practice 15 minutes per day for six months.

Level 2: Relearn how to read sheet music and complete Celtic Fiddle Tunes by Craig Duncan.

Level 3: Learn to play “Concerning Hobbits” from The Fellowship of the Ring on the violin.

Level 4: Sit and play the fiddle for 30 minutes with other musicians.

Level 5: Learn to play “Promontory” from The Last of the Mohicans on the violin.

BOSS BATTLE: Sit and play the fiddle for 30 minutes in a pub in Ireland.

Isn’t that ingenious? He’s taken an ambiguous goal—learning to play the fiddle—and defined an appealing destination: playing in an Irish pub. Better yet, he invented five milestones en route to the destination, each worthy of celebration. Note that, as with a game, if he stopped the quest after Level 3, he’d still have several moments of pride to remember. (Heath, 163-164 pgs.)

What if I’d made my thinking visible?

What if I’d connected this learning to how 3rd graders are taught multiplication of two digit numbers by decomposing into tens and ones.  What if I’d connected this learning to how 3rd graders are also taught to draw area models to visualize the distributive property?

What if I’d shared my thinking and intentionally connected prior learning in levels?

By using Kamb’s level-up strategy, we multiply the number of motivating milestones we encounter en route to a goal. That’s a forward-looking strategy: We’re anticipating moments of pride ahead. But the opposite is also possible: to surface those milestones you’ve already met but might not have noticed. (Heath, 165 pag.)

How might we help our learners level up, experience success at several motivating milestones, and notice successes that might otherwise go unnoticed?

By multiplying milestones, we transform a long, amorphous race into one with many intermediate “finish lines.” As we push through each one, we experience a burst of pride as well as a jolt of energy to charge toward the next one. (Heath, 176 pag.)

Taken together, these practices make learning visible to students who understand they are under the guidance of a caring and knowledgeable teacher who is invested in their success. (Hattie, 48 pag.)


Hattie, John A. (Allan); Fisher, Douglas B.; Frey, Nancy; Gojak, Linda M.; Moore, Sara Delano; Mellman, William L.. Visible Learning for Mathematics, Grades K-12: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning (Corwin Mathematics Series). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Heath, Chip. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.