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Tuesday Teacher Tips: A Little Nudge

Welcome to the Tuesday Teacher Tips series! Each week we’ll highlight teaching and learning resources, ideas to use in the classroom, as well as things to ponder as you go about your teaching day.

Sometimes, I’ll admit, I need a little nudge. I’ve been teaching long enough to know what I should be doing to give my students the best instruction, but there are many times I fall short. And that’s when I need a reminder, almost like when I was student teaching and my cooperating teacher would illustrate through modeling and discussion what good teaching looked like.

Last year during a book study, I was given the nudge I needed through the book, Accessible Mathematics: 10 Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement by Steven Leinwand (Heinemann, 2009).

It’s a relatively short book with manageable chapter lengths, which made it a little more approachable when I could grab only a few minutes of the day to reflect on my teaching. Leinwand’s introduction title sets up the entire book, “It’s the instruction that matters most.” It’s not the curriculum, the schedule, or the materials, but rather it’s the plans, actions, and decisions of the classroom teacher that make the difference. The quality of instruction is the most important factor in student learning and achievement.

Leinwand proposes ten instructional shifts that enhance productivity, effectiveness, and student achievement.

After reading his book, these are some key strategies I want to focus on in my classroom this year. These are the ideas that my cooperating teacher would push me on if she was in the back of the room observing.

  • Start each math lesson with a quick, five minute cumulative review. These warm up allow the kids to immediately focus on math, and gives me a quick glimpse of how well they are maintaining skills.
  • Delve deeper into students’ thinking and allow them to articulate their math knowledge by asking questions like, “Why?” “How did you get that?” “Is that a reasonable answer?” and “Explain your thinking.”
  • Use pictures to represent mathematical terms. For example, showing a rectangle with the word “perimeter” written all the way around the outside of the shape. Or having the word “area” written inside a rectangle, filling the entire space with the word.
  • Build a language-rich classroom where math terms are used naturally and frequently throughout the day.

Probably the best thing about teaching is all the learning that happens in the classroom, both by the students, and the teacher. Nudges and reminders are good for all!

Do you have an idea for a future Tuesday Teacher Tips topic you’d like to see covered? I’d love to hear from you!

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