conversation as learning tool

Understanding Multiplication

Posted by on May 18, 2013 in conversation as learning tool, math vocabulary, Uncategorized, vocabulary development | 0 comments

Multiplication – The art of increasing gold or silver by magic, — attributed formerly to the alchemists

Younger students need to have the magic of multiplication broken into little pieces of reality! I think the best starting point is showing that multiplication is repeated addition. If I add two 6 times, I have multiplied two by six. It actually takes saying that word “times” quite a few times before everyone catches on to the idea that we also say “times” when we multiply.

Of course, by showing I actually mean showing. Students need manipulatives in their hands. If they are edible all the better! 15 candies in one roll of Smarties. If everyone on your team has one roll, how many candies does your team have? We make arrays out of cubes, then we draw the arrays with circles or Xs. Sometimes we get fancier and do hearts or stars, but it is important to be able to draw quick arrays to see that they can be useful in problem solving when you get stuck on a problem.

Important vocabulary surrounds multiplication. I love to have them figure out the analogies such as, plus: addition :: times: multiplication and addend: factor :: sum: product. Later on, we realize addition: multiplication:: subtraction : division. Besides factor and product, there’s other important multiplication vocabulary or key words. Each and every usually mean to multiply. I tell my class to watch out for same number and equal groups, because those words change each and every to division, every time. Kids need to know the words twice, double, triple, and quadruple means to multiple. Then we have total and altogether, which they already recognize as addition words. These words provide a chance to reinforce the idea that multiplication is actually just FAST addition.

When learning our facts, we use many strategies: fact families, number lines, repeated addition, arrays, groups, sets, music, movement, discussion, breaking apart numbers.

I made this poster for my kids to discuss all the ways they know to multiply. I have attached the pdf for you.

Understanding Multiplication

Understanding Multiplication

I have made an Understanding Multiplication Scavenger Hunt. Here is a page from it:

Understanding Multiplication Scavenger Hunt.

It also explores multiplication as repeated addition, arrays, skip counting, and fact families.

I hope that you find some magic in multiplication in your classroom!



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Always, Sometimes, Never

Posted by on Feb 24, 2013 in comprehension, conversation as learning tool, vocabulary, vocabulary development | 0 comments

Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.


We need our students to think. For many they are trained to put answers on a line. If there is no line, there must be no question. The directions and information above the lines can easily be ignored. The whole exercise, for those who can get it all right without reading and for those who can get is mostly wrong without reading, is a waste of time. This is one example of why I feel so strongly about conversation as a learning tool. This same exercise, shared with a partner with the expectation that answers need to be defended, requires thinking. The students can learn more about what they know and/or what they don’t know.

Graphic organizers are a great way to have students think. I have created a formative assessment called “Know or No”. I give students a list of words on a current topic for them to rate their knowledge. They can then line up in a continuum showing their understanding. This line is then folded and students are paired to talk about the word(s). This formative assessment can used before, during, and after instruction. Students, of course, should grow in their knowledge, but they should also be aware of that growth.

Know or No

Another great graphic organizer to use is a tree chart. Students fill in each section with whatever information they can think of. For example; thinking – always…  helps, thinking – sometimes…  is hard, thinking – never…  costs money. I have seen many of these on TPT and have made many of my own. Here is a new one on Thinking for today’s blog. The others are examples of ones I have used with my class.

Thinking Graphic Organizer Find more at my blog.Thinking

February Tree Map 1



I hope you give your students many opportunities to think and talk every day!


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Ask Questions

Posted by on Jan 26, 2013 in conversation as learning tool, vocabulary development | 0 comments

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.

The third book of The Comprehension Toolkit by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis focuses on asking questions. This is such an important way to learn and to build vocabulary. I have a little guy in my class who is so interested in every topic we touch on in class (science, social studies, etc.), that he gets non-fiction books on the topics from the library each week. Then he shares with me all of his new learning. Our conversations help him clarify what he is reading and to build his understanding. These Toolkit lessons helped him and his less interested classmates notice and respond when questions float through their minds while reading. It suggests ways to help students stop and think about how what they are learning fits with what they already know. Sometimes students need to realize that what they “know” isn’t actually so and they need to give up that thinking and update it with the new information they are discovering. Of course, this can also be true for adults!

This set of 4 posters for lessons 7 – 9 is available free at my Teacher Pays Teacher store. The set includes a strategies wrap up page.




It is through asking questions that we learn more about what interests us. Teachers ask questions of themselves and their colleagues about how to best reach and teach each child. We ask question of the child, too, to help access and assess what learning is taking place.

Questioning is an important skill, it needs to be taught.


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Snowman Bioglyph

Posted by on Jan 21, 2013 in conversation as learning tool, vocabulary | 0 comments

The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.
Margaret Atwood

I wonder how many words we have for some important topics. It has always seemed to me that someone discovered this factoid and thought it was really amazing, but didn’t really do any research on our language to discover which words fill up our vocabularies. A brief search on had me counting over 100 synonyms for love. This could be a great topic for discussion in a classroom. Which words do we have them most synonyms for? Which words are used in the most ways?


I created this snowman bioglyph for a fun following directions activity for my class. It also gives the students an opportunity to use their observation skills to discover differences between themselves and their classmates. I love the word bioglyph. It literally means “life picture”. When students complete a bioglyph they have a picture that represents something about their lives.

I posted  this example several months ago:

A simple Glyph

A simple Glyph2

This one is great because it also shows if students understand the cardinal and intermediate directions.

Our snowman bioglyphs were especially fun for us because many of my students rarely if ever see snow. They don’t understand how a snowman is built or how heavy or cold it really is. We had a very good conversation throughout their work. Here are some pictures of my students working. After we made our bioglyphs I made a couple of changes to the directions page and the snowman to make them easier and better. Nothing like classroom testing to improve a products!

Snowman bioglyph

Snowman biog 2



My Snowman Bioglyph product is currently available at my Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook stores at a special low price. Also watch my Facebook page as it will be a flash freebie for one hour each day this week!


I hope you are enjoying your day off.


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Brain Twister Bingo

Posted by on Jan 6, 2013 in conversation as learning tool, Uncategorized, vocabulary development | 1 comment

Here’s an amazing find from Teachers Pay Teachers. It is by one of our newer members and it has some great material for word study and thinking skills!


This activity pack introduces and teaches four different types of brain twisters:


Letter Patterns – determining what certain letters stand for based on number clues

Example:  “24 H in a D”  is 24 hours in a day and “26 L in the A” is 26 letters in the alphabet

Visual Puzzles – deciphering a common phrase or word based on the visual attributes of letters or symbols in a box

           Example:      “2nd     2nd     2nd     2nd     2nd”  is 5 seconds and “SH    IP” is Spaceship


Hink Pink – identifying two rhyming words based on a defining sentence

           Example:  “a distant light in the sky”  is FAR STAR  and “a tiny sphere” is a SMALL BALL

Clues in Common – deducing what complimentary word a group of words may have in common

Example:  “door, ache, stage, pack”  all have the word BACK in common, while “keeper, brick, wife, fire” all have HOUSE in common.

Angela includes a fun teaching sheet with three or four completed samples to help students figure out how to approach each type of brain twister. Each of these fun activities challenge students to think about words in unique, interesting ways. These activities will initiate great conversation about words! An answer key for each activity is included.

Here is what Angela has to say about her amazing product:


Here is an example of one of her 36 complete bingo sheets! One sheet would be fun to solve on its own! I am blown away by the value of this product! You get a total of 48 pages, packed with brain building materials, currently for only $4.00!


I am always on the lookout for creative ways to get children to love language learning! I am excited to present this one and I am anxious to find and share more amazing products.


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Saturday Extra: Word Study

Posted by on Nov 10, 2012 in conversation as learning tool, vocabulary, vocabulary development, word study | 0 comments

Intermediate Word Play Weekly Plan

If you are trying to get your kids to appreciate and engage in the process of discovering words, this is the activity for you! Not only do these lessons engage students actively in forming and exploring their word lists, but it also helps your reluctant readers gain confidence and learn to love words! After the first few lessons, students’ confidence skyrockets. Kids who hesitate to attempt difficult words gain the skills they need to start decoding more complex, multisyllabic words. You will see an increase in vocabulary skills, spelling skills, and fluency rates if you consistently implement these lessons with minimal preparation!

Heather Earley of begins her word play lessons with this amazing claim. But as I look over her materials, I find myself believing every word of it! Each 5 day lesson comes with detailed plans and easy preparation tips. I love that she allows for conversation and uncertainty on day 1. There will be words the students may not know. Students think together, manipulate letters, and make discoveries. Heather differentiates by working with a small group of students who need extra help. She includes other differentiation ideas and suggestions. The activities include a word ladder type practice, building words with manipulatives, independent practice, partner work, small group work, whole group work, fluency practice, “Find a Friend”, “Team Test”, a review, and I am sure there is more! She includes a word list for study and materials for every activity she describes.

The biggest selling point for me is the work with affixes. Students explore their meanings, the meanings of the new words they create, and how adding them affects spelling. During this discovery students also get to use conversation as a vocabulary building activity.

Heather has linked her work to common core expectations.

At this time Heather has 12 sets available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

The focus words include:













“You will find everything you need to actively engage your kids in word play and exploration to develop vocabulary and word analysis skills as students seek to discover what the “big word” of the week is.”

Each item is available for only $2.00! If I taught 4th, 5th or 6th grade, I would already own them all! I am going to try some of the ideas with my 3rd graders.

Check out Rebecca Glasmann’s Fabulous Fall Giveaway!

Have a great week!


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