Got to Teach!: 2015

FREE Vocabulary Builder Flip-book!

I just finished making this little vocabulary gem and I am so excited to share it with you! It's a Vocabulary Builder Flip-book, which contains the most common prefixes, Greek and Latin roots, and suffixes!  There is also room for your students to add their own affixes and roots.  What a handy resource for your students!!  It is super easy and quick to assemble and fits perfectly into an Interactive Notebook.  Sign up for my newsletter and get your free copy today!

Non-Routine Problem Solving

What is a non-routine problem?
A non-routine problem is any complex problem that requires some degree of creativity or originality to solve.  Non-routine problems typically do not have an immediately apparent strategy for solving them.  Often times, these problems can be solved in multiple ways.

Incorporating non-routine problem solving into your math program is one of the most impactful steps you can take as an educator. By consistently allowing your students to grapple with these challenging problems, you are helping them acquire essential problem solving skills and the confidence needed to successfully execute them.

One of the best ways to prepare students for solving non-routine problems is by familiarizing them with the four steps of problem solving. I have a set of questions and/or guides for each step, that students can use to engage in an inner-dialogue as they progress through the steps.  You can download this free Steps to Non-Routine Problem Solving Flip-Book {HERE}.

1. Understand: This is a time to just think! Allow yourself some time to get to know the problem.  Read and reread. No pencil or paper necessary for this step.  Remember, you cannot solve a problem until you know what the problem is!
  • Does the problem give me enough information (or too much information)?
  • What question is being asked of me?
  • What do I know and what do I need to find out?
  • What should my solution look like?
  • What type of mathematics might be required?
  • Can I restate the problem in my own words?
  • Are there any terms or words that I am unfamiliar with?

2. Plan: Now it’s time to decide on a plan of action! Choose a reasonable problem-solving strategy.  Several are listed below.  You may only need to use one strategy or a combination of strategies.
  • draw a picture or diagram
  • make an organized list
  • make a table
  • solve a simpler related problem
  • find a pattern
  • guess and check
  • act out a problem
  • work backwards
  • write an equation
  • use manipulatives
  • break it into parts
  • use logical reasoning

3. Execute: Alright! You understand the problem.  You have a plan to solve the problem.  Now it’s time to dig in and get to work! As you work, you may need to revise your plan. That’s okay! Your plan is not set in stone and can change anytime you see fit.
  • Am I checking each step of my plan as I work?
  • Am I keeping an accurate record of my work?
  • Am I keeping my work organized so that I could explain my thinking to others?
  • Am I going in the right direction? Is my plan working?
  • Do I need to go back to Step 2 and find a new plan?
  • Do I think I have the correct solution? If so, it’s time to move on to the next step!

4. Review: You’ve come so far, but you’re not finished just yet!  A mathematician must always go back and check his/her work. Reviewing your work is just as important as the first 3 steps! Before asking yourself the questions below, reread the problem and review all your work.

  • Is my answer reasonable?
  • Can I use estimation to check if my answer is reasonable?
  • Is there another way to solve this problem?
  • Can this problem be extended? Can I make a change to this problem to create a new one?
  • I didn’t get the correct answer.  What went wrong? Where did I make a mistake?
My Brain Power Math resources are the perfect compliment to this free flip-book.  Each book has a collection of non-routine math problems in a variety of formats.  

Halloween Latin Root Word Activity

Instructional time is so limited.  It's difficult for teachers to justify spending any time on fun holiday activities in the classroom, especially if you teach in upper elementary or middle school.  If you want to do something engaging with your students this Halloween, but don't have time for "fluff," then check out this Interactive Notebook page based on the Latin root "mort."  I promise, your students will LOVE it, and they won't even realize that they are doing some serious "word work."  Fun + Academic = A Teaching Gem!!!

All of the components of this INB page fit on two sheets of paper.  Have the students color and cut out the pieces. They will then provide definitions and/or sentences for the five vocabulary words (morbid, mortuary, moribund, mortgage, etc.) that are related to the Latin root "mort" (which means death).

The largest piece is glued down first.

The remaining pieces have tabs on them that will be folded up and glued down, one on top of the other (from the largest to the smallest).

The final page will look like this.  A label is included to glue on to the top of the page.  There are 3 flaps that can be lifted to reveal the students' work for each word.

You can grab this and several other Halloween "tricks and treats" by downloading Upper Elementary Snapshots' free "Tricks and Treats for Upper Elementary Teachers eBook."  Click on the image below!

Teaching Plot with Picture Books

I am a huge fan of using picture books with upper grade and middle school students.  These books can cover complex issues and can lead to some pretty thought-provoking discussions.  I also love that they are are short, which makes them the perfect medium for teaching some difficult concepts when time is limited (which it always is).  With my students, I always explicitly taught the elements of plot or story structure using picture books.

My favorite plot lesson used the book Henry's Freedom Box (written by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson).  My ultimate goal for the for these types of lessons was to have students complete a story map on their own for any story they have read  (you can grab the story map for free HERE).  But before this was possible, I modeled the process with a few shared reading lessons similar to what I am about to describe.

Before any writing takes place, a lot of time is just spent on identify the various components of plot (inciting force, rising action events, climax, etc.).  I have found the best way to do this is with post-its or flags.  Students can reposition the post-its as they decided just where in the story these elements of plot take place.  Not every event can be placed on the story map, so students need to be decisive and evaluate which ones are the most important to include and which ones can be left out.  During my shared reading lessons, the students and I would discuss the positioning and reposition of these post-its as we evaluated which events were the most critical to the story's plot.

After a few of these whole-group lessons, my students could then start completing the story maps on their own or with a partner for a short story or novel they had just read.  The process really helped my students understand the "big picture" of what they were reading as well as visualize plot. 

A few other titles I like to use for these lessons are:
Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen
Faithful Elephants by YukioTsuchiya (warning: tear jerker)
The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco

Teaching Greek and Latin Roots

Greek and Latin Roots
Some estimate that up to 75% of the English language is derived from Greek and Latin roots.  They truly are the "building blocks" of English and present teachers with an extremely powerful framework to nurture students' vocabulary development.

Why should you be teaching Greek and Latin roots to your students?

1. Consistency: Not only do these roots follow fairly consistent orthographic patterns, they also have distinct semantic components; these features, when explicitly taught, allow students to link pronunciation, spelling, and meaning when encountering new and/or challenging words.  Just as primary teachers utilize the consistency of word families to teach their emergent readers, upper grade and secondary teachers can also rely on the consistency of roots when teaching their students.

2. Effective Intervention: Many English language learners' first language is based on the Latin lexicon (e.g. Spanish).  Teaching roots to these students allows them to connect new English vocabulary to words they already know in their native language.  Research also indicates that struggling (native-Engligh) readers also benefit from the learning Greek and Latin roots.

3. Increased Demands: Each year students in grades 5 and higher encounter around 10,000 new words in their reading!  Most of these new words will be of Greek and Latin origin.  When students are familiar with highly utilized roots, learning such a vast number of new words becomes so much more manageable.  

4. Technical Vocabulary: Content areas such as science and social studies overwhelm students with unfamiliar vocabulary.  Fortunately, most of these scientific or scholarly terms are grounded in Greek and Latin origins.  If students know the meaning of a root, they are more apt to determine the meaning of an unknown word that uses that root.  

Activities for Teaching Roots

Most of the pintables referenced below can be downloaded for free {HERE}.

Greek and Latin Roots1. Root Tree:  This activity is pretty straightforward and easy to implement.  Print a “Root Tree” page (download for free HERE) for your students.  I really like having students complete this activity in pairs or triads, but it can also be completed independently.  Assign students a root or affix, which they will write at the base of the tree (roots); they should also include the meaning of the root.  Then students fill in the spaces on the branches with words derived from the root.  They may need to reference outside sources (dictionary, Internet, prepared list of root words, etc,) to find words. This is a great way to introduce a new root to students and it presents a great visual of how the words are connected in meaning to the particular root of the tree.  

Greek and Latin Roots
2. Root Word Graphic Organizer: This activity is similar to the Root Tree, except students will include definitions for the words on this page.  Again, students can complete this in pairs, small groups, or independently. 

Greek and Latin Roots
3. Divide and Conquer: For this activity you’ll need to choose 4-8 preselected words.  The words should all contain the same root; the example shown uses “sens, sent” (Latin – “to feel, sense, perceive). Any affixes that are part of the words should be ones your students already know the meaning to.  Take for example the word "sensible."  Students the  break down the  word into its meaningful parts (e.g. sens + ible).  The meaningful parts are then defined (e.g. to feel + able to be).  Students will then provide a literal definition based on the meaning of the roots (e.g. able to feel).  The last step requires students to provide a dictionary definition of the word (e.g. capable of being made aware of or of feeling).  Divide and Conquer allows students to examine the meaningful parts of words to determine their meanings. They can then compare the literal definition of words (based on the root and affix meanings) to the dictionary definitions, which allows them to see how similar the definitions are (in most cases).

4. Word Bingo:  Use a Bingo card that is either a 3 x 3 or 4 x 4 matrix.  You can download a set for free {HERE}.  Create a list of root words that the students have been studying and project them or write them on the board for all students to see.  Students can then write the words down where ever they wish on their matrix (one word per square).  Then you will read clues for the words.  Clues might include a word's definition, synonym, antonym, or a sentence with the target word omitted.  If a student recognizes a clue for a particular word, he/she can then cross out that word.  The first student to have a complete row, column, or diagonal can call out "Bingo!"

Greek and Latin Roots
5. Concentration: Prepare pairs of concentration cards so that one card has the word written on it and the other has the definition.  A set of cards should contain at least 8 words and their definitions, for a total of 16 cards.  The students will shuffle the cards and place them face down.  They will take turns with a partner to flip over two cards, trying to find a match between word and definition.  Once a match has been made, that student gets to keep those cards.  The student with the most cards wins.  I made a set of these concentration cards for each of the 40 units in my Get to the Root of It! Books.  

6. Invent-a-Word: This is a fun "review" activity since it uses word roots that have been previously taught.  Provide students with a list of roots and affixes that they are already familiar with.  Their task is to combine these known roots to invent new words.  They must also compose definitions for these words.  Students can work alone or in pairs to create at least 3 words and definitions.  Students will then share and discuss their invented words to the class.  

7. Word Charades: Have a list of 10 words displayed so that all students can see it during the entire activity.  In pairs, students review all 10 words and then select 1 that they will act out.  Give the students 2-3 minutes to plan how they will act out their word.  The rest of the class will then try to guess the word, while looking over the list of 10 words.  

If you're interested in implementing a robust and thorough Greek and Latin roots vocabulary program, click on the resources below!

Greek and Latin Roots

Matchbook Chapter Summaries for Novel Studies

Here's a super simple and fun project that you can have your students complete during your next novel study.  I call them "Matchbook Summaries," for lack of a better term, and they require little prep and materials.  The look really cool when they are completed and make a perfect piece to add to your open house displays.

Each students will need one file folder; I used the legal size when we did these for Where the Red Fern Grows.  Then you will need hundreds of "matchbook papers," which are essentially 3.5 by 6 inches pieces of white construction paper; 3.5 by 6 inches is an approximate size and can vary depending on your novel and the number of chapters in it.  Cutting your construction paper is really the most labor-intensive part of this whole project (well for you, anyway:-).  

After completing each chapter, each student gets a "matchbook paper." They fold the bottom "tab" up about 1/2 inch.  The top side then gets folded down until it lines up with the crease from the tab.

One the outside of the matchbook, students draw and color their favorite scene from that chapter.  On the inside of the matchbook, students write a summary of the chapter.  I require my students to write a 5-7 sentence summary; no more, no less.  This really forces them to pick and choose the most important events to include in their summaries.

I give each student a small ziplock bag to store all of their matchbooks for the duration of the novel study.  We don't glue them into the file folder until the very end when all matchbooks are complete.  This allows them to arrange and fit them into the file folder appropriately.  They look so nice when they are all complete, and they come in handy when students need to refer back to the text, but aren't exactly sure where a particular event occurred in the book.

Students then add the finishing touches by decorating the cover of the file folder.

I use the rubric below to grade these.  If you click on the image, you can download a free copy to use!
Check out these engaging resources that can be used with any novel!!!


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