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Building vocabulary in mathematics
math-teacher-chalkboard.jpgVocabulary comprehension is often a skill considered only for the English classroom. The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) research has proven that the incorporation of explicit vocabulary instruction into the daily mathematics curriculum helps develop students' conceptual understanding of mathematics as well as their ability to consider the multitude of abstract concepts associated with mathematics, especially in middle school and beyond (Dunston & Tyminski, 2013). Due to the highly contextualized nature of mathematics vocabulary, many students struggle with the unique definitions of these terms, thus the need for explicit instruction for both English-only speaking students as well as English language learners (Dunston & Tyminski, 2013).

As a part of explicit instruction, Dunston and Tyminski suggest teachers help students make connections to prior knowledge when introducing new mathematical terms. Additionally, they suggest using graphic organizers such as the Frayer model or the four square to facilitate the connections to previously learned knowledge and newly acquired knowledge (2013). To help plan for vocabulary instruction, teachers should also consider the five C's (Smith & Angotti, 2012). These are concepts, content, clarify, cut, and construct (Smith & Angotti, 2012). Robert  Marzano  provides six steps to vocabulary instruction that support the five C's.  The six steps  are  introduce , restate, nonverbal, activity, discuss, and game (2009). The first three steps involve the explicit instruction of vocabulary and the second three steps  focus on student engagement with vocabulary.

The TTAC library has many resources for vocabulary instruction including:

Allen, J. (2007). Inside words: Tools for teaching academic vocabulary, grades 4-12. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse.

Chapman, C., & King, R. (2003). Differentiated instructional strategies for reading in the content areas. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Marzano , R. J. (2004). Building background knowledge for academic achievement: Research on what works in schools. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Tompkins, G. E., & Blanchfield, C. L. (2008). Teaching vocabulary: 50 creative strategies, grades 6-12. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.
Marzano , R. (2009, September). The art and science of teaching / six steps to better vocabulary instruction. Retrieved November 17, 2016, from
Dunston, P. J., & Tyminski, A. M. (2013, August). What's the big deal about vocabulary? Retrieved November 21, 2016, from
Smith, A. T., & Angotti, R. L. (2012, September). "Why are there so many words in math?": Planning for content area vocabulary instruction.  Retrieved November 21, 2016, from

Get a positive grip and "ditch the clip!"
Every classroom teacher should have a plan in place to address student behavior.  However, if your school or classroom is implementing Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), then it's imperative to know that "Clip Charts" and "Color Flip Systems" are not considered to be PBIS practices nor an evidence based practice.

Clip charts are a common strategy used in today's classrooms to manage student behavior.  If students are meeting the teacher's expectations, he/she may be told to " clip up."  If inappropriate behavior occurs, students are asked to " clip down," or flip a colored card. When teachers make statements such as, "If you do that again, you'll have to move your clip," they communicate that the chart is the reason to follow directions. The focus on why the behavior is unwanted and how to change it is lost with charts and card systems. Moving a clothespin is neither helping students to identify the feelings that may have caused the unwanted behavior nor helping to identify acceptable and expected behaviors.

Clip charts, used mostly to shame students into behaving, increase anxiety in students who are constantly worried about having to move their clothespins if they make a mistake.  Even when teachers use numbers for anonymity, students are able to recognize their peers' assigned digits within one to two weeks. 

Alternatives to using these systems are rather simple to implement and focus on treating students with respect. Talking to students about their feelings and behaviors, especially through difficult situations is one way to begin.  Students learn how to identify and manage their emotions more appropriately. Student-teacher trust is built through these interactions, and valuable information about each student's needs is learned.

Dr. Kent McIntosh (2016) an instructor and researcher in the areas of positive behavior support, school systems change, and sustainability of evidence-based interventions in schools at the University of Oregon claims:   "Clip charts are (his)  favorite classroom management practice not to recommend" and that  "clip charts are not a PBIS practice". He has identified the following resources for teachers who want to "ditch the clip" in their classrooms:
McIntosh, K. (2016). Increasing visibility of PBIS through mainstream and social media.


Creative Curriculum available for checkout from library
Are you looking for a functional, evidence-based curriculum for your early childhood classroom that would best support the needs of all young learners? With so many curricula available it can be difficult to decide which is best for your classroom or program.

The National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning developed a Preschool Curriculum Consumer Report (2015) that compared 16 of the more widely known early childhood curricula. The developers outlined 13 essential components that should be considered when selecting a curriculum:
  • Curriculum is grounded in child development principles
  • Curriculum is evidenced -based
  • Curriculum shows effects on child outcomes
  • Comprehensive across learning domains
  • Depth for each learning domain
  • Specific learning goals
  • Well-designed learning activities
  • Responsive teaching
  • Supports for individualized instruction
  • Culturally and linguistic responsive
  • Includes ongoing assessments
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Family involvement materials
In addition, a comprehensive curriculum  should include content in the following domains:
  • Language Development
  • Literacy Knowledge and Skills
  • Mathematic Knowledge and Skills
  • Social-Emotional Development
One of these curricula is The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool. It provides a comprehensive, research-based curriculum that features exploration and discovery as a way of learning.  In comparison to other curriculums, The Creative Curriculum rated "solid, high-quality evidence" in eight of the above considerations, and showed "some evidence" in three of the components, according to the Preschool Curriculum Consumer Report.

The Creative Curriculum is available in the TTAC library for loan. 

The National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning (2015). Preschool curriculum consumer report.
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