Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why I DON"T use C.U.B.E.S. in Grades 3-5

Several years ago the district I worked in had mentioned that we shouldn't use C.U.B.E.S. At the time I didn't know anything about the strategy so I didn't really pay any attention to the reasoning behind the why.  Fast forward to last year as my first year as an instructional coach, and I now know why C.U.B.E.S shouldn't be used in most classrooms.

C.U.B.E.S. is a strategy that is successful for students who are already successful in understanding word problems.  With this strategy students are focused on a completing steps, not what the problem is asking for.  For many students word problems create anxiety and many will complete any math problem with the operation they are most comfortable with just to get an answer.

Let's be honest think about your first lesson this year with word problems, I'm going to guess majority of your wanted to add all the numbers in the problem.  No matter the grade level, this is the operation students rely on most.  With C.U.B.E.S. students often "fake" their way through the strategy and will still add the numbers.

Don't get me wrong, C.U.B.E.S. is a great strategy for the K-2 classroom where the word problems are set up in a way in which it is easier for students to use the strategy and get the correct answer. See the sample word problem below.

However, in the upper grades (3-5) many of the word problems are multistep which is where I see many students using the strategy incorrectly or having no success with it.  Below is an example of a multistep word problem completed with C.U.B.E.S.

As I mentioned above, many students will not read the problem and will automatically start circling numbers, boxes action words, and underling the question.  They are children and something we as teachers know is going to happen. I even tested C.U.B.E.S. out on my own third grader when he came home with the strategy in his homework folder.  He is bright in math and he did exactly what I described above, just completed the steps because he was taught this strategy will help him find the answer.

I am currently coaching and teaching 4th grade reading and math. (We had a teacher move and many of the students in this class are low performing and my heart wouldn't let me leave them with a sub.) Last week I saw first hand why C.U.B.E.S shouldn't be used in 3-5, especially with lower leveled learners.  My kids did exactly what I have already addressed. So, what do I use?  The STOP Sign Strategy.

Remember I mentioned my previous district didn't want us using C.U.B.E.S? Well they shared the STOP Sign Strategy with us, although I don't think that is the name they call it.

With this strategy students are required to read the problem more than one time. I know we teach this to our students, but how often are they actually doing it without our support?  Students STOP at each punctuation and jot down notes, highlight, etc. When I teach this strategy whole group we all raise our hands and shout out stop. This requires them to actually think about what the problem is stating, asking, and how the numbers in the problem are related.  Below is the same sample problem done with C.U.B.E.S, but with STOP.

I know I may get several comments about how the math strategy C.U.B.E.S. works well in classrooms around the world, but with my experience the past two years I don't believe it is appropriate for all 3-5 classrooms. C.U.B.E.S does not work for our students in 3-5, so at our school I have made the same call as my old C.U.B.E.S. The teachers do not have to use the STOP Sign Strategy, they can use any strategy they know of that does not allow students the opportunity to fake their way through the problem.

I have created Word Problem Task Cards like the samples in this post for my kids to practice this strategy next week in centers.  If you would like to grab them to try out with your students they will be on sale for the rest of the week.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Light a Fire With a Good Book - and a HUGE Giveaway!

So, I had huge plans of blogging and creating this summer....didn't happen and now that August is here I'm now prepping for school.  I'm really excited about this school year because I have a better grasp at what I want my role as and Instructional Coach to be and what I need to do in order to better support my teachers.  I know that if I'm thinking about school starting in a few weeks, then I KNOW you are too :)

Several of us bloggers have come together to give you some awesome ideas for Back to School Books! These books can be used to set up your classroom community, begin a good lesson, or just as a fun read-aloud.

The book I'd like to share with you is...

The Name Jar is a great read aloud for the first day of school or sometime during the first week.  Uhei moves to America and the reader is able to share her first impressions and experiences in an American school.  Uhei is embarassed by her name and doesn't reveil it to her classmates.  They place a jar on her desk and add their favorite names for her to choose from. Uhei realizes that her name is special just like her.

Last school year I visited classrooms to read aloud this wonderful story to third, fourth, and fifth graders. I had created a three day lesson plan for The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. I used each of the day's materials, along with several of the centers .

The Name Jar is a great beginning of school book to teach summarizing, character traits, and comparing and contrasting. This sweet story focuses on the importance of identity, a fabulous topic for the beginning of the school year.

My Name Jar Plans and Centers comes with a Center Menu for your students to use to help you set your expectations and routines for centers. You will find a center for each of the three days lesson plan. (Word Work, Vocabulary, & Comprehension)

And have you heard? Teachers Pay Teachers is having a site-wide Back to School Sale August 3rd and 4th, so you will be able to get [this product] 28% off using the promo code BTS15!

We know what else really "lights a fire" in you, and that is fabulous technology! We are giving away a brand new Kindle Fire HD6 to one lucky winner! 

Enter the rafflecopter below by hopping through each of our blogs and entering the secret word that can be found on the tablet in each of our posts. Also make sure to follow our TPT stores because the winner will be announced through a message in your TPT inbox! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We are also giving away a $25 gift certificate to Creative Teaching Press!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck! We hope you have a successful start to your school year! 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday Made It

Quick post for Tara's Monday Made It!  I look forward to this linky every summer :)  For Father's Day I always have the boys make a craft for their dad.  Thanks to Pinterest I found this idea and made it our own.  My husband loved it and is hanging it in his office today!

While making this I sadly realized how quickly my boys are growing.  Next year we will need a much larger canvas to fit their hands.

Be sure to stop by tomorrow for my Phonemic Awareness post for my Summer Blogging Series.  I am also looking for anyone who would like to donate a Phonics product for an upcoming post and giveaway. If you are interested, please comment below with your email.  Thanks!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Plan with me Sundays

I'm linking up with Kreative in Kindergarten and Keeping up with Mrs. Harris for their planner linky.  I'm new to EC planners, I know shocking right! I'm even newer to the idea of using stickers and cutesy planners!  Who knew decorating your weekly plans in a planner made life even more exciting!?!


Etsy has a plethora of sellers for EC or any planner stickers.  My favorite is Libbie and Co., lover her colors and quality of the stickers.  I also have stickers from Glam Planning and a few scrapbooking stickers from Hobby Lobby.

This week starts off pretty busy for my family, boys have VBS and I am in a three day workshop.  I also start an online class tomorrow.  I'm starting back on a healthy eating plan this week and going to try to keep up on my water intake (water bottle stickers will help with this).

 I love quotes!  I've started to add them to my weekly planner to help motivate me, keep me focused, or just for encouragement.  This week I want to focus on my kids this week and try not spend so much of my time doing other things.  I used the EC stickers to keep up with my meal planning for the week.

I need to find better pens, I don't really care for the ballpoint pens that I've been using so if you have any suggestions please share your favorites!  Last week I was in a training and sitting in the front row (not by choice) and the presented noticed my EC planner.  She brought me hers and asked me how I use mine because she only used the monthly layout in hers.  My advice was to make it cute. :) Spending the time to plan and beautify my week helps me accomplish all the things I have planned. :)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

TpT Seller Challenge: Makeover Madness

I've joined the TpT {Seller} Challenge this summer and hoping it is just the thing I need to get back into the habit of blogging and creating again.  It's amazing how school can drain you :)

 For this week's challenge I made over one of the first products I made.  These task cards are perfect for Back to School!  I use these at the beginning of the year to see what my students retained from the previous year.  There is a set for 4th grade and a set for 5th grade.

These cards are CCS aligned and have the standard at the bottom of each card. I also used the 5th grade set as an end of year review for my 4th graders. 

This was a great challenge to start with and helped to motivate me to revamp some other products in my store.  I can't wait to see what next week's challenge is!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Reading is a Complex Process

Over the past 8 years of teaching I taught grades 3-4, with most of my time spent in 4th grade. I taught at a school where the majority of my students came from families who were very involved in their child's education, and were great readers.  Over the years I did have several students who struggled with Reading, but more in the area of comprehension rather than phonics.  This year I switched schools and the students come from very different backgrounds.  I saw students who were reading well below grade level and struggled with other components of reading rather than just comprehension.  As the Instructional Coach I felt I wasn't as strong as I should have been in this area to help my teachers, so I am spending my summer freshening up and reviewing the complex process that reading is.

I plan to share what I learn, rediscover, or reminded of with you!  I think going back to the tried and true information in education is more powerful than the latest trend or educational craze.

Reading is complex and consist of several components.  These components cannot be taught in isolation, but are interlocking components that depend on one another. When one or more component is missing the interlocking system of reading is weakened and unable to function for lifelong use. Simply put, no component can be missing.

(image from google search)

The Five Domains of Reading:

1. Phonemic Awareness
2. Phonics & Decoding
3. Fluency
4. Vocabulary
5. Comprehension

Some researchers have a sixth component...Higher Order Thinking.

Reading is an easily learned skill when taught from good teachers who model balanced literacy instruction. What is "balanced literacy"?  We hear this term a lot in education and the definition may be different from school to school or district to district. The common definition I have found is where literacy instruction includes explicit teaching, holistic reading and writing that is combined to create more capable readers. As educators we know that children do not all learn the same way and need a variety of methods and strategies that help build their reading skills.  Within the balanced literacy a good teacher will use a variety of strategies during both explicit and holistic instruction.

Over the next several weeks I will dive deeper into each domain of reading, including Higher Order Thinking.  I hope you stop by to sharpen your understanding of the complex process of reading. :)

What is something you hope to learn about reading this summer? Or what are you working on this summer to help next year be more successful for you?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Organizing All Those Files

Can you believe it...I'm actually posting!?!  It's been a few months since my last post, thanks to a hectic end of the school year.  No better way than to come off of a blogging break by linking up the Primary Peach for their Organizational Tips and Tricks linky!

 These pictures are from about two years ago when our district switched over to the Common Core Standards.  I needed a way to organize my files to the new standards. The picture below is just half of the stuff I kept, teachers are just organized hoarders :)

I typed up my labels which you can find here for FREE in my TpT store.  On my labels I added a "cliff note"of sort so I could quickly find and sort my resources.  Plus memorizing ALL those letters and numbers will take me forever and by the time I did memorize them it will change.

 *Note you will need Avery Labels 8593. I found mine at Wal-mart.

I started with a stack of papers and began sorting them into each strand.  I had already created folders for the Big Idea, but sorted them into each individual standard (for example 4.NF.4 a).

I laid out a few folders and using my "cliff notes" I was able to quickly sort my resources.

Finally, nice and neat files :)  I also created files for Language Arts, Writing, Reading Literature, Reading Informational, Science, and Social Studies.

I am so glad I did this a few years ago!  As an Instructional Coach these came in handy for when assisting my 4th grade team.  I was able to quickly grab my file and resources for them!  I am currently working on labels and files for third and fifth grade.  I will post those labels once they are completed.

*I hope you stop by later in the week for my Summer Blogging Series

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