Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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How to Build Motivation in Your Classroom

Ican'tSometimes, as teachers, we have a tendency to blame the student for a lack of motivation. Have you ever checked off “lacks motivation” or “lacks effort” on a progress report? Yet we all experience times when we just are not willing to do what is being asked of us. The following resources will help you understand what enhances and hinders motivation to learn.

Failure and fear of it saps motivation. Nobody likes to fail, but an optimistic attitude helps us learn from a poor performance. In Discovering Psychology, program 12, “Motivation and Emotion,” discover how optimists are more likely than pessimists to succeed in challenging situations because they tend to reflect and try again. Teach students to understand that sometimes disappointment and failure are part of the learning process.

Another obstacle to motivation is perceived irrelevance of the topic. Neuroscience research tells us that we learn best when we are interested in what we are learning and see a connection between our studies and our lives. Find out why in unit 2, “The Unity of Emotion, Thinking, and Learning,” of Neuroscience & the Classroom.

Our environment also plays a role in how we feel and act. Create classroom environments that engage students using tips from The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice, program 12, “Expectations for Success: Motivation and Learning.” Watch how teachers ask questions instead of dispensing information, invite students to investigate and arrive at their own conclusions, provide opportunities to work on real-world problems, and involve students in helpful competition using cooperative grouping.

What does motivation look like in your classroom? Share in the comments.

Image Copyright: misstuni / 123RF Stock Photo

Valentine’s Day in Language Arts and Math Classes

ValentinesDayelementaryTurn the excitement of Valentine’s Day into learning opportunities.

Language Arts/Literature

Develop reading-related activities around Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year. Kindergarten teacher Cindy Wilson features the holidays to build students’ oral language, especially useful for second language learners. See “Building Oral Language” in Teaching Reading K-2 Library.

Examine the question “How does love overcome hatred and fear?” as you read Arundhati Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things, about twin children growing up in a small town in India. Watch the Invitation to World Literature program about the title to hear from readers who are passionate about the story and from Roy herself.

Revisit the love story between Pip and Estella in Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations with your students. Find a lesson plan for teaching this work in the series In Search of the Novel.

Mathematics

Our Teachers’ Lab activity, How Many Valentines? offers a fun way to connect the Valentine’s Day holiday with elementary mathematics.

Teaching Math, Grades 3-5 also presents an interactive version of the How Many Valentines? activity, which illustrates principles of reasoning and proof.

Watch a lesson in which young students in a bilingual 4th-grade class work on patterns and reasoning in program 42, “Valentine Exchange,” in Teaching Math: A Video Library, K-4. Note how the teacher guides the students in their mathematical thinking, letting them explore and arrive at their own conclusions.

 

Let Us Help You With Your Resolutions!

NewYearsResolutionsYou’re quickly approaching the 100th day of the school year, and you’ve decided to refine and refresh your teaching methods as you enter the long stretch from January through June. So far, many of your students are coming along nicely, but others are struggling. So you resolve to make a few changes to get all of your students excited and invested in learning. What resolutions will you make?

 

Can’t think of any? Using our resources, here are a few ideas you can try in your classroom:

Grade writing papers more efficiently.

Grading is often a tedious task. Resolve to make it a faster and more useful exercise. In Developing Writers: A Workshop for High School Teachers, Dr. Robyn Jackson outlines how to use color-coded rubrics. This format is faster for teachers because they spend less time writing the same comments and grading becomes more objective. Students can also immediately see which components of their writing need improvement.  Shuttle into 15:16 of the video program to watch this rubric in action.

Differentiate instruction.

How do you meet the needs of diverse students in your class? Literacy expert Dorothy Strickland discusses key elements of effective instruction that build on student diversity in session 7 of Teaching Reading 3-5. In session 6, “Differentiating Instruction,” of Teaching Reading K-2 Workshop, you will learn how to apply research-based principles in early literacy.  Studying multiple writing genres? In workshop 5 of Write in the Middle, Mary Cathryn Ricker explains her philosophy on teaching multigenre writing so that it engages students: “I know that there are some students at the middle level who are very nervous about poetry, downright scared of poetry, and I want to make sure that they have a style of writing or a form of writing they’re going to be comfortable with.”  Also, watch as Jane Shuffelton customizes a lesson for different levels of learners in her high school Russian class.

Incorporate standardized test questions into routine assignments.

With more and more teacher performance ratings tied to standardized testing, it’s no wonder that many teachers resort to teaching to the test. But that needn’t be so. You can easily tie standard test questions into your regular class assignments. In workshop 4, “Research and Discovery,” of Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades, Kathryn Mitchell Pierce explains that when students engage in critical reading beyond just literal recall of what happens in a book, they have skills which give them confidence to correctly complete a standardized test.

Communicate more often and effectively with parents.

You can do this by setting up a parent listserv for your class and by sending a weekly newsletter about what’s going on in your class, including specific projects, instructional practices, and materials that your students are engaged in throughout the year. There’s a good template for a parent newsletter in session 8 of Teaching Reading K-2 Workshop.  In Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades, workshop 7, “Social Justice and Action,” Laura Alvarez talks about keeping parents informed by involving them in the actual lesson.

We’d love to hear about your resolutions for your classroom in the comments below.

Copyright: kenishirotie / 123RF Stock Photo

International Creativity Month: Invite Your Students to Play

artisticlightbulbThe beginning of the year is a time for resolutions and reflection. January is also International Creativity Month. Make a resolution to incorporate opportunities for students to flex their creative muscles into your lessons. Let them write, paint, dance, compose, brainstorm, and most of all, play!

Start from the beginning by learning why creative play is so important to a young child’s healthy development. Watch The Whole Child: A Caregiver’s Guide to the First Five Years, program 11, “Creativity and Play” to learn about the connection between creativity and self-worth and self-expression.

If you’re familiar with the link between music and mathematical ability in children, gain more insight with the documentary “Surprises in Mind,” which looks at children’s innate mathematical creativity and how a specially designed math program boosted students’ confidence in their mathematical ability and enjoyment mathematics.

Brain researchers have found a connection between creativity and dreaming, as explained in the brief clip “REM Sleep and Dreaming,” program 15 of The Brain: Teaching Modules.

Creativity is essential to teaching, just as it is an integral part of students’ learning in subjects across the curriculum. In Looking at Learning…Again, Part 2, workshop 5, “Infusing Critical and Creative Thinking,” Dr. Robert Swartz discusses the role of creative thinking in the learning process. Then see examples in the footage of Virginia Williams’s 4th-grade science class in Brookfield, Massachusetts.

Find ideas for creative learning experiences in the following resources:

Art Through Time explores creative expression through different cultures and historical eras. For example, program 7, looks at functional art used in domestic life around the world. Have students watch the video and then design and/or make their own useful art.

High school arts teachers will discover new ways to foster creativity with The Art of Teaching the Arts: A Workshop for High School Teachers. In workshop 5, watch how teachers foster respect and build confidence in students in a variety of arts lessons, including improv.

Draw ideas from Dr. Judith Ortiz Cofer’s interesting creative writing exercise based on truth and lies in Developing Writers.

The documentaries of American Cinema can serve as the basis for creative writing assignments. Students learn all about screenwriting in the related Cinema interactive.

See models of creative integrated arts units at the middle school level in Connecting with the Arts: A Teaching Practices Library, 6-8. In “Can frogs dance?“, a science teacher and a dance instructor ask students to compare human and frog anatomy.

How are you adding creativity to your lesson plans this year?

Image copyright: artqu / 123RF Stock Photo

Resources to Teach Financial Wellness

Economics_billionaireactivity

Students learn basic personal finance in The Economics Classroom, workshop 4.

Learning how to balance a budget and manage credit are both crucial life skills. Prepare your students to handle their finances with the following resources:

The Math in Daily Life interactive, “Savings and Credit,” explains how interest works and how to manage credit card use.

Connect students to meaningful economic experiences using the activities in The Economics Classroom, program 4, “Learning, Earning, and Saving.” Use “The Chessboard of Financial Life” activity to illustrate the power of compound interest. Start at 28:20 in the video and find lesson resources. This program also includes a stock market simulation activity.

Teach students factors that influence consumer behavior, and how consumer behavior affects supply and demand using unit 3 of Economics U$A: 21st Century Edition.

You Have to Speak, Listen, Read, and Write to Teach and Learn Math

RWD_DeconWP_video

In “Deconstructing Word Problems,” students work together in structured small groups to solve problems that involve representing situations algebraically and then finding a solution.

Consider these action words:

evaluate, explain, identify, interpret, construct, defend, justify, critique, propose, predict

Now look again:

evaluate this situation; explain your thinking; identify options; interpret the information; construct a model; defend your reasoning; justify your claim; critique this approach; propose an idea; predict what might happen

What do you think about these words? Do you use them when you’re teaching?

 

Do you use them when you’re teaching mathematics?

I hope so!

These simple words represent powerful aspects of doing math. They are some of the nouns and verbs of making sense of concepts and processes and figuring things out. These verbs are also called literacy actions and are actually at the core of teaching and learning all kinds of things. Go back to the second list and see what I mean. To solve problems in math and science, we construct and label models. To understand the impact of past events on today’s world, we interpret information. To build awareness of different cultures and perspectives, we identify and explain. To take action in our communities, we evaluate and propose.

All of those actions make learning happen. They promote high-level cognitive work that rests squarely on the foundational acts of speaking, listening, reading, and writing — using them is part of the condition required for teachers to teach and students to learn. So students need strong skills in these areas. And teachers do, too!

What does communication in your math classroom look and sound like? How do you and your students take up the role of communicator during math class? How is speaking, listening, reading, and writing prevalent in your math routines and instructional interactions?

Before teachers lead instruction in math, we should rehearse, making sure that what we are going to say and do makes sense, is accurate, and is organized and clear. During instruction, teachers and students should ask and explain, thinking about and re-uttering contributions by repeating, rephrasing, elaborating and translating. These actions deepen understanding and make concepts and processes memorable, so they can be accessed and used in other situations, or built upon in experiences soon to come.

The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics call for eight Mathematical Practices that can only come to life when literacy actions are used. These eight practices are important and should be a point of focus for any teacher of mathematics. I’ve listed these practices below; along with some literacy actions you might consider using in your math classes. Read them and see what you think. Share your ideas and reactions in the comment section below. Tell us how you and your students speak, listen, read, and write to teach and learn math.

CCSS-M: Standards for Mathematical Practice

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

Literacy actions include:

Reading problem situations carefully; collecting and recording information about aspects of the problem; making a spoken or written commitment to solving; explaining, monitoring, and evaluating progress

  1. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

Literacy actions include:

Interpreting a given situation and representing it with mathematical symbols; explaining what quantities mean and how they are related to one another in the problem situation

  1. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

Literacy actions include:

Stating arguments and listening to or reading the arguments and reasoning of others; evaluating arguments to see if and how they make sense; and asking questions to clarify or improve arguments

  1. Model with mathematics.

Literacy actions include:

Writing and saying equations to describe situations; making labeled drawings to clearly visualize the problem situation; thinking aloud about the problem and possible solution strategies, while referring to the model; writing on the model to help solve 

  1. Use appropriate tools strategically.

Literacy actions include:

Describing the advantages and limitations of specific mathematical tools; recording mathematical information that is gleaned from using low-tech and high-tech math tools, including rulers, calculators, and interactive software

  1. Attend to precision.

Literacy actions include:

Using clear definitions in discussion with others and in one’s own verbal or written explanations; using precise terms, units, and labels; calculating accurately and efficiently, and expressing numerical answers and explanations with a degree of precision appropriate for the problem situation; defending one’s reasoning verbally and in writing

  1. Look for and make use of structure.

Literacy actions include:

Recognizing and articulating patterns or structures that one notices; asking questions about the significance of those patterns or structures;

  1. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Literacy actions include:

Looking for and describing methods and shortcuts for calculating and problem-solving; explaining one’s thinking; evaluating and expressing reasonableness of process and results

 

For additional ideas and materials on this topic, view Reading & Writing in the Disciplines online. Start at part II.5, “Mathematics: Big Ideas in Literacy” and work your way through strategies, research, and classroom examples that support the approach to teaching mathematics that is consistent with the expectations of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, as well as consistent with recommendations of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM). Learn how to engage students in mathematical activities that reflect literacy practices of professional mathematicians and deepen students’ understanding of math concepts. At the heart of math literacy is the hope that students will gain confidence in their own math capabilities.

How to Incorporate the Arts in All Subjects

PuppetsArt is a valuable tool for students to learn how to express themselves, work through a process, work cooperatively, and gain respect and understanding for others. How can we teach the arts in all subject areas so that students benefit from the learning opportunities that art affords them? For more ways art instruction benefits students, read “Ten reasons why teaching the arts is critical in a 21st century world” by Elliott Seif.

Below are examples of the arts blended with other curriculum areas, helping students to draw out a deeper understanding and appreciation for both familiar and unfamiliar concepts.

Science

See art as a tool to make meaning of our relationship with the natural world in Art Through Time, program 10, “The Natural World.”

Seventh graders combine science, dance, and language arts as they compare the anatomy of a frog and a human and then debate whether a frog can join a ballet company. Connecting With the Arts Library, program 11, “Can Frogs Dance?” has the video and student materials.

Mathematics

Mathematicians understand symmetry differently than the rest of us, as a fundamental aspect of group theory. Learn more in Mathematics Illuminated, unit 6, “The Beauty of Symmetry,” which includes a symmetry interactive. Students can manipulate a wallpaper design to practice common geometric motions such as rotation and reflection.

Language Arts

Students explore Greek myths using puppets in Connecting With the Arts Library, program 2, “Breathing Life into Myths.”

Artifacts & Fiction, session 1, “Visual Arts,” shows how visual art, paired with literature, can be used to enhance students’ understanding of the predominant culture and historical setting of a work of literature.

World Languages

Latin students learn the difference between translating and interpreting the language using music and literary works of Mozart, Vergil, and Cicero. See Teaching Foreign Languages K-12, program 24, “Music and Manuscripts.”

In Teaching Foreign Languages, program 29, “Interpreting Literature,” students discuss “Dos caras” (Two faces) by New Mexico author Sabine Ulibarri. They act out scenes and make comparisons to a painting by a local artist.

In program 27, “Interpreting Picasso’s Guernica,” students write and deliver radio newscasts interpreting the scene in the famous painting.

Social Studies/History

Fifth graders in The Arts in Every Classroom, program 6, “Teaching Visual Art,” view portraits, looking beyond the face for historical cues. They continue the lesson by creating new portraits that reveal clues to the lives of their subjects through clothing, expressions, and background.

Use the Focus In tool with middle and high school students to analyze photographs curated by topics such as “Protest and Politics” and “Economies and Empires” in Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum. Also, hear a photo editor at National Geographic and a professional photographer discuss their work in the video “Story.”

Music and Art

Start a music program at your school based on the El Sistema program or borrow ideas from the programs presented in our new series The Power of Music: P-5 Teaching Inspired by El Sistema. The El Sistema philosophy presents music making as a collaborative process—one that teaches individual self-confidence, creates caring citizens, and builds cohesive communities. The program includes ideas for teachers of all subjects, not just music.

Watch art, dance, and theater teachers use scaffolding as they help students gain knowledge and fundamental skills while fostering creativity and active self-directed learning in The Art of Teaching the Arts, workshop 2, “Developing Students as Artists.”

Additional Resources:

To learn more about why arts education is important and how to connect the arts with big ideas in other subject areas, view Connecting With the Arts, program 2, “Why Integrate the Arts?”  and program 5, “What Are Connecting Concepts?”

These ideas just scratch the surface of all they ways arts instruction can be incorporated in other curriculum areas. Please feel free to share more ideas in the comments.

Breaking the Mindset Barrier

123rf_guzhanin_Brain copy

Image Copyright: Dmitry Guzhanin

One of the staples of American storytelling is the tale of the underdog athlete who became a superstar through relentless practice. Countless magazines have told the story of Boston Celtics basketball legend Larry Bird, discounted in adolescence by coaches, dedicating himself to hours and hours of daily practice. Alone on a shabby outdoor court, Bird would shoot and shoot and shoot, day after day, week after week, month after month until—voila!—he became a superstar. Even after he was a pro star, Bird would spend hours alone in the Boston Garden practicing his shots—before team practice even began. This is what made Bird “Larry Legend.”

Bird’s not the only one, of course; we love stories about athletes who drill and drill from sheer love of the game and a burning desire to become the best they can be. We tell our own young athletes that they can achieve anything if they really want it badly enough. Before the U.S. women’s soccer team won the 2015 World Cup, their captain Abby Wambach made an inspirational video in which she repeatedly said that the team could win the cup if they wanted it: “we’ve just got to believe.”

…so why don’t we have the same approach to academics? Why don’t we tell students that they can achieve any academic goal they want, from understanding math to writing lab reports to analyzing literature, if they want it badly enough? Why don’t we tell them it will take hours and weeks and months and even years of practice and failure, practice and incremental improvement?

Instead, we tend to tell students, directly and indirectly, that school is not really designed to help them set and achieve goals through unlimited practice. We tell them that school is about doing a little practicing, and then taking a test that does two things: permanently end practice of the skill that was tested and put a permanent label (a grade) on the student’s skill level.

When we test students after limited practice, we’re telling them that they have a set ability in a certain subject that can’t really change much no matter how much they practice. When we study a unit for two weeks and then test students on it, we’re saying, If you can’t master this in two weeks, you have a problem. Everyone should be able to master this in two weeks.

Tests and test grades tend to send the message that everyone is somehow born with a set amount of academic potential—a mindset—and they need to spend the rest of their school years managing (or concealing) that limitation. It’s like an academic caste system: a few lucky students are gifted; the rest are “average” or “struggling”—and they always will be. The first few tests students take that seem to “confirm” that they are forever stuck at one skill level kill all initiative. While athletes can be made, we send a message that mathletes (and others) are strictly born. See “What does this mean for me?” at the Mindset website and Reading & Writing in the Disciplines: Big Ideas in Literacy for more on this harmful and unfounded message.

In the mindset system, school is not about working hard until you achieve a goal, no matter how long it takes. It’s about struggling to achieve a goal on someone else’s timeline. The whole point of our inspiring sports stories is that the athlete took things into her or his own hands: they decided how long to practice, when to practice, and, crucially, why they were practicing. They were tested only after they felt they were ready to present their skills to a coach or a team. As Bird put it, “I really don’t count my shots. I just shoot until I feel good.”

Unfortunately, school calendars and state standards don’t allow this kind of flexibility. Students have to show mastery of a certain (large) number of learning objectives and state standards by the end of each school year, each term, even each quarter. They can’t “shoot until they feel good” on that kind of schedule.

Students aren’t the only ones who struggle with this, of course; teachers have to teach on someone else’s timeline (the one assigned by their state standards). They are required to test their students regularly. Few teachers have the option to simply stop testing and allow unlimited practice. But there are ways to reinvent testing so that it is as much a part of practicing as it is an assessment of practice; see Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections for a real-world test case.

The section gives one example of how testing and grading can become tools you use to help your students develop skills. They can become part of your ongoing formative assessment of how their skills are developing and part of your teaching process, rather than an interruption of teaching and learning. When students see that testing and grading are a measure of their existing skill level, they resist both. When they see that testing and grading are a prompt to their developing skills, they embrace them as part of a collaboration with the teacher that will help them advance. Test until you feel good!

Preparing Students to Read

Written by WGBH Education for Annenberg Learner, Part 3 of 3 (Go to Part 1 and Part 2)

LIT 7

Check out the new Reading & Writing in the Disciplines professional development course.

Accessing Prior Knowledge

When students read, their prior knowledge greatly impacts how they comprehend a text and learn new information from it. This prior knowledge includes both school-based and personal experiences, including previous instruction, academic and out-of-school texts, personal experiences, videos and movies, and discussions with teachers and peers. It is critical that readers are able to connect this prior knowledge to new learning for the most effective understanding of text ideas.

But prior knowledge isn’t just what students know about the topic itself; it’s also what they know about how to read a particular type of text, such as understanding the text structure, text features, language structures, and strategies for learning new information.

For example, students may come to a history unit about abolition knowing something about the slave trade, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass. But they may also have an understanding of how to identify organizational text structures often found in history texts (e.g., cause and effect, problem/solution), how to use different text features that support informational text (e.g., headings, captions, timelines), and/or how to analyze, synthesize, and corroborate ideas by comparing and contrasting sources on the same topic.

Given that students will have a range of prior knowledge as they begin a particular reading, teachers need to assess the text (what prior knowledge is necessary for effective comprehension of new content) and the students (what they already know). Based on this assessment, teachers decide what content knowledge students need to develop, how to access it using a variety of resources, and how to help students connect what they know to new learning. It’s important to note that even when students possess prior knowledge, they often need reminders to activate and connect it to specific reading situations.

Setting a Purpose for Reading

Many students, especially struggling readers, have difficulty determining important information during and after reading, particularly as the disciplinary texts become more complex. Having a specific purpose for reading will support students’ comprehension of important text ideas, focus their attention on the text and accompanying text features, and provide motivation for learning new content. However, too often, students are given a generic purpose, such as reading a chapter to answer concluding questions. In this case, the purpose is simply to complete a task after reading.

In contrast, a specific purpose should address the text content—important information, key concepts, and author’s purpose or point of view. For example, in science, students may read to compare and contrast features of sustainable and non-sustainable energy. In math, they may read real world earthquake measurement data and use that information to create and interpret a graph.

In the earlier grades, teachers usually set a purpose for students before they read. However, the goal of this important component of reading is for students to learn how to set their own purpose as independent readers. As students become more proficient readers in each discipline, teachers may continue to model setting a purpose while still encouraging students to determine their own purpose, build upon their knowledge, and think more critically about text ideas. Setting a purpose often occurs before reading; however, as students read, they may revise their purposes and set new goals for learning. For example, a student may set an initial reading purpose of identifying the causes of the Civil War. During reading, the student may refine this purpose to focus on specific causes related to different geographical regions of the United States. In science, students may set a purpose for reading an article on climate change to understand the factors related to this issue. As they read, they may revise this purpose to discover specific human behavior that affects climate change. Again, this sophistication develops as a student gains an expanding view of the topic.

Using Prior Knowledge to Set a Purpose

Not surprisingly, students’ ability to set their own purpose for reading is closely tied to their prior knowledge. In other words, students must have a general understanding related to the topic in order to set a purpose for reading about it. A familiar strategy for connecting prior knowledge with purposes for reading is the KWL (Know-Want to Know-Learn) strategy (Ogle, D., 1986). With this practice, students determine what they already know about a topic, what information they want to know related to the topic, and finally, what they learned after reading and discussion. This process promotes connecting prior knowledge to new information, which leads to effective learning. Charting these understandings helps students to engage in the process of reading to learn. Also, teachers must have a clear understanding of what needs to be learned about a topic, because in many instances students have difficulty identifying what they want to learn due to limited understanding of the topic. These student and teacher understandings before reading influence the teaching that will occur.

Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39 (6), 564-570.

Are you ready to incorporate discipline literacy strategies into your curriculum? Learn how with Reading and Writing in the Disciplines. – See more at: http://learnerlog.org/socialstudies/how-does-discipline-literacy-differ-from-content-area-literacy/?preview=true&preview_id=3168&preview_nonce=8d8bf65a26#sthash.6JEXI13f.dpuf

Are you ready to incorporate discipline literacy strategies into your curriculum? Learn how with Reading & Writing in the Disciplines

Read part 1 of this blog series on discipline literacy: “How Does Discipline Literacy Differ from Content-area Literacy?” and part 2: “Literacy in the 21st Century.”

Caught Reading: Measuring Penny

Engaging students in measuring objects and space around us is active and fun! Remember, measuring is always doing – and we all measure, all the time. Consider how often you hear questions that start like this:

Lauradaughterreading

My daughter and I recently got caught reading Measuring Penny. While reading, we talked about how we measure qualities of the world every day, including length, volume, and time.

How much…

When will it be time to…

How big…

Will this fit…

Do I have enough…

How old…

Is this too much…

How do these compare…

We ask these kinds of questions every day at home, at school, at work, at the store, on the bus, and at the park. Be sure to tell your students how answering these kinds of questions involves mathematical thinking and increases our reasoning and analytical skills. Use examples and point out the connections between investigation, measurement, and number.

While measurement is often viewed as a matter of procedure, there’s really more to it. Think about what features of certain objects and spaces are measurable, and why we even care about size and scale. Think about comparisons. Think about magnitude. Think about precision and estimation; whole units and parts. All of these ideas are fundamentally related to measurement, and contribute in important ways to our awareness of and actions in the world.

Determining the amount, size, or degree of something is necessary and useful. This is clearly illustrated in Loreen Leedy’s Measuring Penny. In this story, Lisa learns a lot about her dog, Penny, by measuring. Lisa measures Penny’s height, compares Penny’s weight to other dogs’ weight, considers how much food and water Penny needs every day, and calculates how fast Penny runs. Lisa is identifying many different measurable attributes of Penny and being her care-taker. She uses different tools and both standard and non-standard units to measure and explore. She is deepening her understanding of quantities and number and enriching her perspectives on her special pal, Penny, and what it means to take care of a pet. Illustrations in the book show us how to measure and why measuring can be so powerful!

Consider using books like this in your classroom. Be sure to highlight these big ideas related to measurement that help us bring conceptual understanding and procedural understanding together.

Big Idea #1: Identifying, describing, and comparing measurable attributes of objects around us helps us make sense of everyday life.

Big Idea #2: Specific techniques, tools, and formulas are used to determine measurements.

Measure and explore with your students, and share your thoughts and reactions in the comment section below. Tell us how you develop understanding of measurement in your work with children.

For additional ideas and materials on this topic, check out

Annenberg Learner’s Learning Math: Measurement for K-8 teachers

Eames Powers of Ten