Resources and Tools for Elementary Math Specialists and Teachers
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Building Classroom Culture

Why is building classroom culture important?

The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics set an expectation that students will begin to develop expertise with the eight Mathematical Practices early in elementary school. A safe and supportive classroom environment will allow students to acquire these practice skills while learning mathematical concepts. This collection includes several videos demonstrating techniques teachers can use to build a supportive classroom culture as well as materials and suggestions that support the development of a community of learners.

Videos showing classroom culture

You will watch third grade teacher Jennifer Saul as she demonstrates the routines she uses to engage and support her students as they take time to think, share ideas with others, explain and justify their solutions, and perform mental tasks. Observe the students as they use hand signals to indicate when they’re thinking and when they’re ready to answer. Another short video introduces Dale Eilers, who describes her quick and easy “fist to five” method for gathering feedback.

You’ll also view Chris Opitz and his fifth grade class as they work together to build a community of learners who listen, question, and respect one another while engaging in interesting mathematical problems. Mr. Opitz shares the materials he uses to help students develop the interpersonal skills they need in order to participate fully in their mathematics classes. You’ll be able to choose and use resources that meet the needs of your own students.

Strategies for the classroom

When students feel comfortable about taking their time and trying alternate paths to find solutions, they will develop habits that contribute to their future success in mathematics. This collection includes resources describing cooperative learning strategies and management strategies that can be used to support the development of the mathematical practices. Three blog entries describe a simple math tool kit that you can provide for each student to use as needed.

Creating a classroom climate in which children collaborate and show respect for contributions made by other students takes time and effort. Working with children to help them attain the social and emotional skills necessary for engaging in mathematical tasks and interacting with other students as they work is essential in all classrooms, and teachers find that this is time well spent in terms of future success. The resources presented in this collection provide materials and suggestions for building a classroom culture in which all students have these opportunities.

Created:04-12-2012 by bethb
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Created:04-16-2012 by path
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Created:09-27-2012 by bethb
Last Post:09-27-2012 by bethb

Resource Title/Description

This six-minute video, the first in a series displaying the math teaching techniques of third grade teacher Jen Saul, is an overview of her routines for energizing students, teaching facts and mental math, solving problems and giving individual attention. Other films are cataloged separately.
In this 9-minute downloadable video, master teacher Chris Opitz demonstrates and explains strategies for developing the social and emotional skills of his students within his daily math lessons. This video is included in the article, Cooperative Learning Fits into the Calculation, cataloged separately.
In this article master teacher Chris Opitz explains how he incorporates social and emotional learning into his daily math lessons. He provides PDF files of his overall plan, lesson plans, procedures, rubrics, and other resources he has created. The article includes a video, How to Teach Math as a Social Activity, cataloged separately.
In this 2-minute video third grade teacher Jean Saul explains and models the use of silent signals to promote active listening and participation in math class. Questions for teacher reflection are included.
In this 1-minute video teacher Dale Eilers describes how she gathers informal feedback after a lesson using a 0-5 scale, represented by fingers. Her prompt might elicit students' comfort level with the content of a lesson or their social/emotional status.
This article offers advice to educators on developing learners' collaboration skills through problem solving. The author presents six categories of tasks, each of which addresses a set of teamwork skills (e.g. listening, sharing, reflecting) and includes several tasks which could serve as the vehicle. Links to the tasks, printable materials, and other resources are included.
This webpage contains links to information on how to promote cooperative learning in the classroom, much of it based on the work of Dr. Spencer Kagan. Laura provides suggestions on creating a caring classroom and teaching social skills. She offers strategies, sample structures, and printables that support the management of cooperative learning.
This webpage contains links to information on effective classroom management strategies. Laura provides suggestions on developing and managing teams as well as building whole class community. She includes printables that support her management strategies.
On this page of her blog, "Focus on Math: Helping children become mathematicians!," Carollee Norris describes how she begins and develops math toolkits in order to provide her students with materials that help foster power and independence. In followup posts (cataloged separately) she details the contents of the toolkits.
On this page of her blog, "Focus on Math: Helping children become mathematicians!," Carollee Norris details the contents of math toolkits common to grades 1-7. A previous post provides background on the kits, and a followup post describes additional tools for the kits specific to grade bands; both of these posts are cataloged separately.
On this page of her blog, "Focus on Math: Helping children become mathematicians!," Carollee Norris lists additional contents of math toolkits specific to two grade bands: Primary (gr 1-3) and Intermediate (gr 4-7). Previous posts provide background on the kits and a list of tools common to grades 1-7; both posts are cataloged separately.