Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Literacy in Mathematics

When I first became a teacher, I did not understand the importance of literacy in math. However, after taking a graduate course on it, I now realize the utter need to teach our students how to be literate in our content areas.

When most people hear math, they do not think of reading and writing. In fact, I was the only math teacher in that course and I constantly got, "This must be so hard for you. The strategies are easy to use for me because I teach _______ (insert some humanities course here). I don't know how you can have students read and write in math."

Well, I do. I figured it out.

Here are some effective strategies to promote literacy in mathematics.

Response Logs/Journals
Journals not only help students, but they also really help teachers. Journals can be used in many ways. A way that I like is to have students keep a response log. After a lesson, activities, etc., students can take out their journal and write. They can write about what they liked most, how they best learn, what confused them, what they are unsure of, what they still have questions about, etc. That way, when the teacher reads the journals, he/she knows how his/her lesson went.  They will understand what they did well as a teacher and what they need to fix. They will also know where the misconceptions/issues are now before a test instead of students doing poorly and then finding out. It helps the teacher plan appropriately so the students get the most meaningful lessons. The teacher can respond in the journal for the students to read. This is a great alternative for the student who does not want to raise their hand and ask questions in front of the whole class.

How Do Response Logs Improve Literacy Skills in Students?
Students play an active role in the learning process. They sit down and think about how they have learned a topic and set goals. This allows students to understand where they want to be with a topic. This benefits students also because it helps a teacher realize where instruction needs to be adjusted to meet the needs of their students by actually reading and listening to where students want to improve. Writing about thought process helps students become deeper thinkers and writers. Teachers provide feedback to students on where they are doing well as well as suggestions on how they can improve. The feedback is personalized to each student, not the class as a whole. Specifc instruction to a student can benefit their learning. Teachers get to better understand how their students learn and can create lessons that accommodate the learning styles of their students. Also, the teacher will know where there are misconceptions so areas can be revisited and mastered instead of waiting until a test or quiz to realize students do not understand something.

Things That Could Be Included in Math Response Log Entries:
·        Examples of problems to show understanding of a concept
·        Creating/writing word problems to show understanding
·        Predictions about a topic before it is taught
·        Definitions of key vocabulary
·       Descriptions or explanations of how a problem is solved including diagrams/drawings
·        Justification of a solution to a problem
·        Summary of the day’s lesson

·        Reflection on the student’s own understanding and the questions that may still exist.

Frayer Model
The Frayer Model is a great way for students to learn vocabulary words in any discipline, not just math. However, this is very effective in math because students get to be organized. They get to define a word, draw a picture or list characteristics, provide examples and non-examples. The great thing about providing non-examples is that students often struggle to understand what a word means even when they see examples. However, helping them understand what is NOT that word, helps them better understand what is that word. This is also an easy reference for students. Students do not have to search through a long page of notes to find a word. They now have this very well organized paper that they can easily find to refer back to.

How Do Students Benefit From Using the Frayer Model?

This organizer helps students identify and understand unknown vocabulary words or concepts. It promotes critical thinking. The Frayer Model draws on the prior knowledge of students and helps them build on it and make connections between the two. It serves as a visual reference for which students can learn a concept or compare examples and non-examples of it. Students benefit from providing something that is an example of it and something that is not an example. It helps them better understand the word or concept and easily identify other things that can be defined as such word or concept.

Cornell Note Taking
The Cornell Note Taking Strategy is a very organized note taking template/strategy. The notes are broken up into three categories: notes, main ideas/questions, and summary. Students record their notes during class/reading in the notes section. Later on, they go to the main ideas/questiosn column and fill in the important questions that could be asked or main points from their notes. Further, they go to the summary section and pull out everything they feel is important and summarize there. Not only does this help students organize their long notes into sections with important information, but it also can serve as a study guide.

How Does Cornell Note Taking Aid in Reading Comprehension?
This method helps students recognize and mark the important information in the text.
It helps the student recognize the main idea of important themes in the text.
Students often just write down everything and then have long messy notes. However, this strategy requires students to go back, pull out just the important information, and reorganize it in a neat and easy to read manner.
Student gains control and become more efficient in the learning process.
This strategy can help move students from passive readers to active readers.
It links thinking and comprehension which results in long term learning.
Helps a student become a better reader.
Good note taking forces interacting with the text.

Setting Up The Paper/What the Template Looks Like
Take a standard 8.5"x11" paper. Draw an 8"  vertical line leaving about 2.5" on the left and 6" on the right. Then draw a horizontal line leaving the bottom section 8.5" wide and 3" tall.

How to Take Notes
The note system takes on 5 R's.
Record: The first R is record. Students are to take down as many key ideas or facts as possible during the lecture in the right hand column. They should skip lines between ideas. Abbreviation is encouraged.
Reduce: The second R is reduce. After the class, but in a timely manner, students are to take all of those key ideas and facts and reduce them into questions on what is most important  and record that in the left column. They should then summarize the key ideas in the bottom summary section. Summarizing will help them make connections between the facts and to remember them as well.
Recite: The third R is recite. Students should cover up the right column and just use the questions and ideas in the left column to state the facts as fully as they can in their own words showing comprehension. Then, they can uncover the right column to check what they have said. This process helps transfer the information into their long term memory.
Reflect: The fourth R is reflect. Students should look at their notes from each lesson for a topic and try and reflect on what the main ideas or themes are make connections to each lesson. They can take all of the recall columns, left columns, and look them over together and try to determine the themes.
Review: The last R is review. Students should look over their notes. If students commit ten minutes a week, then they will retain most of what they have learned. This will also help assist them in being prepared for the final exam. If they study throughout the unit and don't

There are many more effective strategies that I will continue to write about!

Thanks for reading,


Literacy & Math Ideas said...

Hi Jenna,

This is a very helpful blog post. Thank you very much for sharing it. Integrating literacy in mathematics is very helpful.

Literacy and Math Ideas

Math Giraffe said...

This is so important! :) Thanks for sharing how you do this in your classroom. I love to get them reading, writing, and explaining in math class!!