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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Math | Language Arts Reading | Language Arts Writing

Math Test

One of the greatest challenges for students is identifying how to solve a problem. Unfortunately, students often do not read the problem carefully. These ideas will help students to develop comprehension and reasoning skills.

Have students read problems out loud and then restate the problems in their own words. This will help students recognize concepts such as combining amounts (adding), finding differences (subtracting), combining like amounts many times (multiplication), and cutting into equal pieces (dividing). Before they solve a problem, have students identify the operation that they will use and give their reasons. Have pairs of students do this, taking turns in identifying the operation and defending their decisions.

Students may be confused by conceptual questions that focus on the problem-solving process. They need a great deal of exposure to these types of questions in order to become comfortable and proficient with them.

Work with conceptual questions by giving students problems similar to the example with follows-without the multiple-choice options. Have them write expressions to represent the problems and then compare and discuss their answers. Then give them multiple-choice problems with the answers included.

    Cassandra has decided to carpet her living room. Her living room is 12 feet wide and 14 feet long. Which of the following expressions could Cassandra use to determine the amount of carpet she will need?
    1. 142
    2. 14 x 12/2
    3. 2(12) + 2(14)
    4. 14 x 12
    5. x 13 x 1

    Cassandra needs to know the area of her living room. Since her living room is a rectangle, she will need to substitute the length and width in the formula for area of a rectangle. You can use the formula: A=l x w = 14 x 12.

Brainstorm with students about the ways they use math in their lives. Have them identify key areas that would be easier if they had stronger math skills. Use these particular areas as a springboard for reaching new problem-solving skills, such as determining whether there is sufficient information to answer a question or applying a formula to solve a real-world problem.

When teaching calculator skills to students, start with some examples for which students already know the answers. This will help them focus on using the calculator correctly. Once they are proficient with the calculator, they are ready to apply their skills to new problems.

When working with students on positive and negative integers, remind them that they must first enter the number before they can change the number from a positive to a negative. The calculator cannot perform a function on a number that is not there.

It is important for students to have ample practice with grids. Provide problems for students to solve. Have them fill in standard grids and then choose the correct answer for multiple-choice options. This will help them with both their problem-solving and gridding skills.

To help students gain confidence in using the standard grid, start by giving them a variety of numbers to grid. Check to see that students are aligning the bubbles with the numbers written in the top row of the grid. This will help students remember to not only bubble in the answer, but also to write it on the top row. After students have gained confidence in basic bubbling techniques, have them solve a variety of problems and grid their responses.


Language Arts Reading Test

Because the purpose question is set above the passage, it may look like a title. Have your students read the purpose question and the passage. Then ask them to answer the purpose question. This will help them learn to use the purpose question as intended.


Language Arts Writing Test

One of the greatest challenges for students is to choose the option "no correction is necessary." Provide students with lists of sentences, including ones that are correct and ones that have errors. Have students read them aloud and identify the reason(s) wy the sentences are either correct or incorrect.

Students need to get used to the format of revision items. These items always state, "If the original is the best way, choose option (1)." Provide students with practice questions in which the original sentence is correct. Help them test the incorrect alternatives to figure out why they are incorrect.

Provide students with sample sentences and paragraphs to rewrite. Have them make the sentences less wordy, more active, and clearer in meaning.

Also provide students with longer passages, based on documents such as business letters and short articles. Move sentences out of place, and challenge students to figure out which sentences are misplaced and where they should go.

Help students see how Construction Shift items draw on these kinds of activities. Make sure they can recognize the editing activities embedded in the Construction Shift formats. Emphasize that in Construction Shift items, there are improving the writing-not correcting errors.

Take material from a local newspaper and retype it without paragraph breaks. Divide the students into groups of three or four. Have each group identify where they would divide the text. Have each group share their recommendation with the rest of the class. If there are differences of opinion among the groups, discuss them. When all groups have presented their text divisions, compare them with the way the text was originally divided by the editorial staff of the newspaper.

Help students identify effective topic sentences for paragraphs. Give students three to four paragraphs with the topic sentences removed. Next, provide students with four to six possible topic sentences. Have the students match the correct topic sentence to each paragraph. Debrief the activity by having students discuss their reasons for choosing particular topic sentences.

Teaching tip for unity: Give students paragraphs containing tangential ideas. Have students locate the topic sentence or main idea of a paragraph. Then ask, Does each sentence in the paragraph support the topic sentence with details? If a sentence does not support the topic, it should be deleted.

Teaching tip for coherence: Give students paragraphs in which one sentence is out of order. First, have them read the paragraph aloud. Then ask, How could you move one sentence in this paragraph to improve the order or flow of ideas? Read the paragraph aloud with several different changes and compare them.

Have Students use the following editing strategies to check for correct parallelism:

Quickly read your paper and pause each time you see the word "and" or "or." Check on each side of the word to see whether the items joined are parallel. If not, make them parallel.

If you have several items in a list, put them in a column to see whether they are parallel.

Listen to the sound of the items in a list or the items being compared. Do you hear the same kinds of sounds? For example, is there a series of -ing words beginning each item? Or do you hear a rhythm being repeated? If something is breaking that rhythm or repetition of sound, check to see if it needs to be made parallel.

Have students read sentences containing usage errors aloud. Often students will say, "That doesn't sound right." Reading aloud helps them to catch errors that they would not find through silent reading.

Don't use commas as breath marks. Although commas determine where a reader might pause, the reverse is not true. A reader's pauses do not determine comma placement.

Beginning with sentences that are correctly punctuated, have students read sentences aloud. Discuss how the punctuation is related to the sound of the sentence. Then try some example sentences that have the punctuation removed.

You can also use this strategy to help students edit their own writing. Have them read their writing aloud one sentence at a time. Discuss how they have used commas in relation to how the sentences sound.