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Fractions Vocabulary and FREEBIES

Teacher inquiry is something that teachers are always doing throughout their teaching careers.  It is also known as action research.  We get a "wondering" and we turn our wondering into a question and try something new with our students to answer that question.  It is something that all good teachers are constantly doing in their classrooms to improve the learning of their students.  I happen to be doing some action research as part of an assignment I am doing for my Galileo Leadership Consortium.

I am exploring "academic vocabulary" as part of my inquiry project.  My focus is on math vocabulary, and even more specifically, the vocabulary words associated with fractions.  I want to find out the effect that daily, focused vocabulary instruction will have upon my students understanding of the words and their conceptual understanding of fractions.  Before I began, I had to determine what "focused vocabulary instruction" would look like in MY classroom with MY students.   All of my research led me to Robert Marzano's work with vocabulary instruction.  He has developed a systemic approach to introducing new vocabulary that works well with all ages of students.  This is the process (in a nutshell):
  1. Introduce the word (brief explanation, including examples and modeling by teacher)
  2. Students restate the description, explanation, examples in their own words (preferably in a vocabulary notebook)
  3. Students construct a picture, symbol or other non-linguistic representation (also done in their vocab notebook)
  4. Engage students in activities that help them to further their understanding of the words
  5. Students have regular opportunities to discuss the words
  6. Students play games with the words
I put together a vocabulary notebook for my students to record their vocabulary words and record their thinking about the words.  You can download the page HERE for free.

 Students keep their notebooks with them throughout our math period and are welcome to add-on or revise their thinking at any time, as their understanding of the concepts further develop.

Throughout the week, I give students lots of opportunities to discuss and "play" with the words, by asking open-ended, guided-inquiry questions.  I have found that through these discussions and activities, the students often have new insights about the words.  I choose word and activities that coincide with the lessons that I plan to teach that week.

Here are some worksheets I have prepared to further their thinking about our fraction words.  You may download these HERE and HERE.  Concept Wheels and Analogy activities are among our favorites!


 I have also made a vocabulary word wall, using the free word wall cards from HERE  and vocabulary flash cards, which we use for various games (such as Vocabulary Pictionary and Word Sorting).  You can download them for free HERE.

Here is a Scoot Game that I created to help students to further explore the idea of "One Whole Unit" and "Fractions Greater Than 1."  Download the 24 Cards and Answer Sheet HERE.

I am learning so much about how to teach vocabulary!  The students love these activities and are learning so much.  I have come to think about the vocabulary words as the "table legs" of our conceptual understanding.  The words of  "fractions" are the foundation for which students will deepen their learning.....and their learning has deepened!!  Students are talking the talk and walking the walk.  They use the words in their discussions and in their math work, and they can use the words in a variety of contexts. 

This has been such a huge "a-ha" for me that I will begin incorporate these techniques into all areas of our curriculum.  I know that you are thinking....when, when, when can I fit this in with everything else that I have to teach???!!!  I spend only an additional 15 minutes on these activities...and I don't necessarily do it every day.  But I've found that it blends right in with our daily lessons, so its not really "extra time".  Also, since this focused vocabulary instruction has given students a strong conceptual understanding, we actually spend less time during our regular lessons dealing with confusions and misunderstandings.  Trust me...even if it takes a bit of extra is well worth it.  Marzano has been saying it for years....but I had to see for myself!! 

I hope you give this a try in your classroom.  I will continue to post any new vocabulary activities that I create for my students, so that you can try this too, without reinventing the wheel. I suggest trying this method with just one unit in your math (or other subject) curriculum and then add on a little at a time.  

If you are interested in exploring direction instruction of vocabulary instruction, here are some resources that you will find very, very helpful:

Love and peace,

Help for Struggling Writers

We recently completed our unit on Essay Writing, and for the most part it was successful!   The objective of this unit was for students to understand and use a 4-paragraph organizational structure to support their opinion on a "big idea."  You know....Common Core stuff.

I also wanted students to use this structure to write several essays, so that they had enough practice to become fluent essay writers.  This happened....with about 98% of my third graders.

The "essay" organizational structure is a big one and students will be assessed on their ability to use this structure over and over again throughout their school career.  By "essay organizational structure" I am talking about "Intro Paragraph - Supporting Paragraph - Supporting Paragraph - Conclusion".  They NEED to be able to do this, without being told, EVERY time they put pencil to paper to write on a prompted topic.  I know I am over-simplifying a bit, but the truth is...if they can do this, they have won half the battle. 

In our district their first big writing assessment happens in fourth grade (the state writing assessment).  Our students flop on this year after year, and of course, I blame myself personally for this failure since I was their third grade teacher. So for the past two years, I have worked really hard to find ways to teach this skill in a way that students understand and can put into practice.  "Chunking" my instruction has been extremely helpful in teaching how to write an organized essay.  I put together these graphic organizers for the specific purpose of showing students how to write an essay, bit by bit.

As I stated, this worked GREAT for most of my students!


I had about 3 kiddos that just didn't get all.  I worked with them rigorously throughout the unit, conferring and one-on-one-ing like crazy with these little ones, but they still didn't get it.  This factoid left me with a giant pit in my stomach.  If you are like me, your failures are way more shiny than your successes.  I knew I needed to do something for these struggling writers.

I decided to come up with an intervention plan for these students to help bring them up to speed on organizing an essay.  I put together a very simple packet, that they now work on as part of their nightly homework.  I had a conference with the parents of these students, and those parents enthusiastically agreed to help and support their child with this initiative.  However, it could also be done during the school day, since it is pretty simple.

Students begin the week by receiving a prompted topic and then completing a very basic graphic organizer to organize their ideas around the topic.

Then, they spend one (or more if needed) day writing each part of the essay:  the introduction paragraph, two supporting paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.

These reference sheets help them to see the "big" picture of their essay and gives them some sentence starters for each section (since I have found that my struggling writers don't know how to start).

After they write out each section, they write out the whole thing on notebook paper and spend some time checking over their work using a checklist:

At that point, they could (or not) write out their essay in a final copy format.

The next week....wash.....rinse.......repeat.  Students work with a new topic each week.  This repetition has really helped my struggling writers to understand the organizational structure of an essay, while also giving them some much needed practice with their overall writing skills.   They are actually beginning to get it and they have definitely shown improvement in their writing.

Improved learning....that is truly the important thing...and why I do what I do!!


This has also given me some"evidence" to add to my teacher data notebook.  Let's face it...when your principal asks you during your post-evaluation chat, "So, what did you do when they didn't get it?"  You need to have your butt covered!!  I will have a whole lot of evidence to show that I responded to my struggling writers with an effective intervention!!

If you are looking for an intervention program for your writers who just don't get how to organize and write an opinion may want to check it out.  It includes 18 different writing prompts with graphic organizers (enough to last the whole year if needed).

I also created one for informational writing.  They are both available in a bundle.

Love and peace,