# Students Celebrate Their Supporters

Students’ writing improves when they write for an audience. When you find them an audience that is close to home and a situation that is meaningful, there are many reasons for them to get the writing right. If you make it safe for them to write (e.g., don’t bring out the grammar hatchet), not only will they make art (reflect, express and polish), they will display it for immediate feedback.

In this activity, to honour and thank those who support them in coming back to school, students will consolidate and formalize part of their support system, and supporters will not only strengthen their commitment to supporting their student, but they will forge a connection with the literacy/ABE/GED program itself. Continue reading

# Fractions on Your Feet

When students can match 1/4 with 25% with .25, you know they have some understanding of the value of each.

When they go on to the much more difficult matching of 79/1000 with 7.9% and .079, you know their understanding has deepened.

When you ask for an explanation of their work and they don’t start and end with “Move the decimal to the left two spaces,” you know they are on to something!

Here’s a social math activity that extends the skill practice exercises in the workbook and online. A fuller explanation and all materials needed can be found on page 92 here in Changing the Way We Teach Math. Continue reading

# Matching Exercises: Off the Page

If you’re a kid who can’t sit still, you get into a lot of trouble in elementary school. Kids like that often drop out, or fail to graduate with the classes and grades required for further training. To catch themselves up, they come back to adult literacy, ABE and GED programs, but they are still people who have a hard time sitting still!

Unfortunately for them, and for us who teach them, the cheapest and most readily available material for adult students often requires a lot of sitting still in front of a workbook of some kind or in front of a screen. Continue reading

# The Period and the Sentence

How do you know where to put the period? Use your brain. Use your ears. Use your whole body.

The period is near the top of the list of mechanical things to teach when you’re working with beginning writers. But However, it’s hard for students to grasp the idea of putting a period “at the end of a sentence” when they don’t have much of a grasp of what a sentence is.

# Language Experience Approach

If I’m using LEA, I’m secretly glad that I get to teach periods from the start, Continue reading

# To, Two and Too

When I’m looking for something to do on Monday, I don’t want to see something that says, “Teach ‘to,’ ‘too,’ and ‘two’ by examining meaning and pronunciation, and find kinesthetic and auditory hooks to help learners remember the spelling.” I want details, details, details. So I’ve written lots of details today.

Here is a lesson I have taught many times, to help students understand and remember the spelling of “to,” “too,” and “two.”

These three are called homonyms in every book or app that I have seen, but in my part of the English-speaking world, they are not all pronounced the same way. “To” is usually shortened in speech to “t’ ”  a “t” sound and a very little “uh” or schwa sound after it.

I like this lesson because it’s a new take on an old topic, because students collect and analyze the data and come up with the rules instead of me giving them out, because it involves a fair amount of moving around and fun, because it involves exploring the language, and finally because it offers the students some physical and auditory hooks to remember these three words, in addition to the usual meaning-based distinctions. Continue reading

The other day I talked about Human Digits, and today I’ll talk about a similar kind of activity for reading class, a sequencing exercise taken off the page into the middle of the room.

I often do this activity with groups of ABE instructors or literacy tutors; for them I choose a scene from Pride and Prejudice. I prepare by typing up the scene I have chosen, with lots of space between the paragraphs, and cut between the paragraphs. For every seven people in the session I’m planning, I need one set of paragraphs (see picture).

I divide them into groups of seven, give them the paragraphs, face down, and ask each person to choose one. I ask them to hang on to their paragraph and never give it to anyone else, and never lay it on the table. Continue reading

# Human Digits

Pick a digit. Pick your favorite digit–any one you want, from the pile on the table.” That’s how the “human digits” activity starts. It’s another social math activity, this one to teach place value, and to practice reading big numbers.

## Make a Safer Space

I know I’m going to ask people to get themselves into groups, and some people will hang back and wait to be invited to join a group, which is stressful, and others will be nervous about being on their feet and not knowing what I have in store for them. So I put some energy into making the space more comfortable for everyone. Continue reading

# Make Math Social

This lovely video shows Elana Feder and her GED class doing a social math activity about Positive and Negative Numbers.

# Yahtzee

We rarely know how far our work goes, but once I got a glimpse—

I was working with some parents on producing a manual of family math activities (Family Math Fun!). We met twice a week for 11 weeks.

Jeannie (not her real name) only came to the first session, where I showed the group how to play Yahtzee, and gave them all dice and score cards to take home. We played a few rounds so that everyone got familiar with the game.

As the project came to a close a few months later, I asked all the participants to come in for a final interview, and Jeannie was happy to come.

Since she had attended only one session, I did not expect her to have got much benefit from the group, but I simply asked my first question, “Has coming to this group made any changes in your life?” She answered with a decisive yes.

She said that she and her husband got along better, as did the kids. “We have better communication. I see my daughters helping each other with school math by using a ruler or calendar, explaining, not just giving the answer.”