The Fundamental Five – my take on this book

When we checked out at the end of the year, we were given the task of reading the book: “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction” by Sean Cain and Mike Laird. Image I’ll be honest,  I wasn’t really looking forward to reading this over the summer, and so I left it until this last week of my summer.  But I did read it before my meeting Monday morning.  I was actually quite surprised by what I read and plan to implement the “Fundamental 5” in my classroom this year (to the best of my ability).  So I want to list out what the Fundamental 5 are to share with you and so I can put into words what I am planning to do in my classroom.

The Fundamental Five practices are:

  1. Frame the Lesson
  2. Work in the Power Zone
  3. Frequent, Small-Group, Purposeful Talk about the learning
  4. Recognize and Reinforce
  5. Write Critically

Framing the lesson is where we deliberately state the learning objective at the beginning of the lesson in a concrete, student-friendly language in the form of a “we will” statement.  Then end the lesson with a closing question, product, or task that is in the same form but as an “I will” statement.  They ended the chapter describing the lesson frame as an Oreo cookie.  The two objective statements are the chocolate cookie and the great instruction and fun we have in class is the yummy filling.

Working in the power zone is probably the most known to all teachers.  Proximity.  But not just proximity to manage behavior, but to be close to where the learning is happening.  There are three focuses in this, first is to remain in close proximity to one or more students in excess of 75% of the class period.  Second, is to purposefully arrange the classroom to facilitate teacher movement.  Finally, limit or remove teacher distractions (easier said than done, right).

Frequent, small-group, purposeful talk about the learning is the next part of the Fundamental Five.  Here we are encouraged to stop talking/teaching every ten to fifteen minutes and have groups of two to four students briefly discuss a questions related to the previous instruction or activity.  Use question stems to guide the discussion.  I am looking forward the the student retention part of this.  They say that when the students have to time to debrief with a peer, those who didn’t get it, will have a better chance of getting it now.  

The recognize and reinforce chapter was not as long as the previous one on the small groups, but it was full of information that I am still trying to filter for myself.  There are many aspects to this thought.  We can recognize and reinforce the academics, social or behavioral lives of the students.  The main thing I need to focus on is being intentional to recognize and reinforce as many aspects that I can, not just those that are extremely obvious, such as honor rolls or perfect behavior, but those who improve and really try hard.  One statement in the book was this, “Reinforcing effort can help teach students one of the most valuable lessons they can learn – the harder you try, the more successful you are.”

Finally, the last of the five is to write critically.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a math teacher and this does not come easily to me.  I agree and believe that students should write in all areas including math, but again, for me to remember to include it all the time and to make it meaningful to my students (and me) is that hard part.  Some of the things that caught my attention about this is that writing critically increased the amount of material that can be recalled by the learner.  It also allows the teacher to stretch the rigor of any lesson.  These are two things that I want to do in my class, so I will work on it and try it this year. 

I am now glad that I read this book.  I am looking forward to this year and I am going to try all of this to help my students be more successful than ever.  It’s a little scary, change always is, so all I can do is be intentional in my lessons every day and see what happens.



MS Sunday Funday – Goals for the new year…

This will be the third year that I am in my classroom and I am lucky to have a campus that did not require me to take all my posters down, so that is still the same.  I am adding a few things to the walls.  The main thing I am changing is the desk arrangements.  I have been so crowded in my classroom depending on how I arrange my student’s desks, so I had to make some sacrifices and get rid of a table and an old student computer (that didn’t really work anyway.)  I am trying to make more room so the students and I can move around more.  This will help me be in the Power Zone and more accessible to the students as we are learning.  I haven’t taken pictures yet as I am still trying to decide on how to arrange it all.  Do I put the desks in groups (really takes up a lot of room, but good for group work) or have them in rows.  I like this the best, but need to see what my new principal expects.

My Goals for this year?  My main goal to increase student retention.  I have felt in the past that I do well teaching the concepts to them, and they do well when I quiz them over the material but later in the year they don’t remember well enough to master the state assessment.  A book that my campus read over the summer has inspired me about this and I will be writing a separate blog about that in the next day or two.  Some other goals I have is to keep up with absent student work and to just be more organized, period.  I am a hoarder and stacker.  I usually have so many stacks of paper in my room that you cannot even see my desk.  My goal here is to trash (recycle) when I no longer need it.

Finally, this will be my first year to have a student teacher.  I hope that I can help him in any way that I can, but also be willing to relinquish control of my classroom and students when the time comes (I take their learning very personally.)  If you have had a student teacher before and can give me advice, I would greatly appreciate it.

Interactive Notebook for Math Class


This week’s post is about the Interactive Notebook.  I have been doing some form of an interactive notebook for 4 years now.  I started it when I was teaching 7th grade math and now that I teach 5th grade math, I brought the idea with me.  My whole reason for having my students keep a notebook is so they can refer back to it later in their school career to help them.  I have had many students come back to tell me that they have used their notebook that we made in my class to help them remember lessons so they can be successful in their new class.I am realistic and know that not all of my students will keep up with them, but if a few do and it helps them, then that is all I can hope for.

I use the spiral, mainly because that is what my school has listed on the school supply list.  It specifically says they need a 3-5 subject spiral for “Math”.  So we will use it.  In the past we have taken notes in it, put in foldables,  and kept a TOC.  It was a very basic notebook. 

This summer I have been looking into how to make it better.  I have spoken with other math teachers in my district and now I have found so many online and have gotten a ton of ideas.

Here is what I am going to try to implement this year…

1) Since we use the spirals, and the covers do like to fall off after so much use, I am going to have the students decorate their cover with pictures or drawings or whatever they want.  The thought here is that they make it special to them so they take better care of it.  Then we will use clear packing tape and tape it all up to make it a little more sturdy.  We’ll see if this works or not, but I have seen other teachers use this and it was still in tack at the end of the year.

2) We also use the front and back of the covers to put the STAAR Reference Material.

3) The very first page of the notebook is used as an Author’s Page.  Another place for them to make it their own and tell a little more about themselves. 

4) Next will be the Table of Contents.  I am not great about remembering to update this, so I usually find a student who is and give them the task of reminding me to update the TOC.  They love to tell the teacher what to do. 

5) When we take notes, I use the two-column Cornell note style.  At the top of the page we give it a title and then write the student expectation out  as an “I will” statement.  I use most of the words from the TEKS and tell them upfront that this is what is expected of them to be successful in math class.  This cuts out the “why do we have to learn this.”  We then do vocabulary and example problems in our notes.  This year we plan to also put a sample test problem (word problem) at the end of our notes so that when it is time for them to study they will have a test question that is in the correct format.

6) On the LHP we will have them work more problems, write questions, ect.  This page is not one I have done well with in the past and I am glad to see so many suggestions out there. 

7) I plan on grading the INB this year.  I want to hold them more accountable that I have in the past.  I have gotten a few grading rubrics that other teachers use.  If I can figure out how to put those documents on here, I will.

8) Finally, I have got some new ideas that I plan on using from the Video Conference on Tuesday.  I really liked the pocket and using tabs.

Keeping up with them….

This is my first time to do anything for Made4Math


As I have been looking around Pinterest I found something that I really liked.   It was a way to keep up with where your students are.  I will have four different classes of up to 32 students per class.  I keep a seating chart and everything for attendance, but when we get started in class we are not always in our seats and if someone asks to go somewhere, I would look around to see who was gone (I try to only have one out at a time if at all possible).  If I train them well, they will use this board to help me know who is where. 


The plan is to start each class with the numbers to the side of the board (I will use magnets to place this on my board).  As students enter, they will move their number to the “In the Room” section.  If at some point during class they need to leave, they will move their number to the correct spot.  Then if someone else asks to go, I will be able to look quickly to see who is out.  I don’t expect to know which student goes with the numbers off the top of my head, but I will have a chart (probably in my gradebook) to make that connection if needed.  When they return, they will then put their number back in to the room area.  This will also help during drills (fire, shelter in place, etc.) 

I already had the dry erase board and duct tape.  I just bought magnets and a paint marker to make the numbers.  Which was less than $10 total with my teacher discount at Michael’s. 

If this works or not, we’ll see. 

MS Sunday Funday #1

1st Day/1st Week Activities….

One thing I have done in the past few years is an activity I got from an AVID training.  It’s a comment/question card.  (I will have to take a picture of it when I get back to my classroom and add that later.)  It has a table that has eight blocks.  Four for the student to write in, and four for me.  Their section is for them to write a comment or question to me, while my section is to respond to their comment or question.

I use this for the first four days of school.  Each day at the end of class, I ask the students to write me a question or comment.  I respond that evening to each one and return in the next day.  This does put a lot of work on my part that first week of school, but I don’t mind.  I don’t bring that much home during the rest of the year and this one week of work is very beneficial to me for the rest of t

he year.  The students love this because I get to know them and they get to know me.  Many of them want to continue it after the first week 🙂

Feedback Form

This is the place where the students and teacher write to each other.

Name Plate

Set this on the desk to see their names.

There is a second reason for this activity.  I print it on card-stock and have the students fold it in half vertically to make a name plate to help me learn their names that first week also.  They have it sitting on their desk during class so that I can see their names as we are working each day.  By the end of the first week, I know most of their names and something about them.

For their name plate, I ask them to write their first name very large across the side of the page so that I can see it from across the room.  Then I ask them to give me a few things on this that will also help me get to know them.  In the top corner of the name plate I ask them to rate themselves as mathematicians (0-no math to 10-could teach the class).  In the bottom corner I have them draw two to four images that would describe themselves.  Other things I have asked them to give me with the other corners were the names of their homeroom teachers, the school they went to last year or their math teacher from last year, etc.

One thing from this activity that has touched me is that two years ago a student asked me when my birthday was.  I told her and didn’t think about it again.  That year she brought me a gift on my birthday and had her class sing to me.  She had written it down in her planner so that she would remember.  That was so special, until this year.  A year later, she still had it written down and came back to tell me happy birthday.  How sweet!  I will never forget her!

Math Coach's Corner

Heather Simmons


Searching for the answers to education excellence

Megan Hayes-Golding

Still learning.

I Speak Math

Integrating Technology and Mathematics