Even math teachers are teachers of reading

Every teacher in our building is to consider him/herself a teacher of reading. To support our school improvement initiative we are to introduce one reading/thinking strategy each month, share artifacts in our PLCs, discuss the successes and challenges, and consider next steps.

Today I modeled a think aloud that focused on monitoring. I’m not saying the think aloud was flawless, but I have to say it was the best gift I could have ever given a student—the gift of how to become an independent learner and thinker.

The students are starting decimals as integers today—a perfect opportunity for a think aloud. I modeled the monitoring process using a section from the textbook on adding integers. I wrote it in advance so I knew what to say. The first thing I did was state the purpose for my reading this section.

Think aloud1

As I read the page, I stopped at certain points and jotted down what I’m thinking, noting examples, catching things I overlooked in the margins, etc.

think aloud2

I finished reading the page, got out some paper, and did the first problem. Now it was their turn to practice.

I handed out copies from the Big Idea textbook on adding rational numbers and instructed them to monitor their thinking by jotting down their thoughts as they read. As they read silently for 10 minutes I observed their annotations and discovered most of my students don’t monitor as they read.

No one wrote a purpose for reading.  I stopped the class and said, “Write down why you are reading this and the answer isn’t ‘Because Mrs. Dooms told me to.’” A few kids were getting warmer, but not hot.

student annotation1
The calligraphy is an actual student response.

One student wrote, “I’m reading to learn how to solve the problem.” I asked her to be more specific. “I’m reading to learn how to add rational numbers.” Bingo!

student annotation2
Digital recreation of an actual response.

I walked over to another student who wrote, “Is this a division sign?” I asked him, “Is there a fix up strategy you can use to answer your own question?”

“I don’t know.”

“What about re-reading? What’s the section about?

“Adding rational numbers.”

“So what sign do you think that is?”


student annotation3
Another actual student response–recreated.

Another student wrote, “Am I supposed to be doing these?” I put that section of the think aloud on the screen so he could see, yes, indeed you are supposed to do the problems.

I closed the think aloud by saying, “I’m not lying when I say to you, ‘You don’t need me.’ If you slow down, read closely, and monitor what you are reading you can learn this without me.”

And with that I handed out practice problems on adding negative decimals. “You can get out your math notes or you can open the textbook to page 278 to remind yourself of the integer rules.”

No one pulled out their resources. They wanted me to show them. I let them struggle.

Table after table I checked student work. “Not yet,” I said when I saw a wrong answer. “Why don’t you take out your math notes or open the textbook to page 278.”

A couple of students took out their notes or book and after some time they began practicing correctly. Another table was getting it. Then another.

But one table was still struggling. I had stopped there three times previously, each time suggesting they take out their math notes or open the book. Finally I said with brute force, “Get-out-your-math-notes-or –textbook-and-open-it-to-page-278.”

By the end of the block most of the students were practicing correctly—except that one table. They’re scheduled to attend math lab or stay after tomorrow.

One thought on “Even math teachers are teachers of reading

  1. Mary
    This post reminds me how similar parenting struggles are to teaching struggles. The difference in me is that I find that I am more willing to let my children (10 yr old boy and 4 yr old girl) struggle through something. I need to remind myself that if I can let my 4 yr old struggle for awhile, then I should respect my 17 yr old enough to let them struggle. I just always feel the pressure of the clock. Good for you that you held firm and made them fight through.

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