TVAC (Teacher Visitation and Collaboration) is now open and accepting requests for classroom visitations!

Many people define number sense as being fluid and flexible in your thinking about numbers.  At some levels, this might mean composing and decomposing numbers into parts, be it whole numbers, rational numbers, equations, and more.  At other levels, it might mean comparing different qualities of numbers, expressions, equations, graphs, etc.  Using Imposter Sets is a strategy that will get your students talking about numbers.  Once you use this strategy, you might never want to stop!

How it works:  An imposter set is a set of 4 mathematical objects (numbers, shapes, graphs, models, etc.).  Students analyze the sets and determine “which one doesn’t belong”, or which one is the imposter!  Your job as the teacher is to allow them time to think, time to notice, and time to hear what others are noticing.  Imposter sets are open ended and have many possible answers.

Steps to implement using an Imposter Set:

  • Find or make an imposter set.  Go to to copy and paste ideas.  
  • Show the imposter set to your class:
    • Give the students think time (30 seconds or so)
    • Remind students that there is not one correct answer; there are many possible answers.  The fun is in defending your answer!
    • Let the students share what they see with their seat partner.
      • Provide the sentence frame: “ _____ is the imposter because ________.”

Facilitate a whole group share out making sure that students defend why they chose the imposter they did.

Sample Imposter Sets at K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12

        K-2                                                    3-5                                         6-8                                      9-12






Click here to watch a five minute video on how to implement imposter sets.

For more engaging ideas on number sense check out Steve Wyborney’s blog.

For a chance to win a $5 Starbucks gift card this week, please leave a comment about this post.  The winning name will be drawn next Thursday at noon.

As teachers, we consistently work to create environments for students that are positive, consistent, and predictable.  We have many prevention strategies we utilize and sometimes, despite these strategies there are some occasions when we need to support a student experiencing escalating behavior.  Here are some helpful prevention strategies as well as tips to responding to escalating behavior in the classroom.

Prevention Strategies

  • Building Relationships: The number one way to prevent behaviors in the classroom is to build strong relationships with our students. Knowing our students, and understanding what works and what doesn’t, will help prevent big feelings in the classroom. There are many small ways we can get to know our students including greeting, connecting, and acknowledging students first thing each day. Try the 2×10 strategy: spend two minutes talking with a student about anything other than school for 10 consecutive days, and always connect before you correct.
  • Teaching routines and expectation: Classroom routines and expectations should not just be taught the first week of school. Students should have opportunities to practice routines frequently throughout the year, week, and sometimes even every day. Students may learn these routines on different time frames; some pick them up quickly and master them in a day, others may need to practice and re-learn them over a longer period of time. Also, students may learn these routines and expectations differently; some may do well in large groups, others need small group instruction or even individual practice.
  • Teaching self management skills when students are calm: When students are frustrated or having a hard time self managing, it is difficult for students to learn self management and coping skills. Instead, teach students these skills when they are calm so they have strategies to utilize when they are having a difficult time. For example, if a student has a break plan, teaching and practicing the break plan when the student is calm will help the student use that break plan when they are upset and actually need it.

Responses to behaviors that escalate

  • Thinking brain: When students become upset, their thinking brain shuts off. Students may have a difficult time making decisions, controlling their body and words, and following complex directions. When responding to escalating students, it is important to appeal to the survival brain. This means that negotiating and teaching during this time is non-productive. For example, explaining to students that they will miss recess because they need to pick up the mess they are making may escalate the student further.
  • Distraction and redirection: Sometimes it works to distract students from what is upsetting them. Get their attention and get them away from what they are currently doing. For example you might say, “Hey, I want to show you something.” You can provide whatever consequence is necessary for that behavior once you get them back to calm.
  • Communication: Because a student’s “thinking brain” is turned off, minimal communication can be a very effective de-escalation tool. Use simple language and pay attention to your tone and body language; students can often pick up on our stress. Sometimes no communication at all is the best choice. It allows for time to listen to the escalated person and assess the situation.
  • Giving directions: Use simple language and give a one step direction that can easily be followed such as “your direction is to sit anywhere in the classroom”. It is important to make sure that the student understands the direction.
  • Recovery: Some students recover quickly, others do not.  How can you tell if a student is recovering and back to calm?  Give the student some directions and see if he/she is able to follow them. Once the student is calm, you can talk about re-teaching or follow through on a consequence.  It is important to have a re-entry plan to ensure that the student is welcomed back into the classroom.

For a chance to win a $5 Starbucks gift card this week, please leave a comment about this post.  The winning name will be drawn next Thursday at noon.

Scaffolding, in it’s usual sense, is a temporary structure that is often used in the process of constructing a building. Scaffolding is not permanent; however, it is essential for the building to be constructed successfully.

Scaffolding, when it comes to our classrooms, is designed to be used in a similar way. Scaffolds are utilized to assist learners in developing new skills, concepts, or levels of understanding and they are future-oriented. According to Pauline Gibbons, in Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning, “Scaffolding is thus the temporary assistance by which a teacher helps a learner know how to do something, so that the learner will later be able to complete a similar task alone.”

Some overarching scaffolds that can be used for any grade and any content area are:

  • Clear Learning Targets for Language and Content
    • Set a clear academic goal and share it with students
    • Identify the language needed to access the content
    • See figure 7.1 in the Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning link above
  • Small Group Work
    • Provide explicit and direct instruction for students who are struggling with content
    • Integrate oral language development into content-area teaching in the secondary grades
    • Increase opportunities for meaningful oral language interaction during group work
    • Decreases learner anxiety by having a small group size
  • Opportunities for Students to Listen and Speak
    • Pay attention to “teacher-talk”/”student talk” ratio
    • Develop space for ideas to not only be shared, but questioned as well
    • Create a culture that encourages students to share their own ideas
    • Allow students to have control of the discourse

For more about scaffolding language and content, watch this three minute video below featuring Dr. Flores from Rutgers Graduate School of Education.

We would love to hear from you about your experience with providing scaffolding in your classroom!

  • What are some strategies, approaches, or practices that you can realistically take on in order to support all students in your classroom?
  • What are the benefits of effectively scaffolding a lesson for students?  What are the challenges in providing scaffolds for your students?

For a chance to win a $5 Starbucks gift card this week, please leave a comment about this post.  The winning name will be drawn next Thursday at noon.

Ideally you want partners working enthusiastically on an assignment. You have chosen the pairings either deliberately or randomly. Your goal is to have them participate and share ideas, but they are not. What’s missing? It may be that you need to re-teach these two key components:  Respect and Clarity.

Teach students how to have respect for each other:

  • Be polite and practice good manners
  • Engage in positive comments about who they are partnered with
  • Maintain eye contact while engaging in conversation

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As we return to school after spring break it is important to think about making the coming months as productive as possible. It is up to us to ensure that our routines are consistently supporting student engagement.  Repeated practice is critically important in helping our students continue to master classroom expectations.  

  • Review your attention signal and its meaning. Students should stop any activity and immediately focus on you as soon as they see or hear your signal.
  • Review your classroom expectations. Students should be able to tell you the classroom expectations and provide specific examples.
  • Review your classroom routines (using the bathroom, getting materials, asking for help, etc.).
  • Re-teach your specific expectations for each activity and transition.
  • Review your procedures for entering and exiting the classroom.

You may not need to spend as much time re-teaching your expectations as you did in the fall. However, any time students are away from school it is a good time to reteach and reinforce just how important these expectations are for their success.

For a chance to win a $5 Starbucks gift card this week, please leave a comment about this post.  The winning name will be drawn next Thursday at noon.

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