9/21/2018 2 Comments Organizing Information  Teaching Students How to Take Visual Notes that Become Study GuidesBoost Both Note Taking Skills & Study Skills with Graphic Organizers
They also may need a set of 5 different study strategies to use when preparing for tests and quizzes. They can use one method for reviewing vocabulary, another for going over key concepts, and a completely different method when memorizing specific details. The ideal study strategy for Math class is very different from a study strategy that works well in Geography.
By taking time to teach kids how to take good notes and study, we set them up for success. And, (BONUS)  we can get that class time back in the future with all the time saved when they know how to do this. We will cut back on reteaching time, in class review, etc.! So it is absolutely not the "waste of time" I was worried it would be in the beginning. These skills are worth prioritizing! Let's Dive In
The notetaking and study strategy I am sharing today is centered around visual representations.
It has been proven that student brains learn new information best with a BLEND of visual and linguistic input. I've blogged before about visual note taking methods. Visual notes are an important part of student study skill toolboxes. Visual notetaking is the process of taking notes using hand drawn images mixed with words. It helps us to synthesize ideas and information nonlinguistically, and organize everything in a visual way. It turns out that sketching or doodling while taking notes takes just enough brainpower to keep you from zoning out or daydreaming, but not enough to be a distraction. This means that doodling (or sketching) actually INCREASES your focus and attention while you listen or learn. Whether they like it or not, your students are going to be taking notes for quite some time! So, teaching them how to visually take notes, now, is a skill that will have important benefits in not only your class, but in years to come. But That’s Not All... Visual note taking doesn’t just improve your students’ focus and attention; it is actually proven to greatly improve retention and memory! When you incorporate sketching and doodling with words, you use both hemispheres of the brain. Whenever you achieve a crossover between the left side (logical) and right side (artsy) of the brain, learning is enhanced. A great use of visual notes that has been around for quite a while is the "graphic organizer." We use graphic organizers (think Venn Diagram, web, chart...) to help kids build a mental connection between related ideas. Different concepts fit into different organizer layouts that are visually memorable. The "GRAPHICS" of a Graphic Organizer
A graphic layout is key to effective notetaking. The typical list form (or outline) note method does not trigger memory as well. In order for students to convert new info into longterm memory more effectively, they need to incorporate pictoral representations.
A theory, called the "Picture Superiority Effect" is supported by studies that show that blending images with text offers a stronger learning experience than using text alone. It turns out that this boosts both the memory of the individual terms and ideas as well as the associations and connections between the concepts. According to Education Week Teacher, “if students read text alone, three days later they only remember 10 percent of the information—but adding a picture to the text increases recall to 65 percent.” Dual Coding Theory is another explanation of brain processing that goes hand in hand with Picture Superiority Effect. This theory tells us how to make the most of learning. In essence, as new input enters the brain, it's stored in short term memory in two distinct categories. Graphic information, images, and other sensory input are processed in the VISUAL center while auditory input, words, and text are processed in the LINGUISTIC center of the brain. In order to convert the new information into true learning, we need it to be saved and stored in long term memory. When we are able to blend the text/auditory input together with the images, we boost the potential for retaining the information! The "ORGANIZER" Component of a Graphic Organizer
A key part of learning is seeing connections and understanding relationships between ideas. Memorizing facts separately is not nearly as effective as seeing the big picture along with the details.
How do the concepts interact and relate to one another? Sometimes one idea leads to another. Sometimes we have a heirarchy of information. Often, we have a web of interconnected ideas that all link back to one big concept. Students can use visual representations of the ideas to build a mind map of the connections and relationships. By choosing an effective layout for a graphic organizer, they think critically about the type of information and how to best present it. They can create a visual study guide that reflects all the ideas they are learning and how they work together. By incorporating all of these features, graphic organizers as bitesized doodle notes offer plenty of brain benefits. They allow students to learn, take notes, and study. Then, they become a reference to keep and come back to later. The Free Download
How to use this file:
To help your students build their knowledge on taking graphic notes, I’m sharing this FREE sheet on the ways to visually organize information. This will help them get started and explore ways they can build sketch/ doodle style study guides. There are a few different ways to use this free resource:
Click here to download the free resource.
Encourage students to incorporate color, doodles, and sketches. It will help them to build "visual memory triggers" that allow them to retain the lesson material.
Adding sketches and doodles also activates the brain pathways that lead to increased focus and memory. The goal is to help students learn the best ways to visually represent relationships in a lesson, based on the type of content. Students will love this guide to help them review and study! Want to use more graphic organizers in your classroom? This GIANT DECK has 100 different visual organizers! Want Math Giraffe Updates & Resources? Enter your email:
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9/7/2018 2 Comments Discovering Slope of a LineA Free Algebra Exploration to Deepen Understanding & Increase Retention  Slope Formula
As math teachers we know the frustration of having kids who seemed to understand something during the lessons but then suddenly forget the formula on the test, or get things backwards.
For slope, it tends to be kids putting it upsidedown or messing up the negatives. They may also be lacking the basic concepts of greater slopes being “steeper” and are then unable to make sense of their errors or catch simple mistakes. There tends to be a lack of retention in a lot of basic concepts like this. It can be aggravating as a teacher to grade work that should be relatively “simple” like finding slope between two points, and see so many little errors. Well, I have some great news. If you see this with your class, you may just be missing the simple element of inquiry! Inquiry provides students with the opportunity to discover concepts themselves, which makes the learning more meaningful and powerful. Teaching through guided explorations allows kids to develop a formula themselves, leading to a deeper understanding and stronger retention.
Inquiry  Based Learning
Inquiry (or discovery) learning has so many awesome benefits. This method is sure to help your students learn AND retain new concepts. When students learn through inquiry they are asking the questions; they are discovering the answers! When students learn through investigation,
Introducing Slope with Inquiry
The next time you introduce slope, you definitely want to try out this inquiry activity. 1. First, download this “Discovering Slope” sheet (within the Free Guide to Teaching Slope)
2. Group your students into pairs and give each pair one sheet. Partner work is great for inquiry activities, so students can talk through their discoveries and make progress together. Their discussions help solidify concepts, while helping them get unstuck.
On the sheet there are 5 sets of staircases & ramps that the students will need to put in order of “ steepness”. 3. Tell them to read the directions and complete the page. The next part is tricky sit back, relax, and try not to help! This will probably go against your instincts as a teacher, but you need to stay strong! Your students learn through their struggle. Try to avoid giving hints. Your students need this practice too; it will help them build up persistence. Don’t let them give up. They will end up making great observations once they jump in and embrace the uncertainty! 4. Walk around and listen to the conversations that are happening. Take note of any interesting observations that you may want students to share in the discussion afterward. They’ll discover that they need to use both height and length… but how? Some groups may be stumped for a few minutes. There may be frustration they have to work through. Then, they will realize they need a kind of a ratio between the two. They may try it upsidedown at first (run / rise), but then eventually they should get to the formula for rise / run themselves! They’ll work to count the grid spaces, and later can understand the subtraction model to develop the formula for when they are given just coordinates and no graph. They will now always remember and understand much more deeply that slope is "RISE OVER RUN" because they figured it out for themselves. This is the goal of the guided discovery / inquiry process!! :) 5. Give encouragement to groups that are truly stuck and frustrated, but try not to give hints about where to begin. Train your class to try something that makes sense, and see where they get. That is the purpose of the discovery process. Each time you let them struggle on their own, they build those skills and will do better next time. 6. Gather back together as a class for a followup discussion. In the discussion, clear up any misconceptions that popped up. Allow students to share their approaches and discoveries. Try to direct the conversation to noticing that, once simplified, two of the slopes had the same number. Or did any of your students disagree that they were equivalent slopes because the directions were different? Take all observations. This will help later when you teach the differences between positive and negative slopes. Once this activity is done, you’ll be ready to lead your class into a lecture with guided notes on the Algebra notation, the definition of slope and practice problems. Click here for my Slope Doodle Notes!
I hope these materials make this your most successful year of slope lessons yet! Enjoy the journey, and have a great year of Algebra! :)
Feel free to share other ideas for exploring slope in the comments! I bet doing a lifesize measuring layout with actual stepstools would be incredible if you have the time and can set it up! Enter your email to get more posts and materials like this sent right to your inbox, along with other updates, info, and free resources:
What's the Deal with Math Anxiety?
Math anxiety is anxiety when asked to do math; it’s more than just a dislike for the subject. Edutopia tells us it can start as early as kindergarten and affects nearly half of elementary students! Unfortunately, the number of occurrences increases as children get older. According to Frontiers in Psychology, “People have been expressing mathematics anxiety for centuries: the verse “Multiplication is vexation … and practice drives me mad” goes back at least to the sixteenth century. From a research perspective, the construct has been an important topic of study at least since the concept of “number anxiety” was introduced by Dreger and Aiken (1957), and has received increasing attention in recent years, in conjunction with the generally increased focus on mathematical performance.” Math Anxiety Robs Working Memory According to a fascinating article from the University of Chicago in their series “Ask a Cogntive Scientist”, a growing amount of research shows that math anxiety robs people of their mental working memory. Working memory is kind of like a scratch pad it’s where you keep several things in mind simultaneously. Without it, we couldn’t problem solve and complete multiple tasks. Working memory “space” varies from person to person, and it is required for solving math problems. So, since this anxiety creeps in when doing math, it makes sense that people with math anxiety have less room for working memory. “Anxious thoughts consume valuable working memory space...As a result, [students with math anxiety] have less working memory space to devote to the math, and their math performance suffers.” Signs of Math Anxiety Are you wondering which of your students experience math anxiety? It can sometimes be obvious, but Edutopia gives us some signs to look out for:
How to Help?
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to help our students overcome math anxiety! Common Causes The first step is noting these common causes. Actually, there are quite a few common causes of math anxiety. It can help to narrow it down to a source so we can guide our students to overcome it. According to Oxford Learning, here are the top common causes:
Once you’ve narrowed down the common causes, try these ideas to help your students:
Since a common cause of math anxiety is public embarrassment, try eliminating disapproval or negative feedback in math class. Reward students for excellent behavior, wellthought out answers, or even extraordinary effort!
Provide students enough time to truly understand math concepts, instead of drilling procedures. Students need a chance to develop conceptual understandings to develop joy in math!
Try having a student write down his or her worries about math before doing it; by thinking critically students can realize their fears aren’t accurate. After jotting down the feeling on a sticky note, they can physically relax the part of the body where they are holding tension while they put it aside, take a deep breath, and jump in to try a problem. Help your students see tests and quizzes as challenges, rather than a threat to their grade. Reframing how they see math can improve their fears. Offering test corrections can relieve some stress, because students know they can move on and have success.
Swap out your active brain breaks for more meditative brain breaks. When I taught high school Geometry in a Catholic school, I loved beginning each class period with these 3 minute retreats. Students also enjoy chances to color. I believe in fitting this in alongside the learning goals that are already in place for each day’s lesson. Doodle notes offer a way for students to get the therapeutic benefits of coloring and doodling while still learning the material. This has been proven to activate the parts of the brain that help a student relax, focus, and retain the material. It will take their minds off of the stress and physically relax them! There is a reason that coloring books are becoming a therapeutic trend. The brain benefits are so easy to build into a class period!
I’ve collected some ideas to help you blend fun and rigor in creative ways. My goal is to overcome the negativity that can pop up in math class, while preserving high standards for content learning! (essentially fun without "fluff!") Check out some of these ideas to get started! Click the images to read each post that fits your grade level / course work:
Even More:
Additional downloads to Help: All of these fun lessons are absolutely free!
Last, but certainly not least, teachers need to show excitement and positivity when it comes to math. Our attitudes rub off on our students, so even if math isn’t your favorite subject, keep your words and actions in mind! I know I’ve definitely seen the telltale signs of math anxiety in some of my students! Have you? What are you going to do to help them rise above math anxiety? Start by subscribing to Math Giraffe through email! (below) I’ll keep you up to date and send you materials and inspiration to keep the creative blend of fun and rigor flowing in your classroom! 
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