Know, Want to Know, Solve
KWS stands for what we Know, Want to know, and how might we Solve a word problem. The KWS Chart is a catalyst that gets my students to organize and analyze complex word problems. My students are more successful with word problems when they have a toolkit for simplifying the complex information often found within word problems. This tool is an essential scaffold for English Language Learners in my class. The strategy is also great to uncover with my students the fact that there are multiple ways of solving a problem, no matter how complex it may be, and often times there may be multiple routes to a solution.
Students use their dry erase markers and white boards to jot down notes and work though problems while they work online. This simple strategy supports students in actually working through problems that they may otherwise try to solve in their heads. It also helps students stay engaged on computers for longer periods of time.
One way we bring authenticity to our lessons is by making explicit connections or real world hooks to what we're learning. What I particularly enjoyed about our persuasive writing unit is that we were able to identify real problems in our own school community and to think of solutions. It then brought about real change in our school, and in this case brought about getting more magazines into the classroom which was an identified need of our class.
The Math Journal startegy is a closing sequence I use as an ongoing informal assessment at least twice a week. I typically collect at least five journals and respond back to students by writing positive praise and/or a question to have them answer about their answer. I will also conduct a quick visual check by walking around at the conclusion of a math journal session and place a sticker, grade, or smiley face on each student's journal. The Math Journal is a very open constructive tool students can use to develop their mathematical writing prowess and reinforce mathematical vocabulary.