Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Number Talks for ELL Students #numbertalks #numbertalk

I have long viewed Number Talks as the gateway drug to Common Core. Teachers who regularly use Number Talks in their classroom are inherently embracing some of the Standards for Mathematical Practice. In particular,

SMP1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

SMP2: Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

SMP3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

Not sure what a Number Talk is? Go here and then come back.

A big question my teachers often ask is "What do I do with my ELLs during Number Talks"?

The answer is do Number Talks especially if you have ELLs in your classroom.  To support language development and content understanding we must create as many opportunities as possible for students to participate in whole-group and peer discussions in the classroom. Language learners need lots of opportunities to rehearse new academic language, especially as it is applied to relevant and authentic contexts.

As a result, teachers need to be very deliberate about creating safe opportunities for students to talk mathematically, engaging all students - especially our language learners.

Here is an example of a 1st grade teacher using Dots to get students to think about counting and numeracy. Pay attention to the open-ended mathematical thinking going on. Also notice that this kind of teaching requires the teacher to think on her feet. I assure you, however, after you've done a bunch of number talks, it becomes second nature for the teacher. 

Number Talks create a safe space for students to think about open-ended problems. Students learn that math is more than just solving one problem and moving on to the next problem; a key aspect of math is solving one problem in many ways.


Clearly, it may sometimes be tricky to get students actively engaged in the discussion - especially with ELL students. This is where the art of teaching meets the science of teaching. GLAD strategies are invaluable tools for supporting all students, allowing them to participate in academic conversations. Sentence frames should be a huge part of an elementary teacher's repertoire.



Without a doubt Number Talks benefit all students. Once firmly a part of a classroom's culture, I've seen entire classes of students who previously hated math suddenly love it. The bonus is doubled when we have ELL students in our classroom too!

Let me know if I'm off base on this...chime in below...

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