In my work as an instructional coach at BetterLesson I continue to mine the BetterLesson ELA, Math, Blended and Science Master Teacher Project lessons for great ideas. So I thought, why not share some of those great ideas with you, too?

My Master Teacher Project Teacher Spotlight of October is Mary Ellen Kanthack. Mary Ellen is an MTP contributor twice over, participating in both the Math and the Science Master Teacher projects -- developing more than 220 lessons!

Mary Ellen describes herself this way:

Mary Ellen KanthackMy principal described me once as a "diagnostic and process-oriented teacher" which is essential to implement Common Core Standards,...but she also once termed me as a "schmover"...a smiler and a mover! I guide math "schmoving!" I want students to love math and science like I do, as I write lessons that focus on confidence and joy in learning. I was so happy to be a part of the Master Teacher Project, which allowed me to share my best with teachers as we transition into this very exciting time of conceptual teaching of mathematics and science that Common Core & NGSS demands. Now that the Math and Science BetterLesson Master Teacher Projects are complete, I realized the impact those lessons were when I moved up to 5th grade and saw the how my former students' thinking has grown. Any lesson involving deeper reasoning makes the difference!

Mary Ellen proves, lesson-after-lesson, that project based learning, student-led inquiry, and technology used with intent and student choice are all possible in an elementary classroom. Her lessons are not only great resources that you can pick up and use should you be teaching 4th grade content, but are also effective examples of student-centered practices and strategies that can be used across all subjects and grade levels.

Here, I'll show you what I mean.

To start, I wanted to share a lesson in which Mary Ellen highlights the critical understanding of separating evidence from inference in English Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. In the Evidence or Inference? lesson, Mary Ellen has students use their bodies to create actions that can be analyzed such as, "Is a shiver evidence of cold, or an inference?"

Next, let me count the ways that I love Talk the Talk of Division: Recognizing "Division" Words in One Step Word Problems. First, Mary Ellen uses Activity Before Content to have students work collaboratively to sort out their understanding of division and multiplication. That activity not only activates student thinking, it practices speaking and listening skills as students communicate their thinking, and it develops reasoning skills as they sort through the group's thinking to make decisions on word meaning. Second, Mary Ellen ups the rigor of this activity by having students next defend their decisions and once again, examine their reasoning to make revisions to thinking. Third, I love that from this activity students now have created a valuable resource that they are more likely to use (it is, after all, theirs). Fourth, I swoon over how Mary Ellen facilitates students to immediately put their knowledge to the test by using it to deconstruct word problems. And finally, fifth, I love Ringo. You'll have to look at the lesson to figure that "love" out!

In closing, a whirlwind tour of four more lessons that demonstrate Mary Ellen's use of student-centered strategies that work for all grade levels and all subjects!

  • Learn about the creative process of Mind Mapping as an effective tool for students to gather, organize, revise, and present their learning in Mary Ellen's The Fossil Mind Map Unfolds lesson.
  • Try a Frayer Model as an effective, student-centered, approach to vocabulary acquisition after reviewing the information and downloading the resources in Mary Ellen's Awesome, Weird, Cool...Not! lesson.
  • How can a KLEWS Chart serve as both a plan and a place for students to add their information? Check out how Mary Ellen uses KLEWS in her Creative Circuits lesson.
  • Can students create their own assessment? Yes, they can! Mary Ellen shares a collaborative learning model for just that in her Tic Tac Toe: Student Constructed Review lesson.

I know you'll love Mary Ellen's lessons, too! See you soon, as I share my next Master Teacher Project Teacher Spotlight.

Posted in Professional Development Teacher Professional Learning Coaching

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