Get Out of the Classroom and into Learning


   Here is a small little classroom with children’s desks all in rows.  The teacher’s desk sits prominently in the front of the classroom and lectures might be given at a podium. Most of the student’s daily work is done here, while being seated in this relatively small space. Does this sound something like your classroom? Probably not, as this is a description of The Oldest Wooden School House in Saint Augustine, Florida, which dates back to the early 18th century. This was the daily life of colonial school children. So, what is wrong with that?

Lack of  Physical Activity
   When my grandmother was a child, she once told me that she would walk to school five miles there and five miles back every day. I thought to myself back then, it was probably a welcomed relief for her to be seated in school.  My parents also walked to school. In the old days, most all teens worked at home, on farms or at a part-time job. My dad worked carrying blocks of ice for an ice truck company. My mother worked at an old time soda fountain. Today,  many children don’t work and most children ride the bus, only to be sitting much of the day.  It is known that remaining seated for hours has detrimental effects. As Thompson (2011) stated, there is a need to offer better design solutions for people in the environment, considering the present health challenges (Thompson, 2013). 
Imagine This!
It is the status quo to teach in a small classroom. But, so much more can be done to make learning more interesting and active. Other settings for instruction can inspire everyone’s creativity and make school an even more inventive place.  Shouldn’t schools be involved in some new ideas? Thompson (2013) wrote, “The outdoors leads to greater levels of activity than remaining inside buildings,” (Thompson, 2013).  Here is an example.  Imagine being able to use the 5 senses: hearing, smelling, seeing, touching and feeling motion (Wood & Hall, 2011 in Chin-Shyang & Mei-Ju, 2015).  How about being able to see artwork which reflects the grass, paths, and even a facilities shape? One museum does just that. A children’s playground with famous artist’s work adorns the landscape (Wood & Hall, 2011 in Chin-Shyang & Mei-Ju, 2015).  
Obviously, not all communities offer museums with playgrounds or can even afford to transport children back and forth on a regular basis.  But,  the good news is that Outdoor Education (OE) settings can be designed right on school grounds.  The OE designers can be a team of teachers.
Experts suggest that OE designers incorporate the ideas of using the 5 senses in the project, just like the museum (Brittin, Sorensen, Trowbridge, Lee, Breithecker, Frerichs & Huang, 2015). Here are some suggested steps to follow.
1. Choose an outdoor classroom area.  
Weather conditions might require an awning cover or canopy.
2.  The OE space should be near natural learning settings, such as fields, woods or gardens.  
3. OE spaces should make available
(a) gardens for learning and activities 
(b) trails 
(c) natural terrain 
(d) water fountains, and
 (e) power, water, and light to support OE classrooms settings 
(Brittin, Sorensen,Trowbridge, Lee, Breithecker, Frerichs & Huang, 2015).  
A team of teachers can create lesson plans regarding the surrounding environment of the school.  In the middle school I attended years ago, the Boy Scouts blazed a trail for the school children. We took our science journals, wrote about the flora and fauna and drew pictures of what we saw on the trail. My science teacher spoke of the plight of the Monarch butterfly and milkweeds were planted in a field for them to eat. 
But, what about extreme weather conditions? Urban schools? Costs? Read more in my next article, Settings Other Than Schools, Part 2
Imagery supplied by Thinkstock
References (n.d). Oldest wooden schoolhouse. Retrieved from

Brittin, J., Sorensen, D., Trowbridge, M., Lee, K. K., Breithecker, D., Frerichs, L., & Huang, T. (2015). Physical activity design guidelines for school architecture. Plos ONE, 10(7), 1. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0132597

Chin-Shyang, S., & Mei-Ju, C. (2015). Whose aesthetics world? Exploration of aesthetics cultivation from the children’s outdoor playground experiential value perspective International Journal of Organizational Innovation, 8(2), 158-171.

Thompson, C.W. (2013). Activity, exercise and the planning and design of outdoor spaces. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 34, 79-93

Lynn @ TiePlay Educational Resources
TiePlay Educational Resources LLC

Do I Have to Teach Vocabulary in Math?

As a member of the numeracy committee for my school division, I get the chance to listen and learn from many gifted math teachers in our division.  I love the collaborative nature of the meetings, designed to move us in the direction of better instruction for our students.  This week one of the important topics of discussion stemmed around our desire for continuity in the teaching of math vocabulary.

So what’s the deal?  Would teaching common terms to our students really make a big difference? Should we be taking our math time to address vocabulary? Yes!  The research is clear.  Math vocabulary instruction is effective and vital to support deeper math understanding.

Research has informed us that semantics, word identification, and vocabulary (e.g., repeated readings, rhymes), as shown in Figure 1, are essential cognitive features in word problem solutions (Capraro, Capraro, & Cifarelli, 2007) just as they are in reading comprehension and understanding (Pressley, 2002; Smagorinsky, Cook, & Reed, 2005).
Figure 1. (Capraro, Robert M., Mary Margaret Capraro, and William H. Rupley. 2010)vocab fig1
Another great resource is the article by Pamela Dunsten and Andrew Tyminski.  I’ll try to summarize some of the important points here, but take a moment to read the full article for a more comprehensive explanation. What’s the Big Deal about Vocabulary?
  • Math vocabulary terms should be taught in the context of learning math concepts.
  • Using a variety of different models/graphic organizers for students to express their understanding, is effective.  (ie. The Freyer model, tables, Four Square model, Feature Analysis tables, etc.)
  • Providing examples of what a term is, and what it is not, leads to deeper understanding.
  • Associating new vocabulary terms with words or concepts that a student already knows helps them to retain the new word with a meaningful context.
  • Having students express their understanding of terms with pictures, numbers and/or words, leads to deeper conceptualization.
 In the meeting, we all agreed that it would be beneficial to come up with a common list of vocabulary assigned according to curriculum standards at each grade level.  This would be an important first step in the process. My many thanks to Rebecca Nelson-Fitzpatrick for sharing the list developed at her school.  Though the list is not comprehensive, it is a great start taken from the AB program of studies.  It definitely is a great first step and one that should be shared in the interest of meeting student needs. The next step is to provide direct instruction and practice.
Can we achieve the dream of weaving good vocabulary instructional practices into our math instruction?  We absolutely must. With that end in mind, this week’s newsletter freebie is a complete word wall of the common words from AB’s Program of Studies for Kindergarten to Grade 6. Not only that, but I’ve put together some printable graphic organizer black-line masters to help you “achieve the dream” in your classroom!
 To get access to this FAB FREEBIE, and others,  just subscribe to my newsletter on the sidebar or in the pop-up.  I can’t wait to connect and share with you.


Capraro, Robert M., Mary Margaret Capraro, and William H. Rupley. 2010. “Semantics and Syntax: A Theoretical Model for How Students May Build Mathematical Misunderstandings.” Journal of Mathematics Education 3 (2): 5866. doi:

Fisher, Douglas, and Nancy Frey. 2008. Word Wise and Content Rich, Grades 712: Five Essential Steps to Teaching Academic Vocabulary. Portsmouth, NH:Heinemann.

Dunsten, Pamela J. and Tyminski, Andrew M., “What’s the Big Deal about Vocabulary?” Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School. Vol.19, No. 1, August 2013, The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc.