In our quest to illuminate some of the education jargon you’ve said confuses and confounds you, today we offer plain-spoken definitions of five more terms, provided by National Board Certified teacher Spencer Olmsted from Olympia. Thanks, Spencer!
He follows Mark Gardner, a Camas high-school teacher (also nationally certified) who tackled three terms last week.
Olmsted teaches fifth grade in Olympia. His full bio is below.
He chose to define manipulatives, formative assessment, constructivist, scaffolding and number sentence.
Formative Assessment: Formative assessments are measures teachers make in the process of teaching that help them make decisions about instruction. By assessing where students are during a lesson or unit, teachers can make adjustments to suit individual student or small-group needs. Formative assessments are like little checkpoints on the road map, whereas summative assessments tell us whether or not we have reached our destination.
Constructivist: A philosophy of education that says that students learn by building understanding through experience. Because what every student knows and understands is different, constructivist teachers strive to provide a wide variety of connections to build on what students already know. “One size fits all” is the antithesis of constructivism.
Scaffolding: Temporary supports that help students access and understand new ideas, much like scaffolding on building. Scaffolding could be provided through materials, peer interactions, or teacher support.
Manipulatives: Hands-on materials that students can use to help them learn concepts, especially in math. Manipulatives include calculators, rulers, protractors, colored cubes, or any other tool.
Number sentence: Complete numerical statements, inequalities, or equations. 3 + 5 = 8 and 10.2 * 10.6 > 100 are number sentences.
About Olmsted: I began teaching fifth grade in Olympia in 2006. Between 2010 and 2012 I completed a master’s degree in mathematics education at The Evergreen State College. Before becoming a teacher, I was a computer programmer. I am originally from Connecticut, but have now spent half of my life out west. My wife and I love to hike whenever we get the chance. We are currently working on nurturing this love in our preschooler. As soon as he’s a good enough swimmer, we’ll teach him how to surf.
Want to contribute your own jargon definition? Pick your favorite term and send a one- or two-sentence definition to email@example.com. We might include it on the Education Lab blog at a future date.