Finding what works for all students

Math Mnemonics: Pegword Strategy

There are many subjects in school that can be fun for students. It is easy for teachers to be creative with reading, writing, and science in order to make the subjects interesting and engaging for students. What about math? Most teachers also know all too well that math can be downright terrifying for many students. Math is concrete and can be too difficult for many students, especially those with learning disabilities. Students, however, do not need to be so fearful! There are solutions to this age-old problem. One strategy that can help students become successful in math is mnemonics, or more specifically, the pegword strategy.

What exactly is the pegword strategy?

Pegwords are words that rhyme with the names of numbers. Students can memorize the words in order to remember math facts. The words can be used to make stories, and there are flashcards that go along with the words to provide a visual for students. The pegwords for numbers 1-10 are as follows:

One = bun

Two = shoe

Three = tree

Four = door

Five = hive

Six = sticks

Seven = heaven

Eight = gate

Nine = vine

Ten = hen

There are flashcards that can go along with each number. The flashcard contains an illustration of the rhyming word, which is especially helpful for visual learners. For example, the flashcard for “sticks” is:

Let’s look at an example. If a student needs to memorize “6 x 6 = 36”, here is how it would work with the pegword strategy:

Another example…

Does this strategy really work?

Yes! There have been many research studies done to validate the use of mnemonics in mathematics instruction. Mnemonics improve recall and learning, especially in students with learning disabilities. Mnemonics help students develop better ways to take in, or encode, information, so that it will be much easier to remember, or retrieve (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1998). How does this strategy work? The purpose of mnemonics is to find a way to relate new information to information students already have stored in their long-term memory. Pegwords are words that most students have a firm grasp on. Most English-speaking students are familiar with the words that represent numbers 1-10. Consequently, it will be easier for students to remember math facts using those words.

Who does this strategy work for?

The pegword strategy works very well with elementary and middle school students learning a variety of math concepts. Once a student learns this strategy at a young age, it can be used for more difficult concepts in high school. Here’s how:

Universal Design and Multiple Intelligences

There’s more good news! The pegword strategy follows the learning guidelines for Universal Design, and it reaches students of various intelligences. The pegword strategy provides multiple means of representation. More specifically, it provides options for perception, language, and comprehension. The strategy also provides options in the tools for problem solving.

The pegword strategy can work well with students who have strong intrapersonal or interpersonal intelligences, depending on how it is used. Students can solve problems alone or with a partner or group. The strategy also works very well for students with a strong logical-mathematical intelligence, since those students are typically strong in math anyways. This strategy can also be helpful for students with strong visual-spatial intelligence because visuals are used along with the pegwords.


The pegword strategy can be succesful for many students, and has many benefits for teachers. The strategy works well with students of many intelligences, which is extremely important for teachers to consider when deciding which strategies to use. The pegword strategy has also been found to work very well with students with learning disabilities. A benefit to using this strategy (and a reason that it works so well) is that the pegwords are linking to information that most students already have stored. The pegword strategy can also be used in other subjects, such as science.

As with any strategy, there are some downsides to the pegword strategy. This strategy may not work as well with English Language Learners as it does with other students. This is because ELLs may not be as familiar with the pegwords as English-speaking students are. Another downside is that this strategy may not work well for students who have difficulty with memorization, since the pegword strategy does require students to remember a list of words and short stories.

A Final Thought…

Even though there are two negative aspects of using the pegword strategy, there are far more positive reasons to use it. Research has confirmed that most students have a much easier time learning and recalling math facts when using mnemonics. Even more good news is that the pegword strategy is just one strategy out of many more that can be used relating to math mnemonics. If a teacher is finding that for some reason the pegword strategy is not working very well for his or her class, there are many more strategies that can be employed! If it is becoming evident that traditional math instruction is not working well, try the pegword strategy or another math mnemonic strategy. Chances are, the students will be more engaged and have a much easier time learning math.


Mastropieri, M., & Scruggs, T. (1998). Enhancing school success with mnemonic strategies. Retrieved from

The Access Center. (2006). Using mnemonic instruction to teach math. Retrieved from

The Access Center. (2007). Using mnemonic instruction to facilitate access to the general education curriculum. Retrieved from

Leave a comment »

Sentence Frames: Helping Students Become Writers

It’s a common scene in many elementary classrooms: a student sits and stares at a blank paper because they were asked to write and don’t know how to start or they can’t think of the right words. Whether students are asked to write a story, answer questions, or practice vocabulary words, many have difficulty figuring out how to start writing. What is a strategy that teachers can use to help students with this problem? A _________ _________ can help. Answer: sentence frame.        

So what exactly is a sentence frame?

A sentence frame is a method of scaffolding that teachers can use with all students. They are especially helpful for students who struggle with writing and for English Language Learners. To use this strategy, teachers set up a frame for students’ writing. The teacher starts a sentence and leaves a blank line for students to finish the sentence. The blanks can also be placed in the middle or at the end of sentences. The blank can require the student to fill in one word or more than one word. Some sentence frames begin with a question, and the frame helps the student answer the question. Here are some examples:

What is your favorite animal?                A ____________ is my favorite animal.

I like to ____________________ on the weekends.

I learned that _________________________________________.

Students shouldn’t simply be given a worksheet with sentence frames on it. The sentence frames should be discussed with the students. Teachers can follow these simple steps:

1. Read the sentence frame out loud to the students.

2. Read the sentence frame again, and have the students repeat it after you.

3. Give the students time to look at the sentence frame and think about it before writing.

4. Give the students time to write.

5. Discuss the sentences after the students complete them.                     (Evans, n.d.)

Here is an example of what this strategy may look like in a classroom:

What types of students do sentence frames help?

Sentence frames can be helpful for students of all abilities. They can be especially helpful for students with learning disabilities in writing and for English Language Learners (ELLs). ELLs may have difficulty learning new vocabulary words, especially when the words are not used everyday, such as the vocabulary used in science and social studies class. Sentence frames can help ELLs in both the areas of writing and oral language. After filling in a sentence frame, the students can read the sentence or sentences outloud to a partner or to the class. Sentence frames used in this way can help to build necessary language skills. (Donnelly & Roe, 2010)

Universal Design and Multiple Intelligences

As many teachers know, it is important that activities, lessons, and strategies follow the learning guidelines for Unviersal Design and work for students of different intelligences. Sentence frames provide an option for language. More specifically, they provide an option for defining vocabulary words. Also, sentence frames are an option for scaffolding writing.

Sentence frames can work well for students with either a strong interpersonal intelligence or intrapersonal intelligence, depending on how they are used. If students are asked to work on sentence frames individually, students with a strong intrapersonal intelligence will benefit. On the other hand, if students are then asked to share their sentences with partners or the class, students with a strong interpersonal intelligence will benefit. Sentence frames also work well for students who have a strong verbal-linguistic intelligence, as these students like to work with words.


As with most strategies, there are both pros and cons to using sentence frames. First, let’s look at the pros:

  • Sentence frames are a useful scaffold for all students, especially ELLs.
  • Sentence frames can help build both written and oral language skills.
  • Sentence frames meet the learning guidelines for Universal Design and can benefit students of different intelligences.
  • Sentence frames can be used in academic subjects besides writing; there are often many vocabulary words in math, science, and social studies that students need to learn.

While there are many pros to using sentence frames, there is also a con:

  • Sentence frames may be too restrictive for some students and may not allow for much creativity. However, they are used as a scaffold so that students may become better independent writers.

A Final Thought…

Overall, sentence frames can be a great scaffold and benefit to all students. Students who struggle with writing will be especially grateful to have a guide to help them get started, whether it’s with a story, vocabulary words, or answering questions. Ultimately the goal for all students should be that they will be able to become creative and thoughtful writers, and sentence frames can help them to reach that goal.


Carrier, K. A., & Tatum, A. W. (2006). Creating sentence walls to help english-language learners develop content literacy. Reading Teacher, 60(3), 285-288.

Donnelly, W., & Roe, C. J. (2010). Using Sentence frames to develop Academic vocabulary for english learners. Reading Teacher, 64(2), 131-136.

Evans, L.L., (n.d.). Building background – benefits of using sentence frames to build background knowledge. Retrieved from

Leave a comment »

Reader’s Theater: A Fun Way For All Students to Learn

“Readers Theatre can create an academic avenue that leads to increased reading fluency, regardless of whether students are striving or thriving.” (Chase & Rasinski, 2009).

As both a student and a teacher, it is in my experience that students learn best when learning is engaging, interesting, and fun. A current method that meets that criteria is Reader’s Theater. What exactly is Reader’s Theater? It is a strategy used to promote reading fluency, which means that students are reading with accuracy, automaticity, and prosody.

  • Accuracy – refers to readers’ ability to read the words in a text without error in pronunciation.
  • Automaticity – refers to the ability of proficient readers to read the words in a text correctly and effortlessly so that they may comprehend the text while reading.
  • Prosody – refers to the ability of readers to render a text with appropriate expression and phrasing to reflect the semantic and syntactic content of the passage. Fluent oral reading should simply sound like natural speech (Chase & Rasinski, 2009).

How does Reader’s Theater work?

In Reader’s Theater, students rehearse a script, usually from a book or a play, until they are highly fluent. After becoming fluent with the scripts, the students perform for a small group, class, or parents. The performance is usually done without costumes or sets so that the main focus is on the text. Students must use their voice to convey the traits of their character. The most important aspect of Reader’s Theater is that students read the text repeatedly until they can recite it with fluency, especially prosody (Linan-Thompson & Vaughn, 2004).

Let’s look at an example of a Reader’s Theater performance…

Some important points to remember when doing a Reader’s Theater:

  • Choose only scripts that are fun to do with lots of good dialogue. Boring scripts are no better than boring stories.
  •  Provide opportunities for students to practice. Students do not memorize their parts; they always read from their scripts.
  • A stage is not necessary. Students may simply stand or sit in chairs.
  • Model each character’s part and match roles to readers.
  • Combine parts if there are too many, and cut out scenes and characters that aren’t important. Change the scripts if they work better another way.
  • Work with small groups, not with the whole class, whenever possible.
  • Provide instructional support for new vocabulary and for understanding the different characters (Bafile, 2005).

Does Reader’s Theater really help students become better readers?

Fluency is often associated with oral reading, but it is also assumed that fluent oral readers are fluent silent readers as well. Research has shown a strong connection between prosodic oral reading and proficient silent reading comprehension (Chase & Rasinski, 2009). What that means is that students who read with expression orally tend to have good comprehension when reading silently. The opposite of that is also true; students who read orally with little or no expression tend to have poor silent reading comprehension. Research has also shown that repeated readings, as in rehearsing a Reader’s Theater script, lead to improvement in reading fluency that generalizes to new texts that students have not previously encountered (Chase & Rasinski, 2009).

The good news? Reader’s Theater promotes both reading fluency and comprehension!

Click here to see an example of a Reader’s Theater script:


While there are many pros to using Reader’s Theater, a couple of cons must also be mentioned. First, using Reader’s Theater is beneficial in the following ways:

  • Students are able to work collaboratively while preparing for their performance.
  • Reader’s Theater reaches students of the many types of intelligences, especially bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and linguistic learners.
  • Reader’s Theater can be used with students of all reading abilities. There are scripts of varying lengths and reading levels available.
  • Research shows that the repeated reading strategy also works with English Language Learners (Chase & Rasinski, 2009).
  • Scripts can be cross-curricular, so students may learn about science or social studies while enhancing reading fluency.

While the negative aspects of Reader’s Theater are few, here they are:

  • Some students may be extremely shy and have a hard time participating in a performance. With practice, however, many students can overcome this.
  • Sometimes it may be hard to find a script  that is a good fit for all of the students’ reading levels. However, Reader’s Theater is not usually done as a whole class; the class normally breaks into smaller groups. Teachers may need to group students according to reading ability in order to find scripts that will be beneficial to all students.

A final thought…

Reader’s Theater is a method that can be used with all students, including students with learning disabilities, gifted students, or English Language Learners. Methods and strategies used in classrooms should be methods that can be used with all students, so Reader’s Theater is a good choice for teachers to use. It has many more benefits than drawbacks, and it is research-based, which is extremely important when teaching. When Reader’s Theater is used in the classroom correctly, teachers can enjoy seeing their students become more confident, fluent readers.


Bafile, C. (2005). Reader’s theater: Giving students a reason to read aloud. Retrieved from

Chase, Y., & Rasinski, T. (2009). Implementing readers theatre as an approach to classroom fluency instruction. Reading Teacher, 63(1), 4-13.

Linan-Thompson, S., & Vaughn, S. (2004). Research-based methods of reading instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.