Strategy Name: T-chart

Strategy Description: This is a modified version of t-notes. The t-chart is used to show work on math story problems and to explain what they did and why they did it on the other side. I encourage my students to use this strategy on the ISAT math extended response.

Description/Name of the class in which you used the strategy: 3rd grade Math—word problems

Rationale: 3rd graders need a way to organize their thoughts and need to be trained to explain their thinking in words. A t-chart is a great way for them to show the work they did and then to explain what they did right next to it.

Procedure: I first modeled the strategy over the course of several weeks with various types of word problems. I gradually asked students to help me fill in the t-chart—this gave me the opportunity to discuss problem solving with them. Eventually, I gave them easy word problems to practice t-charts with on their own. As time went by, I gradually increased the level of difficulty of the word problems, included some multistep word problems, so that when they got to ISAT they would not panic and would feel confident.


  • How did it go?—It went well. Many of my students chose to use the t-chart on their ISAT test and did a nice job of explaining their thinking, even if they didn’t get the right answer.
  • Describe the experience from your student's view. Did this literacy strategy reach diverse learners? What learning styles responded well to this strategy? Did you have students engaged that previously weren't? What learning styles seemed to like it least?—Most of my students liked using the t-chart for word problems, especially because I made it clear to them that many of the problems did not have one correct way to solve them, but many different ways to solve them. This knowledge gave them a little more confidence. Many of the problems could be solved either using an equation or by drawing a picture of some sort. Many of my kinesthetic and visual learners appreciated the fact that it was okay for them to draw a picture or make a table to solve the problem. In previous lessons, we had discussed the different ways word problems could be solved and also verbally explained what we were doing and why we chose to do it that way, so they were able to transfer that to writing it down on the t-chart.
  • What changes would you make if you use the strategy again?—I think I may start modeling this strategy sooner in the school year. I would also release responsibility to my students more slowly in the sense that I don’t want them to be doing t-charts on their own until they’ve had the opportunity to discuss the process more with myself and their classmates. I would also provide more exemplars from previous classes to show what a third grade student can do.
  • Make suggestions for using this strategy in other content areas.
This strategy can be used for any area where students need to show their work and explain their thinking.

Joan Fitzgarrald, retired 5th grade teacher at Northview Elementary, Rantoul, IL.