Social and Emotional Learning and CueThink: A Perfect Match! - Part 2

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In our previous blog post, we showed how CueThink bridges the concepts and skills of Math with the soft skills needed to be a successful learner. "Using CASEL’s five SEL competencies, teachers can plan lessons that deepen content understanding and utilize the soft skills needed to become truly accomplished learners.” (CASEL, 2017)     

In this second of two blog postings, we continue to explore the last three competencies: Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-making through the lens of CueThink’s four phases of problem-solving.

Competency 3: Social Awareness

CASEL defines social awareness as “effective participation in all educational activities, including Mathematics...to understand and observe important social norms of the class, recognize there are diverse approaches to the problem-solving, and understand that the approaches of others can help us identify new and improved strategies ourselves. Further, empathy and perspective-taking are critical skills when applying mathematical reasoning to real-world problems.” (CASEL, 2017 p.2)

How CueThink Helps Build Student Social Awareness

CueThink develops positive classroom norms around the process of problem-solving. Through the use of peer-to-peer interactions, students learn to have powerful conversations. This structure helps students take perspectives and ultimately leads to developing an understanding of others’ viewpoints. Having students review and annotate each other's thinklets  can build greater awareness. Students can ask:

  • What did I do well when I solved this problem?

  • What do I need to work on? Did I read my annotations?

  • How did others solve the problem? What can I use the next time?  

In CueThink, help students use the following social awareness strategies:

  • Use peer-to-peer learning through annotations as a means to explore different perspectives

  • Show students the embedded sentence prompts located in annotations to help prompt student responses

3-Part Annotations Guide

Statement Specific Example Question
I noticed... Your... was... How did you know...?
Could you explain more about..?
Why did you decide...?
I noticed you used a picture to help you solve the problem. Your picture was of the 5 kids and you drew different colored lines to show who was shaking hands. Could you explain more about how the picture helped you not double count handshakes?
I noticed you double checked your work. You double checked your work by making a table. How did you know a table would help you double check?


Competency 4: Relationship Skills

How success is defined in mathematics, as well as other academic areas, is based on how well you listen, ask questions, and seek help when you are stuck on a problem. Active learning and focusing on cooperative strategies are critical to school success. (CASEL, 2017 p.2)

How CueThink Helps Build Student Relationship Skills

CueThink tools support students in building relationship skills in a variety of ways throughout each of the four-phase process. As students work together, the classroom becomes an environment with a problem-solving focus based on relationship skills. Using sentence frames with language that fosters problem-solving conversation brings students’ understanding to a whole new level. This is how relationship skills are cultivated. Encourage students to ask:

  • What kind of feedback did I give: was it a compliment or did I make a suggestion too?  

  • Did I use exemplar thinklets to help extend my thinking?

In CueThink, help students use the following relationship skills strategies:

Competency 5: Responsible Decision-making

Becoming thoughtful decision makers is a critical part of becoming an effective learner. “Mathematics assumes that students will have the basic ability to evaluate options and make effective decisions to complete assignments.” (CASEL, 2017 p.2)

How CueThink Helps Build Student Responsible Decision-making

CueThink goes beyond math as a drill activity. Through interactions around problem-solving, students make decisions about how to solve and present a problem to others. The ability to ask questions and make decisions based on the answers is at the heart of this competency. Questions students can ponder include:

  • How can I solve this problem?

  • What steps do I need to take?

  • What language will make the most sense?

  • How will the listener understand and make sense of my ideas?

  • How do I evaluate my process?

In CueThink, help students use the following responsible decision-making strategies:

  • Model good decision making through the use of the four-phase process

  • Have students use Bloom’s Taxonomy sentence prompts to evaluate and set criteria for feedback

CueThink users: Don’t forget to use Community Forum within the CueThink application to add any ideas you might have! In Educator Mode go to Support>Community Forum and select the category, Classroom Tips to share your questions and activities.

If you don’t have an account, we encourage you to register for a free trial account and explore the product further.

Interested in learning more? Join us for a live webinar about Social Emotional Learning in the Math Classroom on April 23 at 12pm, or April 25 at 9pm. Click the button below to register.

Works Cited

“Core SEL Competencies.” CASEL, https://casel.org/what-is-sel/

“SEL in Elementary Math – CASEL District Resource Center.” CASEL District Resource Center, https://drc.casel.org/resources/sel-in-elementary-math/


Using the CueThink Rubric to Evaluate Thinklets

In our Tips For Viewing Student Data blog, we discussed how setting problem-solving goals and using embedded data views can help you manage viewing student work. To evaluate student work at a deeper level, the embedded CueThink Rubric guides you in analyzing the key skills within each phase.

Use The Rubric While Viewing Student Work  

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When viewing a student thinklet, along the far right is a teacher toolbar with three icons. Select the middle icon to access the CueThink Rubric. As you open the CueThink Rubric, the question displayed below the thinklet automatically swipes left to reveal students’ work from the Understand and Plan phases.

The Rubric contains a section for each of the four phases. Within each section are guiding prompts related to the problem solving skills of the phase. Each prompt can be assessed as correct: “Yes, Partially or Not Yet.” Additionally, you can record phase-specific notes. An aggregate display of students’ scores and notes are visible in Reports > Rubric Summary.

Final scores from the rubric are displayed in the Class Progress page. Scores are calculated as a fraction of the score students earned, over the total possible points based on the number of prompts assessed. For example, if you only assess the Understand phase and a student scores all 1s, then the final score will be 3/6. But if you grade a student using the entire rubric and he only earns 1s, then his score will be 10/20. This allows you to flexibly use the rubric as discussed below.

Focus On One Phase Or Use The Entire Rubric

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Depending on your learning goals, decide if it’s necessary for you to complete the entire rubric for each student thinklet you view.

For example, if your goal is for students to explain how they are going to use their selected strategies in their written plan, then just focus on the Plan section of the rubric.

Use the whole rubric for summative assessments or to gain a holistic view of students’ problem-solving process. From that information, you can identify students’ strengths, misconceptions and determine the next problem-solving skill to focus on with students.  

Add notes on each student’s thinklet as you evaluate with the CueThink Rubric. Entering notes will help you:

  • Clarify how well each student met your goal

  • Note mistakes and misconceptions for scores of Partially or Not Yet

  • Identify areas where students are struggling

The CueThink Rubric helps you evaluate students’ problem-solving skills. Set goals to focus your analysis of students’ work and use of the rubric. The key is to determine which parts of the CueThink Rubric will best inform your understanding of student thinking.

Social and Emotional Learning and CueThink: A Perfect Match! - Part 1

From CASEL Core       Competencies

From CASEL Core Competencies

How can we bridge the concepts and skills of Math with the soft skills needed to be a successful learner? The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has been a leader in the area of Social and Emotional Learning development of students. Using CASEL’s five SEL competencies, teachers can plan lessons that deepen content understanding and utilize the soft skills needed to become truly accomplished learners. (CASEL, 2017)

In this first of two blog postings, we will explore two of the competencies and how teachers can use CueThink to bring problem-solving to life. In the second blog post, we will explore the competencies of social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

Competency 1: Self-Awareness

Self-awareness refers to the ability to recognize one’s emotion and accurately gauge one’s own self-perception. Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses in a situation and the feeling of self-confidence that accompanies this is at the core of this competency. (CASEL, 2017)

How CueThink Helps Build Student Self-Awareness

Students often believe that there is only one way to solve a problem. Becoming aware that there are multiple ways of solving a problem help students develop feelings of self-confidence. Rather than focusing on right or wrong, students can view problem-solving as an activity that expands understanding.

In CueThink, help students use the following self-awareness strategies:

  • Develop shared expectations and rules around problem-solving and acceptance of multi-responses.

  • Foster an appreciation of the different rates at which students work.

  • Use annotations to facilitate the practice of academic feedback between students.

  • Conduct discussions on what worked and what didn’t work as students solved problems.

Competency 2: Self-Management

Self-management of one’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors is the key to successful learning experiences. The ability to self-regulate and manage stress and impulses allow students to access concepts. Self-management is about goal-setting and organization. It leads to a self-motivated student. (CASEL, 2017)

How CueThink Helps Students to Build Self-Management Skills

The four phases of problem-solving and the design of CueThink provides students with a natural way to organize work. Each of the phases assists students in building a system of organized thinking and goal setting.  CueThink leads students to become independent thinkers and problem-solvers.

In CueThink, help students use the following self-management strategies:

  • Have students create a list of steps on how to solve a problem

  • Help students identify when they are frustrated and name ways to solve the issue

  • Use a think-aloud to illustrate your strategies when confronted with a difficult problem (for example, When I have difficulty solving a problem, I …)

  • Have students use a turn and talk with question prompts: “Last time I had trouble I did________________________. It helped because______________.”

In the next blog post, the 3 other competencies of social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making will be discussed.

CueThink users: Don’t forget to go our Community Forum within the CueThink Platform to add any ideas you might have! Go to Educator Mode>Support>Community Forum to share your questions and activities.

If you don’t have an account, we encourage you to register for a free trial account and explore the product further.

Works Cited

“Core SEL Competencies.” CASEL, casel.org/core-competencies/.

“SEL in Elementary Math – CASEL District Resource Center.” CASEL District Resource Center, drc.casel.org/resources/sel-in-elementary-math/.


Tips For Viewing Student Data In CueThink

After students create a thinklet in the CueThink application, you have on hand a wealth of data that provides rich insights into student thinking. But how do you efficiently review student work in a way that is not time consuming, yet allows you to identify your next instructional steps?

Set a problem-solving goal to focus your review of students’ thinklets

When you select a problem, identify a goal that can relate directly to one of the four phases, the prompts in the embedded CueThink rubric, or lesson plans provided in CueThink’s Resource Bank.

Once you have a clear objective, focus your review of student work on the skills related to it. For example, your problem-solving goal can focus on students’ success with unpacking the problem by “Noticing and Wondering”. Then, you would only review students’ work in the Understand phase. In this way, setting goals when you select a problem makes reviewing student work less time consuming and more manageable.

It can be tempting to want to review all phases for all problems, but remember that setting goals with students to refine one piece of their problem solving process over time will yield high quality thinklets by the end of the school year!

Scan students’ work in the four phases using the Class Progress bar

Before you even select a student’s thinklet to view, use the progress bar in the Data: Overview page of Reports > Class Progress to quickly scan the completion level of students’ thinklets.

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White means the student did not complete any fields in that phase at all.

Light blue means some, but not all, fields in that phase have been completed by the student.

Dark blue mean all possible fields in that phase are complete.

Review only the thinklets that are fully completed, or have the phase aligning to your problem-solving goal completed. Send students back to refine their work for incomplete phases.

Scanning the progress bar can help you identify trends to set your next problem-solving goal. For example, are you noticing most students are skipping the Plan phase, or leaving that phase partially completed?

Look at students’ final answers before deciding which thinklets to review more closely

You can compare students’ final answer to the problem answer right on the Class Progress page. Go to Reports > Class Progress. Change the first filter to “Data: Answers”.

Depending on your goal, you might want to only review incorrect thinklets to look for misconceptions or only review completed thinklets to look for exemplars to share with the class.

If you have CueTeach access, marking students’ final answer of yes, partially, or not yet correct funnels into the thinklet rubric.

Review student thinklets at a certain interval

It’s okay NOT to review every thinklet! Instead, you can review problems at a certain interval. For example, review a thinklet for every third problem a student solves. Sometimes, students need independent practice that is not reviewed by a teacher.  Hold them accountable for quality work by making sure students view and annotate at least two peers’ thinklet for feedback.

When you first collect student data, chances are there will be many areas within problem-solving that your students will need to improve. The key is to focus on refining one area at a time, by setting tangible goals students can achieve. In doing so, you’ll be able to efficiently review student work and identify your next instructional steps.


Observing a CueThink Classroom: A Walkthrough Guide

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Today’s administrators are required to be in many places at the same time. They have to constantly size up the different school initiatives and instructional strategies to decide which ones can improve student learning.  We have created a guide to help administrators observe what an active and collaborative math classroom looks like.

A CueThink classroom can lead to reflective conversations about the quality of student thinking as well as the quality of finished products. One way to gain insight into these types of conversations is through classroom walkthroughs.  Walkthroughs provide a snapshot of what is visible in classroom culture in longer than 5 to 10 minutes per class..

Key to a classroom walkthrough is knowing what you're looking for in a classroom. Using a checklist helps facilitate thoughtful conversations with teachers about their practice and the classroom environment. Principal John Skretta (2007) says that “their greatest value is that administrators can use them to gather data, which in turn can be used to prompt and provoke dialogue about instruction between teachers and administrators”  (Protheroe p. 30). Using a walkthrough protocol allows administrators to make the most of their time to understand how a CueThink classroom looks, sounds, and feels like in action.

How does a CueThink classroom feel?

One element of school culture is how classrooms feel. Tangible evidence of school culture (the physical, visual, auditory, or other sensory signs) demonstrate the behaviors of teachers, students, parents, and administrators (Shafer, 2018).  Questions to ask during the walkthrough related to the feel of the classroom environment include:

  • Are the students excited about learning?  

  • Do you want to stay beyond allotted time because it feels like the place to be?  

  • Are students persisting in their work? Are the students working through issues without giving up?  

  • Are they working beyond the frustration of not understanding and learning to take it slow? Are students talking about their challenges and ways to figure them out?

What instructional elements do you see in a CueThink classroom?

The visual aspects of classroom observations give administrators a picture of the instructional and curriculum components.  Thinking about evidence of student learning is not only in the work the student completes but in the process and tools of learning.  

  • What are there observable objectives? What does the student need to know and be able to do in this lesson?

  • What instructional materials and technology are used?

  • Are students engaged?  

  • Is there evidence of flexible student grouping?

What teacher behaviors do you see?

Listening to the quality of school talk in a classroom gives administrators useful data into the effectiveness of instruction. It is a direct link to assessing if the student truly understands the skills and concepts taught. Listening to the student presentations at the Review Phase of CueThink gives data on student thinking that is needed to plan the next instructional steps.

  • Is the teacher encouraging talk about problems and the use of language that facilitates problem-solving?

  • Is the teacher illustrating application, analysis, and creation of new ideas and strategies?

  • Is the teacher modeling problem-solving language and think-alouds to illustrate thinking?

What student behaviors do you see?

John Hattie states that quality feedback is an essential part of visible, active learning. CueThink fosters opportunities to receive three types of feedback: task-oriented, process-oriented and self-regulation. (Hattie and Zierer, p. 85) Conversations led by students are a staple of the CueThink experience.  Students generated questions are compelling data gathering opportunities that document student understanding. Their questions and conversations are indicators of students engaged in a task.

  • How is student engagement taking place?

  • Is student engagement a slow, thoughtful work process that involves challenge and dealing with difficulty?

  • Are the rates that students work differ based on the problem-solving process and skills set of the student?

Using the CueThink Observation Protocol As a Part of Administrative Practice

Printable Observation Protocol

Printable Observation Protocol

The CueThink Observation Protocol provides administrators with information about the power of problem-solving.  A protocol is defined as “A protocol is defined as "agreed-upon guidelines for reading, recording, discussing, or reporting that ensure equal participation and accountability.” (Berger and Libby p. 345) Protocols provide the observer with a means to frame discussions and data to help with instructional planning. The CueThink Observation protocol is a jumping off point for Administrators as a lens to frame the learning experience in the classroom from the teacher and student perspectives.  The information can help determine the effectiveness of the platform and lead to instructional decisions.

Works Cited

Berger, Ron, et al. Learning That Lasts: Engaging, Challenging, and Empowering Students with De. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

Hattie, John, and Klaus Zierer. 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning: Teaching for Success. Routledge, 2018.

Protheroe, Nancy. The Principal's Playbook: Tackling School Improvement. Educational Research Service, 2010.

“What Makes a Good School Culture?” Harvard Graduate School of Education, www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/07/what-makes-good-school-culture.