Getting Around

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Helping Students Behind in Math

I'm very glad this is one of our middle school blogging topics because some days I feel as though I'm doing this OK and other days it really gets me down.

I feel that my school makes considerable effort to provide support for struggling students.  Twice a week we have tutorial time when teachers can sign students up for remediation activities.  Students who fall behind on homework are assigned a place at lunch where they can eat and do homework at the same time.  Next year, students who haven't passed the state test in math will be placed in a companion class to their regular math class that will help them fill math gaps.  Students who don't quality for special education services but are having a hard time getting work done on a regular basis for any reason get assigned to an academic lab period, where a teacher is available to help them one-on-one with their work.  The academic lab typically has fewer than 6 students in it each period.

In my department, I'm lucky enough that we always schedule at least one review day before a summative assessment.  Sometimes we do a whole class activity and sometimes I differentiate the activities based on what I know from formative assessments.  After that, students can remediate and retake assessments on the same topic as many times as we can squeeze it in during class or tutorial.  I do require students to show me what kind of effort they've put into learning the stuff they missed before they retest, usually from materials I supply since many of our topics aren't in our books.

Where I struggle is with the students who, even with all this support, still have difficulty in math.  Sometimes the problem is with their reading level.  Other times they are slow processors who don't process slowly enough to get assigned to a study skills class or qualify for special education support but are slow enough that it takes them twice as long as everyone else to get it.  Having defined class time periods is especially hard on them, because if they haven't got it by the end of the period it's like starting over again the next day.

I am really looking forward to reading what other teachers are doing.  I get so many ideas from the blogosphere!

2 comments:

  1. I'm curious. Can you tell me more about your school's "schedule" and how remediation is organized and structured?

    1. Twice a week we have tutorial time when teachers can sign students up for remediation activities. Do teachers meet in PLCs to identify what activities to offer? Is this after school? Is it mandatory?

    2. Students who fall behind on homework are assigned a place at lunch where they can eat and do homework at the same time. Do core teachers take turns supervising in the classroom or are kids sent to the office during lunch?

    3. Next year, students who haven't passed the state test in math will be placed in a companion class to their regular math class that will help them fill math gaps. What class will students be "giving up"?

    Thanks!

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  2. Sure thing!

    1. Yes, teachers decide on a departmental level what to offer, sometimes during PLC and sometimes over email. It is offered during the school day. Those two days we start the day with tutorial and all the other periods give up 5-6 minutes to make it happen. We run the same schedule once a week when we have PLC meetings, but in that case the students don't come during that first, extra period. It is mandatory, and enrichment is offered for students who don't need remediation.

    2. The teacher who runs our academic lab runs the lunch period when students come in to work (he has no lab class during the lunch time frame). The academic lab teacher is spelled by the in-school detention supervisor. The lunch time is a mandatory time twice a week, and students with two or more missing assignments are assigned to it the morning of the lunch work time. They bring their lunches with them. If they buy lunch, they get it "to go." The lunch work time moves depending on how many kids have to attend. In the past there have been a few weeks where kids had to work in the auditorium, which is not ideal. It sometimes meets in the in-school detention room and sometimes in the academic lab room.

    3. Students will only be giving up one elective slot for the extra math class. Right now we only envision students being in that class for one semester, but I imagine that will be on a case-by-case basis depending on how those students are doing. We might have more students who qualify for those spots than there are spots, so I imagine there will be some fun discussions about who needs it most. Schedule-wise we are competing with a similar classes for students who don't pass the English Language Arts class, so that will be even more fun (though we as a department feel that if a student can't read it's hard to do math problems so we'd give those students over to the extra reading class first).

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