Getting Around

Monday, February 25, 2013

Science Olympiad Regionals Results

I just have to brag on our kids a little bit. I am the assistant coach for our school's Science Olympiad team. This past weekend we went to the regional competition and did extremely well. Across our two teams we medaled in every event. Our A team medaled 18 times and our B team medaled 16 times out of 23 events. We go to the state competition in a few weeks.

I can't really take any credit for this success because I'm only learning the ropes this year. The coach is amazing and the kids are incredible. We can only field one team for state, so cutting half the team was extremely difficult. Luckily, the state competition will be held nearby and we expect a lot of our extra team members to come cheer on those who are competing.

If you are interested in starting a Science Olympiad group at your school, go read the information at the Science Olympiad website. There's almost too much information. Keep in mind that you DON'T have to buy all the recommended videos and kits in order to be competitive. You really need motivated kids, supportive parents, and perhaps a good PTO to help you pay for a bus to competition.

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!