Saturday, September 29, 2012

Catch-Up Students: What to do?

Note that the journey is not as linear as this.
Hattie's research clearly defines the attributes that take children on a successful learning journey, leading them from unknowing to knowing through a clear process:
  • identifying realistic goals/success criteria.
  • coaching with optimal strategies.
  • assessing along the way and at the end of that goal.
  • making next step decisions. 

Playing Catch-Up
The trouble with today's learning standards and school structure is that there are a number of children who are always playing catch-up.  Rather than realistic goals, these students' grade-level goals are way beyond their current foundation level of knowledge.  Hence to teach to the grade level standards for these students means that you're setting them up with goals that are unrealistic and unattainable. What's a teacher to do?

Realistic Goals
This year I hope to help these "catch-up" students by applying Hattie's research and developmental check lists in the area of number sense.  Instead of jumping into multiplication and large number operations with these students, we are going to step back to where these students are, and begin building their number sense foundation there. I use the "baby walking" analogy with students.  I tell them that we don't chastise babies who walk later than other babies, and we don't make babies who can't walk yet, learn to run and jump--it's a step-by-step process that happens at a different time for every student.

Hence, this is how I plan to address the "catch-up" dilemma in math this year:
  • I will teach two threads: a number sense thread and a concept/knowledge thread in math.
  • The number sense thread will be based on students' growing ability to understand number values, combinations and operations.  The concept/knowledge thread will include all students, with a 1-2-3 approach to all lessons which means a review, grade-level and challenge level to each lesson--all levels are open to all since some students who struggle with one math concept will excel at another.
  • I will assess all students' number sense and lead them through the following number sense progression utilizing a combination of modalities and lots of models, especially the number line.
    • counting/add facts (combinations of 5, combinations of 10, doubles, all combinations from 0-10)
    • addition facts 0-12
    • subtraction facts 0-10
    • subtraction facts 0-12
    • large number addition/subtraction
    • multiplication facts 
    • division facts
    • large number multiplication/division
    • algebraic equations 
  • The concept/knowledge thread will move in this order: measurement, place value, counting, estimating/large number +/-, multiples/factors, estimation/large number X and division. Geometry and data/stats will be sprinkled through out as separate, interdisciplinary units.
  • Students will be assessed on Fridays, and on Mondays students and teachers will set the weekly goal; identify strategies, and promote practice and learning. 
On Friday I assessed students. Then I created this packet for some in the new, Open Dyslexic font (which doesn't appear on all online copies) to review and strengthen the number sense foundation with a goal of learning the facts for combinations of five in one week's time.  

I am hoping that this approach will do the following:
  • Teach children the process of learning and give each child ownership and pride over his/her learning.
  • Create realistic, attainable goals and confidence.
  • Develop number sense in all students.
As a classroom teacher, I have a lot to learn in this realm.  But as a teacher who wants all students to embrace the attitude and knowledge that everyone is capable of learning with confidence, joy and success, I want to learn more and understand how I can help all of my learners in this regard. Over the weekend, I'll create a starting number sense packet and online menu for my students who  are in other places with regard to their number sense foundation.  I hope to share that work too.

Please guide me in any way that you think will build my knowledge in this area.  Thanks for your consideration.

Note: I began this work years ago with the creation of the computation ladder