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Wednesday, May 02, 2018

What Strategic Approach Do You Use to Help Students Learn?

Good learning demands a strategic approach.

As a classroom teacher, I am teaching many students so my strategic approach focuses on how I can help all students develop their skills, concept, and knowledge in ways that matter.

For most students, the approaches I utilize work. Those approaches include the following:
  • Using a standards-based curriculum as a guide
  • Utilizing tech tools to support that curriculum
  • Teaching in a large variety of ways with the aim of engaging students in the learning process
  • Providing practice opportunities
  • Staying in close contact with families
  • Putting almost all assignments and resources online for easy access
  • Making sure that all students have computer access at home
  • Coaching positivity, growth mindsets, advocacy, observation
  • Advocacy for more and better when it comes to students who need that
Yet, there remain students for whom we can do more for. As I think of those students, I realize they need the following:
  • Greater academic support since they come from homes that for multiple reasons cannot support their academics at home
  • Greater opportunity for repetition as they have not had the chance to repeatedly explore, play with, discuss, or study most basic math concepts
  • Success and fun with learning math--for many of these students there's that feeling that they are always behind--that is not a helpful feeling when it comes to any kind of learning
  • Assistive technology
  • Assessment, real-time goal setting, creating learning paths with those students, and then moving along the path towards learning success
How can we do this?
  1. First we have to complete extensive in-takes on students who fall far from the mean of classroom learning--we have to understand their needs well. We need to know if they have academic support at home, needed tools related to eyesight, hearing, basic needs, tech support, social emotional needs met, needed counseling and more. We need to work to understand with depth what's standing in the way of successful learning for these students. Then we have to assess a bit more.
  2. After that we have to brainstorm the goals for these children and prioritize those goals. We need to decide what's most important and then work towards meeting those goals with the child and his/her family as part of the team. 
  3. We need to celebrate the successes too.
  4. We have to creatively use staffing to meet these needs.
One idea for this is to split math into two periods. One would be a numeracy block where the learning is personalized and students move along at their own rate with multiple online tools, collaborative learning efforts, and teaching sessions. The second block would be a problem/project base block that includes students of multiple ability levels who work together to learn about essential mathematical concepts through hands-on exploration and meaningful problem solving. 

If educators worked with strategy in these blocks, I think we might be able to better meet the needs of all students. I'm going to think more on this in the days ahead. I welcome your thoughts.