Saturday, March 30, 2019

This Year's Practice Goal Revisited

Last year when I assessed students' scores and achievement, I noticed that students who did not practice math regularly did not achieve at levels expected. What kept these students from practicing included teacher follow-up and lack of academic support at home. Families who could not provide academic support at home generally was typically not a situation of will, but instead a situation of circumstances. I understand this well because there were a few years when my children were young that we simply were unable to support at-home academic help due to a number of circumstances beyond our control. Fortunately teachers, neighbors, and others pitched in and helped which supported my own children well.

So this year I made my goal to provide more targeted practice, support, and response for students so that all students would make good progress in math. I began this goal with gusto in the fall only to find that I couldn't keep up with the extensive after hours of work required to make sure that all 65 students were completing their homework in a timely and accurate manner. However, the early efforts to do this created a good amount of allegiance to at-home practice by about 3/4 of the families and students. So there was some positive results from that effort. Further I offered two mornings a week for extra help in class, and many children have taken advantage of those times and complete homework at those times. Many students who take advantage of this time have found the times profitable.

Yet, I am not satisfied overall with the results of this practice goal, and want to better my efforts next year with the following efforts:
  1. I'd like to promote a fifth grade math homework club a couple of afternoons a week for students who do not have at-home academic support. Every year we have only a few students who fall into this category, and these students typically don't take advantage of the early morning extra help sessions. I will begin this club in October which will give me time to identify who these students might be, and how I might help them. The challenge here will be transportation since sometimes students who don't have at-home academic help, also don't have transportation to attend extra-help sessions.
  2. I'll continue my before school help sessions for students who choose to practice at school.
  3. I'll advocate for a morning "study" block at fifth grade so that we can give students time in school to practice their math in effective ways. 
  4. I might look into the idea of promoting a math team too.
For the most part, students who practiced made good progress. The very few children who did not practice effectively did not make as much practice. All of these students lacked at-home academic support, and all of these students would have profited from an opportunity to practice at school with dedicated time and knowledgeable teachers. 

One other group that I feel we can do a better job with is children who face significant learning challenges and unique profiles. I believe we can do a better job at the start of the year looking deeply at these students learning profiles, foundations, needs, and interests, and with careful planning with specialists and other teachers, we can identify clear goals, programming, and supports to help these students move ahead in math with confidence, engagement, empowerment, and success.

And, I believe that we may be able to develop the math study for all students by integrating specialist projects and team times with math. Now I realize this is often not possible due to other goals, but if you meet with a small group each week, you may be able to dedicate your activities to math as well as a goal of teamwork, social skill building, or other topics.