The Center for Implementing Technology in Education said, “The research on computational fluency suggests that the ability to fluently recall the answers to basic math facts is a necessary condition for attaining higher-order math skills (page 3).”
In the same article they said, “As students with math difficulty get older, they fall further and further behind their non-math-difficulty peers in the ability to recall basic math facts from memory. Further, this lack of fluency interferes with the development of higher-order mathematical thinking and problem solving (page 4).”
What can I do?
First, I believe it is important for IEP goals and specially designed instruction to reflect grade-level topics. For most students, it is not appropriate to continue spending precious instructional time on learning basic facts after the early grades. As math concepts move on, so should their specialized instruction. Within my small group setting, I can give them extra opportunities to practice and a few tricks that they can then take back to their Gen. Ed. classroom and hopefully use successfully in that setting.
Second, I can help students work around their weaknesses. One way I’ve done this is by allowing my students to use calculators more often, and to include it on IEP accommodations/modifications.
LD Online has an article, Beyond “Getting the Answer”: Calculators Help Learning Disabled Students Get the Concepts, that I use to help determine when it is appropriate for students to use calculators. “When teachers want students to engage in higher-order thinking such as a solving problems, exploring patters, conducting investigations, and working with real-world data, the use of calculators can benefit all students…”
During those types of activities, a calculator helps the student access the curriculum by removing that math-fact-barrier. Instead of stopping to add using their fingers, they press a few buttons, and can move on to the important stuff at the same speed as their peers.
Other Benefits of Calculators
The LD Online article also notes “Calculators can help learning disabled students participate in rigorous problem-solving activities that might otherwise be too frustrating for these learners.”
I can’t stress how true this really is. Until you’ve handed a struggling student a calculator, and you’ve seen the smile that spreads across their face, you won’t imagine how much of an impact this can have.
Last year I had the opportunity to see Seth Godin speak in Seattle last year. My big take-away was his call for schools to “Teach kids to solve interesting problems.”
What I like most about allowing students to use calculators is that it gives more students the opportunity to engage in those higher-level skills, which in turn will give them the skills to solve interesting problems, which in turn will lead to a better world!
1st and 2nd year teachers in the Salem-Keizer school district take part in the Mentor Program. One of our assignments this year was to participate in a book study, I chose Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning. In the upcoming series of posts I will reflect on my learning and share how it will impact my teaching, and more importantly, my students’ learning.
The classic teacher-student interaction goes something like this:
Teacher: “What is 4 plus 5?”
Teacher: “Correct, nice adding.”
The above example is known as IRE. Teacher Initiates, student Responds, and teacher Evaluates. With IRE, teachers are knowledge givers in a role of authority and students are students are knowledge receivers without any authority :(
I read this and thought, if IRE is the norm, how long before students begin to think to themselves, “Doesn’t wikipedia have the answer? Doesn’t it say the answer right there in your teacher book? Why do you always have to ask me when you already know?” As students become more aware (link to chapter 2), I fear this may begin to bite back (especially in middle school).
This chapters provides ways of questioning which throw IRE out the door and flip the interaction so students are the experienced thinkers who have something to say that is worth listening to. I suggest reading the book, because this is a great chapter, with many great suggestions. But I’ll share one example.
Teacher: “How did you know?”
This questions starts a narrative and emphasizes the production of knowledge instead of knowledge itself. It assumes the student is knowledgable, even if their answer wasn’t exactly correct. Production of knowledge is a bigger life skill than knowing things, so this helps prepare students to be productive citizens. This is also something I learned last year during GLAD training. It forces students to take their thinking/verbal skills to the next level, something that will benefit them for the rest of their life.
Lesson plan formatting is a common topic of conversation I hear with my colleagues. My goal with lesson plans is to write the overall gist of what the students will be doing during their time with me, I keep the details in my head. Many people say they write detailed plans, but I find the clutter and length of the details makes it difficult to refer to while I am teaching. (Typically I keep the lesson plan at, or near the table while I teach.) Personally, I prefer to follow the KISS protocol, Keep It Simple Silly ;)
There has been a push in the last couple weeks at my school for every teacher to have learning targets for reading, writing, math, and language posted at all times somewhere in the classroom. Initially I thought, “Wow! With groups for 1st through 5th graders in reading, writing, math, behavior, social skills, and study skills. How can I stay on top of that?”
I decided to be more like the tortoise and less like the hair. In other words, one step at a time. My first step, update my lesson plans to include a specific place to consider the target for that day. At the very least, I will have to consider it while I am writing my plans everyday. At the very best, I have a student friendly target posted on the board everyday.
So without further ado, I present my weekly lesson plan format. Feel free to download and use it as is, borrow pieces from it, or totally ignore it. What do you do different in your plans?
To download my Weekly Lesson Plan: click in the window where the lesson plan is on, “File” then “Download original.”
As I’ve said before, I am a elementary special education teacher. And you also know that throughout this school year, I have been taking courses through Western Oregon University towards my ESOL endorsement.
Most of the reading and in-class discussions have been geared towards general educators, so I am constantly trying to think of ways I will use what I am learning in my setting. In the Learning Resource Center (LRC), students come into my room for about 30 minutes of specially designed instruction in reading, writing, or math (some students come for all of those services) 3-4 days a week.
In a recent assignment we wrote an ESOL lesson plan a lesson plan with both content and language goals. This was a chance for me to adapt the curriculum in my classroom, focusMATH Intensive Intervention, to improve a 5th grade lesson on fractions by purposefully including opportunities for students to develop language and the always-critical math vocabulary. Here is the link to my ESOL fractions lesson plan, let me know what you think.
Although it was a time-intensive process, I will be more prepared when I teach this lesson next year. Not only will I be able to teach a math skill, but I will also be able to help my students, English Language Learners and or not, develop the language and math vocabulary that will help them be successful when they return to their general education classroom.