A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Friday, July 11, 2014

A message to the universe

If I were to get 5 tablet computers for my classroom, I would add a learning center where I could rotate students through self-paced technology enhanced activities while I facilitate differentiated small group direct instruction and guided practice activities. I am a Learning Disabilities Teacher and I work with a population of students with an extremely rate of high free and reduced lunches provided, in other words, students of poverty, and many of my students also are second language learners. One of my students experienced experienced a 200 point gain in his state testing in math, and went from a pre-primer to a 5th grade reading level last year, and passed advance in US History. Another student had a full-time aide throughout elementary school -- I called him "The Poster Child for Learned Helplessness" -- but after I intervened with his parents, we helped him to become a far more independent learner and he was able to pass his state testing in math.

My students come to me lacking both core skills and essential knowledge (place value and base-10, multiplication facts, fraction concepts, and academic vocabulary). Despite possessing average to above average intelligence, in general, my students typically come to me lacking general problem solving ability, and lack habits of mind such as stamina, persistence, and creativity. Our nation faces a critical shortage of talent in the areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Marketing).

By developing a Guided Math Framework similar to the framework developed by Ann Richardson and others in Guided Reading, I hope to fill in the gaps and correct some of the critical misconceptions that lead to repeated errors. As Jim Rohn expresses, "failure is caused by a few errors in judgement repeated daily," whereas "success is no more than a few simple disciplines repeated every day. In short, I hope to be able to make more effective learning interventions and help students develop the habits and skills so that the Learning Disabilities program becomes a way station, rather than a destination.

By strategically incorporating technology, I will be able to do a better job of collecting data, plus the software will often provide students with immediate feedback while they work independently. Also, technology enhanced activities will both generate interest and excitement. Meanwhile, I will be able to provide explicit instruction to small groups of students in concepts, vocabulary, procedures, and gradually release responsibility so that they can solve rigorous math problems independently, both in game formats, as well as more open-ended mathematical inquiries.

Students with gaps in their learning need hands on experiences with mathematical models such as base-10 blocks, arrays, and other tools that help students develop operation sense. The also need repetitive practice with immediate feedback so that they know whether or not they are doing the work correctly and don't repetitively do the work incorrectly. They need to be shown explicit procedures for representing their thinking so that they know that they know and what they don't know (metacognition). Students need to be shown that mathematics is both beautiful and incredibly useful in helping them evaluate and solve practical problems (life skills). Unfortunately, interfering behaviors, often a result of frustration with models, concepts, and procedures that lie outside of their "zone of proximal development," or sweet spot for learning, where the material is neither too difficult or to easy, tends to reduce learning engagement. By incorporating a Guided Mathematics format, I will be able to more effectively eliminate the majority of interfering behaviors, which should result in a dramatic improvement in classroom performance.