November 16, 2017 at 9:21 PM #41104Michael Yoder@4given2give
I currently teach in a classroom, grades 7-12, with 13 students. I have about 2 students per grade. With teaching Algebra I and II and trying to get everyone help, I’m finding that I’m getting swamped. I knew it would be a busy year and I know the easy answer is probably to get a teacher’s aid but I’m wondering if anyone who’s taught individualized in a situation such as mine has any ideas? I’m currently allowing some of the older ones to help the younger ones as they have time, but it still seems like I don’t have enough time to reach around. I know it’s frustrating for the students, as well as myself. I’d like to tighten things up as much as possible this next quarter and do what I can to help the situation. Any ideas out there from individualized teachers who have found themselves stretched to the limits?
November 18, 2017 at 8:49 AM #41213Jonas SauderModerator@jonas
One suggestion–Note whether you frequently find yourself explaining the same things to the two students in any given grade at different times. If so, you might be able to gain some efficiency by checking with student #2 to see if he also needs help with this given question–and explain/teach both at once. This does mean that they’d need to be working on the same lesson.
November 18, 2017 at 4:40 PM #41214Craig Steiner@craignbecca
If you have several students that struggle and they are in the same grade, you can keep them on the same lesson and explain concepts to them together. If that is not possible, still explain concepts to them together and often your explanation will come back to them when they encounter that concept, even if it is several weeks later.
Depending on the curriculum you use you can record spelling/word building self-tests and tests to an mp3 player, allowing students to take them with minimal teacher time required.
Teach your students to “bounce books” or continue working in other subjects when they are unable to figure out a problem or they are waiting on something from you. When you do get to them fifteen minutes later they may have several things ready for you that you can take care of in one stop rather than coming back several times.
However, the primary solution to your question is much bigger than efficiency tips that anyone can give you. Here are some keys that need built into a school over months and years for an individualized curriculum to work: 1. Build your students’ reading abilities. Students who can’t read well struggle in an individualized setting, making a tremendous load for the teacher. 2. Teach your students to try, try, try again. Too many students give up after one or two tries which increased their dependency on a teacher. Make sure a student has stretched their problem-solving efforts before you help them. When you do help a student, be careful to lead them to discovery rather than giving them answers. How you help a student greatly affects their approach to future problems. 3. Make sure they read directions. Ask them to read the directions to you before you help them. This simple step removes a surprising amount of questions that get asked of teachers. 4. Require fluency in math facts. Neither you nor the student have time to waste even 10 seconds figuring out 6×8 or other facts. Too often simple math fact errors cause big problems in algebra and other math. 5. Don’t allow students to move past a concept until they have mastered it. When you are under pressure it is tempting to keep pushing a student as long as they can pass the tests. I have seen many students who could pass tests but still didn’t know the content. Then several books or grades later they (and you) have big problems to figure out. Take the time to work on concepts now so they don’t snowball later. 6. Learn to know the curriculum that you are teaching well. Keep a list of difficult books and concepts that cause problems or are not explained well. Keep worksheets or exercises handy that can reinforce weak spots or difficult concepts. 7. Teach your students basic study skills. Students who learn how to search for answers by scanning for key words, highlight a key section for later review, or come back to a problem after a five minute break have gained valuable life-skills and make your job easier.
While these concepts are important in all schools, they are critical for success in an individualized setting.
November 18, 2017 at 5:24 PM #41216Crista@cris
Are there ways to organize the classroom and class routines to reduce the amount of time you spend answering questions or flags concerning scoring, permission to get materials, reading material, getting initials, etc.? Sometimes rearranging some routines can free up time to focus on the essential subject questions of students.
I’ve found that the students needed to be taught and needed to practice study skills and good work habits. Taking some time to intentionally teach and practice the skills can reduce teacher time later in the year.
November 18, 2017 at 5:49 PM #41217Peter Goertzen@petergoertzen
There is tremendous wisdom in the posts above!
Like Craig and Crista, I’ve found it extremely beneficial to invest time in teaching good work habits and direction-following. When a student asks me for help, the first thing I’ll often do is ask if they’ve carefully read the directions and/or the assigned reading from beginning to end. If they haven’t, they must. If they say they have but it becomes clear that it hasn’t been done properly, I have them do it again. (I make exceptions for students with genuine reading struggles, etc.) This eliminates many problems, and some students who once asked lots of questions are able to do much more work on their own.
The upcoming holidays provide an opportunity to start fresh with some things. Perhaps you could take time on the morning of the first day of school after Thanksgiving to address some of these issues with your whole classroom.
On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that you’ve already done these things. I once taught in a classroom much like yours, and I know how it can be. I once talked to a teacher who had taught in a situation like this for many years—well over 30 years if I recall correctly—and I asked him how he did it. He said it’s important to be realistic and know your limitations. Do what you can as well as you can, and know what compromises to make. Hang in there!
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