Sunday, December 8, 2013

Units for Intervention Class

I have been teaching an additional intervention class all year.  This is part of the Tiered Algebra project that our local AEA has been working with schools in our area to implement.  We had been given some guidelines, but not much, for what to do in that time.

  • Connect it to what is happening in the Algebra class
  • Don't just reteach/review what you are doing in Algebra
  • Don't just have "do your Algebra homework" time
  • Do more hands-on stuff
  • Do more explicit instruction
  • Use appropriate scaffolding
  • And others, but that's what I could think of off the top of my head

So here I am, a general Algebra teacher, with very little understanding of how to differentiate in my regular classroom, now seeing 24 of my students twice a day, and doing my very best to make it worthwhile.  But I've been mostly clueless.  I tried to do a lot of pre-intervention with them... (see Micheal Pershan's argument for this type of intervention here) which looked like covering the coordinate plane and plotting points before we graphed linear functions in Algebra, for example.  But I still felt like my students weren't able to use much of what we were doing in a way that truly benefited them in the regular classroom.  Not that I actually had any real way of measuring it...

Then the AEA shared with us about a presentation they heard from a school that has a similar model in 8th grade.  They decided that vocabulary was really important, because IF THEY DON'T KNOW THE VOCABULARY, THEY CANNOT ACCESS THE LEARNING IN THE GENERAL CLASSROOM.  This was an argument I had never heard before.  Now I always knew that vocabulary was important.  And I teach it...sort of, but I've never really emphasized it.  This has changed that.  Along with other things that came from this summary of the presentation, I have changed some things, and I think it is for the better.

I now have week-long units.  These units focus on a particular skill and the vocabulary associated with it.  For example we studied exponents prior to working with exponential functions.  We had vocabulary:  exponent, power, base, exponential, reciprocal, expanded form.  We studied the vocabulary each day in different ways:  matching; create your own example; which could be used for x, which would be used for y; etc.  We also had scaffolded lessons on simplifying exponents.  We started with whole number exponents with only positive numbers.  Then we discussed things such as -2^4 vs. (-2)^4.  We simplified expressions using the order of operations (with exponents).  And finally we saw negative exponents.

I was actually able to see my students apply what we were learning in class (no actual way of measuring other than my observations).  I depended on them to lead the other students when we saw negative exponents.  This felt amazing.  I am excited to continue using this model, although I am very frustrated that it took until November for me to find something this useful for interventions.  Hopefully as I continue to apply it I will see more improvement from these students.

But I am also frustrated by the fact that it is still group all of my intervention students together.  What if student a needs this and student b needs that?  How do I make that work?  How do I know what they need?

Just for an FYI here is an outline of the exponent unit:


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