Apr 27, 2011

Help Wanted: How Do I Create Learning Opportunities for Students Who Need it the Most?

One problem I've been struggling with lately is that I noticed that my students can be divided up into the following student categories:
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Student Type 1: I understand the material and I just got a [91-100%] on the test. I am ignoring you as you talk about ways to get help on the material.

Student Type 2: Agh!!!! I don't get it!!!!! HELP ME! I'M FAILING...AT LIFE! (*Student Type 2 comes in for extra tutoring before school, during lunch, during advisory, and after school; student also proceeds to take advantage of every extra credit opportunity and test corrections; meanwhile, their grade creeps up from a C+, B-, or B+)

Student Type 3: I got an F on this test. I am too far gone to do raise my grade. Also, before school/lunch/after school is my time, not yours.

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Short of advising that I teach my students the material in such a way that they understand it the first time around (I'm working on it!), what can I do for my students who are unmotivated to put in the extra extra work that it takes to catch up and keep up with the material?

Many of these students who struggle from the beginning are already trying to cover more ground due to information gaps (e.g., some students learn how to balance chemical equations in middle school, others do not, yet all are allowed to enroll in high school chemistry). The longer that we press on in chemistry, the further they fall behind; the further they fall behind, the less motivated they are to take advantage of remedial/extra support. This, of course, leads to sinking grades which then leads to less motivation, and... yeah. You see where I'm going with this.

So how can I offer support to the students who need it most in such a way that they do not feel embarrassed to ask for help? How do we show these students that it's not hopeless and that we have not given up on them? How do I, every now and then, close my doors to the students who do come in for tutoring to get the C+ to B- grade boost so that I can give the students who are struggling the most a few moments of undivided attention?

I've tried a couple of things: I suggest to all students that they ask each other for help and that I am not the only resource in the classroom for learning science; I've tried having less drop-in tutoring and more invite-only tutoring sessions. I cannot tell if the former is working; as far as the latter, I end up getting a lot of no-shows.

I know that my question is nothing novel -- does anyone have any suggestions for me?

The Morning of the CST

We had an advisory period before today's math CST. The team decided to provide the kids with last minute review and tips. Each teacher would provide slides for their subject's test. Given that I won't be able to see the entire group today, to show face before they go on their big dance:
He gives tips too:
But really, I got the idea from their english teacher. So, I pay tribute:
And to lighten the mood, a guest appearance by the man I spent spring break with: