Thursday, January 7, 2016

Helping your Students reach their Full Potential

Hey Friends! It's Melanie from Momma with a Teaching Mission. I teach 1st grade in Maryland, and I'm the mother to 4 fabulous kids! 

So it's January. Are you feeling the pressure? 
I'm sure all teachers feel that way! But when I return from winter break in January, it hits me! We only have 1/2 a school year left. With teaching first grade in Maryland, the expectation is that a first grader comes to us on a F&P (Fountas and Pinnell) level of D and they leave first grade on a level J. Now that's of course if the student is reading on grade level. But that's not every student! In fact, this year, my whole school grouped students by ability, and teachers were departmentalized. I am teaching literacy (reading/writing/our phonics program) to our lowest level, and our below average level first graders. Not one came to me in August on a F&P level of a D. In fact, I had some students come to me as non-readers. Kinda overwhelming, right?!? 

SO...luckily, my principal is A.MA.ZING and realizes that the importance is not an F&P level, but more is every student making gains compared to themselves. If they are a 3rd grader, and started the year on an F&P level of C, and by the end of the year they have grown to a F, yes they are still reading below grade level, but they have made growth.

So then the question becomes....

In a perfect world, the answer would be, well we will provide those learners with the interventions and tools to help them. But, as teachers know all too well, that doesn't always happen. I teach in a school of about 700 students. We have 2 special education teachers and ZERO intervention teachers. Yep, ZERO. So...teachers have had to become the intervention teachers in our school. And the results have been fantastic!!

 Ok, the first thing we, as teachers, can do to help our students read their full potential is to meet them where they are. If you have low level learners, don't try to teach them about plot or author's purpose if they are struggling with letter identification! Same goes with your high level students, don't hold them back just because they are the only high student you have. Don't bore them with repeated addition, when they are ready to move on with full-blown multiplication. Meet them where they are!! Ok, are you eye rolling?!? Maybe, right? You may be thinking, sounds good in theory Melanie, but how in the heck am I suppossed to implement this? Small groups. Seriously. If you aren't teaching in small groups, you are teaching to the middle, to the average. And don't even get me started on teaching to the average!! Check out this Ted Talks about Teaching to the Average.

The second thing that we, as teachers, can do to help our students reach their full potential is to offer them choice. I know that not everything lends itself to this as easily. However, if you are assessing if they understand the setting of a text, why not offer them the choice of drawing a picture or writing a sentence about it? Same for math! Let them choose to show you they understanding re-grouping by using different methods, such as drawing a model, or just using the plain old algorithm. Offering your students choice, helps them to be more accountable for their learning. 

The third, and final, thing that we can do to help our students reach their full potential is to use encouraging words. Help your students build confidence to want to attempt to read, or attempt to solve math or science problems. The more encouraging and positive things they hear your saying, the more they hear that in their own minds. You will also notice that they will start using these encouraging words with each other. 

Don't get discouraged, teaching is stressful. We have the most important jobs in this world, and don't let anyone tell you any different! You are wonderful, and this is going to be your year!

If you have any questions or comments for me, feel free to shoot me an e-mail, or hop on over to my blog! Momma with a Teaching Mission

Wishing you all the best in 2016!


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