Monday, January 21, 2008

Safety Nets--Catch Them Before They Fall

Offering differentiated instruction is a way of life at Chets. Meeting the needs of all learners is one key to our success.

We differentiate for Level 1 and 2 learners during our workshop model through our work period. In work period teachers facilitate small groups, confer with individuals, and circulate the room doing "drive-bys." This differentiation meets the needs of Level 1 and 2 learners who need the core curriculum and a teacher's ear.

Differentiation for Level 3 learners takes place at Chets mostly in Grades 3-5 and consists of the teacher holding homework help sessions before school. Typically, this occurs in mathematics because we have a very systematic homework sheet covering a range of skills and concepts, and some students struggling to be independent mathematicians may need additional teacher assistance.

We offer the majority of our intervention programs for the Level 4 learners, because typically Level 5 learners emerge in the middle school grades.

For Level 4 learners in Reading we offer:

  • Reading Mastery to kindegarten and first grade students who struggle with phonics. This systematic direct instruction does not replace their Readers' Workshop but is given in addition to. We've run this safety net in a variety of ways but find it most successful when a certified teacher acting as a safety net teacher at the grade level pulls small groups of students for approxiamently forty minutes every day. This safety net occurs during school. To read more about this visit dayle timmons' blog on Safety Nets.

  • Great Leaps to students who struggle with fluency in grades two and three. (In the past, we've also offered it to specific studnets in fourth and fifth Grade, too.) This program covers some phonics but really works on improving student's reading rate. We use paraprofessionals to deliver this safety net, because this is a very scripted program easily taught by a non-certified teacher. The paraprofessional has a set schedule and pulls students one at a time for approxiamently five minutes each. The good news is that a student only needs the five additional minutes to move their fluency forward, but the bad news is that it has to be conducted one- to- one.

  • Before School Tutoring to third, fourth, and fifth grade students needing more support. Teachers use a wide variety of resources for this extra forty minute intervention. Generally, the teacher gives up their planning time from 8:20-9:00 two to three days a week to give students this extra safety net.

In Math we offer:

  • Math Navigator to regular education and special education students in third, fourth, and fifth grade who are struggling to be successful in the core math curriculum because of gaps in their skill or conceptual knowledge, or previously learned misconceptions are impeding their progress. Math Navigator is organized in 20-day modules that supplement the core curriculum. Therefore, we offer this program during the day to special education studnets who receive a double block of math, and in before and after school programs for our regular education students. A variety of teachers have taught these small groups including our intermediate special education teachers, our math coaches, our Art teacher, and a few extended day employees. To learn more about this tiered intervention listen to Phil Daro explain why students need this safety net.

  • Before School Tutoring is offered by the classroom teacher typically before school from 8:20-9:00 several days a week in third, fourth, and fifth grade. Teachers use a variety of resources to reteach concepts and skills studnets need more time to master.

In Addition, we are piloting:

  • Literacy Navigator for our fifth grade students who are generally considered at grade level readers so they further develop content area reading skills that will be used as they advance into middle and high school. Two groups are currently in session, one is being taught before school from 8:00-8:45 and the other after school from 3:15-4:05. We will be tracking student progress on our state assessment to see if this safety net further accelerated student performance.

Finding the time and the people to deliver safety net instruction is no easy feat, but it is one that we feel is significantly important. Catching students before they fall behind is easier and more cost efficient than trying to remediate them afterward. Therefore, running our Readers', Writers' and Mathematics Workshops like a fine tuned machine is one of our key focuses. Even so, we have students who need extra support and have to offer them safety nets to meet their needs.

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