Monday, April 21, 2014

Little Successes = Big Rewards!

Don't you just love it when one of your students makes a big step forward? Its like watching your favorite underdog team win the big game ;) Tonight that happened for me, so I had to get on here and share with you.

I just started working with a new 5th grader about a month ago. Her family had moved to our area only a few months before, and the school change caused a little snag for her. She's a bright girl and has a lot of mental math capacity. So I was extremely excited to be working with her.

Here's the catch. The kid is adding, subtracting, and even simplifying fractions in her head, yet she's still counting simple numbers on her fingers! Something was missing a few years ago. Parents tell me her teachers hadn't focused on memorizing facts, she had no automaticity at all. :(

Note to all elementary teachers reading this right now, sorry to call you out, I don't mean to...
Please, let me say that again, PLEASE spend some quality time developing automaticity with your students! I know it takes time and resources that you really don't have, BUT it catches up to them later if they don't get this early on. I have 9th graders who still count 43+2 on their fingers!! 5-10 minutes a day, that's all a little fluency program like Rocket Math will take, and it will mean SO much to your students later!!

Well, needless to say, I didn't start this student out where she was in class. This isn't a homework helping situation. (Although I do offer to help her there as well, its just not our focus). Instead we went back to adding. Yes you read that right, I told a 10 year old student that we are going to focus on adding SIMPLE numbers. If you are familiar with the Rocket Math series, it starts out with numbers 1-9 plus 1, and only works through 9+9. That's pretty simple for a student who can simplify fractions in her head!

So we set some goals, and filled out the goal sheet I use with all of my students. She seemed excited and it looked like she had a good system of support to keep her on track with extra practicing between sessions. 

Goal Setting and Monitoring
I thought she'd move ahead rather quickly. I was wrong! Not only was she NOT practicing in between our sessions, she wasn't getting the support I thought she would. But that's really typical, as sad as that is. We moved forward at snail speed. 

Until today. When I mentioned the date and that I knew we were approaching her halfway goal, I asked her what we have to do to make sure she's completing her practices. She immediately went to the fridge and grabbed her goal chart. She handed it to me and told me we hadn't written any updates on it yet, she needed to see where she was at! AMAZING kid I tell ya! So we looked it over and marked off where she was (not even a quarter way to her goal), then we looked over what she had been working on, and I said, let's get busy!

I let her warm up her mind playing the Match Up Puzzles I made to correspond with the Levels, then we hit the speed drills.

Rock Star Addition Match Up Puzzles
I said her fingers must have been on fire she was writing and answering CORRECTLY so fast! She beat every record she'd previously set and started new levels at a faster rate than some of her more recent attempts. She was actually answering the facts FASTER than what her writing speed assessment said she could do! All the while, she was SMILING! When a kid just starts to do what they know they should be able to do, it feels good, for THEM and the one who helped them accomplish. Just one of the little rewards of being a tutor :)

What are some little victories you've experienced lately?


  1. I love hearing this! It is the little things that make all the difference :) I had one mom just tell me recently that her son had always said that he couldn't learn. I have been working with him for almost a year and his mom said that he just told her that "He CAN learn AND he sometimes likes it!" That brought tears of joy to my eyes. Times like that refuel me with that strong teaching passion. It's when I know this is what I was born to do :)
    Differentiation Station Creations

    1. I LOVE it! Thanks for sharing your "little" success!

  2. That's awesome! It's so exciting to see them make progress. You're incorporating some great practice activities and making it fun. She's going to have them all memorized soon! :) I always consider it a challenge when I hear "I don't like to read". I know most of it is that they are first graders and some don't have the decoding skills yet to read fluently and really enjoy the story. But, I keep trying to make it fun and reminding them of how awesome it will be to read big stories on their own. I had one little girl who recently told me she loved to read and she was one of the biggest naysayers at the beginning of the year. Love it!
    Teacher Treasure Hunter

  3. This is what it is all about! All kids need (at least) that one person in their life that holds them accountable and tells them they CAN do it! Thanks for sharing!

    Teaching Momster


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