Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hidden Gems: Fractions=Trouble!

This week's Hidden Gem is a math mentor text that is really so much more. "Fractions=Trouble!" is a gem in my book because it confronts the issue of learning a difficult topic, social adjustments to accepting help when you need it, and exploding pickles!

First, any text about fractions is a benefit to most of my students in grades 3 through 10. No matter how well these kids have done in math, it seems fractions give them a hard time. Wilson is a great kid, who just doesn't seem to get it, no matter how hard he tries. I love it though, that as things start to make sense, he starts to fractions in just about every part of his everyday life.

Second, the main character, Wilson, is getting a math tutor for the first time and he emotionally expresses his concerns. We get to walk alongside this young man as he comes to terms with accepting help and not being ashamed of his own weaknesses. I also love the strategy the tutor uses, very much like my own.

Finally, Wilson also explains in a realistic tone his frustration with trying to focus on a subject he's not good at and is not at all interested in. He tries so hard to pay attention in class so he can pass the test and not need the tutor after all. But we all know how well that works out, doodles and staring off into space tell him it's not so easy to focus on something that doesn't make sense to you.

What a fine text for most of the students I work with (especially those who are both math and reading students!). If after reading this with your students, you think they could use a little more help understanding fractions you can check out this resource, and here's a free game that will help them build their fraction number sense.

Amy, over at Teaching Ideas 4 You has written about a few Hidden Gems she uses with her class, And Caitlin at The Room Mom has as well, check them out, you might find a new gem you never knew you couldn't live without!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Creating a Learning Tribe

I recently guest blogged over on Education to the Core about creating Learning Tribes for our students. If you've read that article and are looking for more information, you've found the right place. If you haven't, you might like to go check it out. 

A Little More Background on Learning Tribes:

Let’s not get this tribe confused with the official movement of Tribes Learning Communities pioneered by Jeanne Gibbs. However, I’d like to quote from a TLC trainer because the fundamentals are the same.  Indigenous people consider the word “tribe” a formal word with special relational meaning often defining similarities and uniqueness. …the word came into use as the name for the developmental learning process developed by Jeanne Gibbs. This process is a way of being together helping each other teach our children to live a life based on time honored values in caring, safe and supportive environments. … The informal definition (also from the Cambridge Dictionary) defines the meaning as “a large family or other group that someone belongs to.” The process known as “Tribes” helps us to create “belonging” for children in schools and other organizations.” (Ron Patrick, http://tribes.com/about/)

Taking the points from that explanation, a learning tribe is a collaborative community surrounding the student. Teachers, parents, tutors, coaches, and even therapists, all united in an effort to teach the child, and create safe environments for learning. I love the Cambridge definition, and it fits well with the purpose of this effort. Imagine students who once struggled with the very basic concepts, belonging to a large family of trusted adults who want the best for them and who work together to provide the needed supports and encouragement. 

What does an effective learning tribe look like?

A learning tribe requires all members of the child’s tribe to be on the same page, to know what is needed to bring him to the next level, to understand why she is struggling the way she does.

If a student has a tutor, it’s helpful to know what skills are being worked on in the class, where the student struggles the most, and what is coming up next. Many tutors are capable and willing to front load difficult vocabulary and concepts, thus creating background experiences for the classroom teacher to draw on during content lessons. It’s also helpful for the tutor know about behavioral incentive programs and how they work, we can encourage our student to reach his goals, and help her discover areas of the day where she could apply her focusing strategies.

Likewise, counselors and therapists can use some information from the classroom during their sessions. Again, the behavioral programs and issues. They also benefit from hearing the positives from the day/week/month. If they have some positive feedback to work with, the counselors and therapists can help struggling students focus on what they are doing right and set goals to keep it up, or even apply that to other areas of their life.

I’m always struggling to find the answer to what benefits the classroom teacher. I’ve had teachers ask me if our student is capable of doing certain things on their own, what scaffolding I’ve been using, and what coping strategies we’ve developed (mostly for my special needs kiddos). Since it’s usually difficult for me to open this line of communication, I thought it’d be fun to write a little parody. I'm still working on it, the lyrics are done, and most of the recording complete. We are just waiting for a little warmer weather (it was 17 degrees this morning) to shoot the video. I will post it as soon as it's complete!

In the meantime, if you have a minute, pop over to fill out a super quick survey that will help me, and other tutors, know exactly what information to communicate to our students’ classroom teachers. I will compile the responses and post them as soon as there are enough to make a post.

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