Saturday, August 6, 2011

Algebra 2 Intervention

I have the exciting opportunity to be one of the first teachers at my HS to lead Algebra 2 Intervention this coming year.  Another teacher is doing Algebra 1 intervention, and together, we will invent this new class which is designed to support students who have a likelihood of struggling in their math class.  Students are enrolled in intervention before the main class even begins.  I've decided to try to bring together all of my thoughts and ideas about the class here before I begin planning with my colleagues.

Personalized Computer Instruction
The district is shelling out a good chunk of money for a computer program called PLATO Learning that will be our resource for remediation on pre-requisite skills that individuals are lacking.

Having taught many of the students on my class list in 8th, 9th, and 10th grade, I know that building a relationship will be essential for having them buy in to the intervention class.  I want them to know that I am their coach, cheerleader, and fan.  And they are a team.  This will likely be slightly easier with the Algebra 2 kids than the Alg 1, which is possibly why I'm so eager to experience this new support class.

I know this class CANNOT be students sitting in front of their computer clicking away (most likely disinterested, possibly angry) for 50 minutes a day, 5 days a week.  In order to make sure I provide enough variety, I'd like to have a plan which is (necessarily) flexible based on the students needs.  A sample weekly plan is included below.

Weapons of Math Intervention
     Preteaching/Previewing  I've always preached to my students to spend 5 minutes previewing an upcoming section from the textbook.  I doubt anyone has taken my advice.  I see using this idea in the form of a rapid-fire intro to several upcoming lessons in their main class, including actual example problems.  The goal is not for them to come away from the session with any skills (an interesting concept for me!), but to build confidence and some vocabulary for the presentation of the "new" material in their main class.  *They have an advantage for likely the first time in their math career.*
     Journaling  Self-reflection is a main theme of many of the articles I've read on this topic.  I see the journal being used in a once-a-week, prompted writing session combined with short entries throughout the week.  Possible entries/prompts may include:
  •  Safe, opinion questions such as "Is it important in this day and age to be able to compute a 20% tip in your head?"
  • Reflection on homework, note-taking, or participation habits from the week
  • Reflection on what has helped in Intervention
  • One new thing you want to try next week, reflection on something new you tried since last time
  • Do this problem and explain your thinking step-by-step
  • Quickly jot down 3 things you caught during the Preview Lesson
  • Name one type of problem you feel confident about, one you need more practice on, and one you really don't understand.
     Grouping  Partners-of-the-week solve a warm-up problem from the curriculum together each day.  Small groups (halfs or thirds of the class) solve problems at the board while talking through their thinking (as the rest of the class does PLATO).
     Celebrating   Possibly a box where students can brag about successes, indicating whether they want their name shared or not.  On Fridays, have a "brag party" to share and celebrate with the class.  Noisemakers?  Snacks?  This is so stepping outside my box! 
     Skill Building  Explicit instruction on skills successful students possess (for use outside of math class too!).  For example: note-taking, test-taking, test anxiety fighters, study skills, homework skills, self-advocacy, class participation.
     Sentence Sense-Making  I prepare sentences such as "The discriminant of a quadratic function tells us how many real roots it has" and "Since 10 cubed is 1000, the common log of 1000 is 3".  Students rate each sentence on how much sense it makes to them.  I can pull small groups based on their answers to remediate.
     Correcting Errors  I make up a homework assignment completed by some fictitious and goofy-named kid.  Students must find the pre-determined number of errors on the paper.  Bonus "Packer Pride Points" for finding extras.

Weekly Sample Lesson Plan
Each day, a warm-up problem from the current curriculum.
Mondays: Review in the form of... "Tell me everything you know/remember about ________."  Brainstorming as someone records ideas/examples on the board.  PLATO for remaining time.
Tuesdays: Preview/Preteach, Journal, then PLATO
Wednesdays: PLATO, then Sentence Sense-Making
Thursdays: Small groups presenting problems at the board/PLATO
Fridays:  Celebrations, Correcting Errors, Skill-Building, weekly Journal entry

Other thoughts
I have a student teacher for the first semester.  This will make small groups so much easier!
The schedule will depend on what I learn about PLATO.  I have zero experience.  If it's a pain to get into the program and get started, I'll likely have 2-3 days per week for just PLATO.  I like that Friday is PLATO-free.  They'll probably welcome the break.
I don't want to give any time for homework from their main class.  It sends the message that they'll have unlimited time to get homework done, and that I'm there to make sure they get everything right.

Things I read that inspired my ideas
Teacher Interventions-To-Go Series, Intervention Strategies for Mathematics Teachers, Math Intervention at Cascade MS, Samantha Douglas - Give 100%?

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