Creating and sustaining a culture of learning in a remedial math class is not always the easiest thing to do. In my class, I try a 3-pronged approach to create and sustain our learning environment as: collaborative, appreciated, and expected. My 3-pronged approach entails: requiring the students to ask each other for help, before asking a teacher; providing instant feedback on lessons via the activity feed; and posting daily leaderboards for all students to see.
The first step in creating my culture of learning was facilitating collaboration amongst students. Initially, I make myself available for all students when they need help. After a few weeks, I may assist one student on a problem, then refer any subsequent students to seek advice from the first student I helped. A typical situation starts like this: “Mr. Goodwin, I need help on number 3.” I respond, “Who has successfully completed number 3? [hands raise] Okay. Bobby, go see Michelle, she’s an expert at number 3.” The confidence that Michelle has from being called an expert only triggers more students wanting to help. Eventually, students take it upon themselves to seek advice from other students first, before asking a teacher. Then, I can follow up and make sure students understand the topic and I am able to assist more students who need Tier 3 interventions.
The next step I use is immediate feedback on lessons using the activity feed. I usually check Think Through Math once or twice a night. Each time, I comment on each lesson. I use words of praise for those passing lessons and words of encouragement for those that are not successful on a lesson. I also use the stars for students that pass lessons. In some comments, I may suggest a specific skill to remember while completing a lesson or a reminder to see me tomorrow to review a challenging skill. With following up immediately, the students understand I value their work and appreciate their effort.
Finally, we create daily leaderboards for all the students to see. We post these leaderboards on the pillar outside of our classroom. We embellish the posters to make them eye-catching; so even kids not in our class ask why students are on the board. We use black poster paper and chalk and the kids are excited to see who made the board that day. We change our sortable data from the overview reports so leaderboards are different from day to day; some days we use points, other days we might use pre-quiz passes.
To date, we have over 20 students who have logged over four hours from home and on weekends. Our culture of learning grows every day. And we have Think Through Math to thank for helping us facilitate the culture change within our remedial math students.
Creating a Culture of Learning by Joseph Goodwin, Fernwood Avenue Middle School