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Q&A #515

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Including "low" students in the main curriculum

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From: John Donaghy <donaghjg@hsd401.org>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 1999013114:26:37
Subject: re: Including Low Students in the main curriculum

Our middle school collapsed its varioous math tracks down to two: a
standard class at each grade level, and an advanced class (which takes
algebra as 8th graers).  This is down from 4-5 levels in each grade!

So far we feel it has been successful.  One respondent to this topic
said that probably the brightest kids already knew the material and
could solve all of the problems.  Well, this might be true if you are
following a traditional curriculum which emphasizes skills over
concepts, and memorization over problem solving.  More open-ended,
discovery oriented teaching methods challenge students to construct
their own knowledge and make connections to prior knowledge.

  Mastery of percents is not prerequisite for learning about surface
area and volume, which few of my students come in with any mastery of.
And most students will discover that the volume of any prism or
cylinder can be found from the forumla V=Bh, even if they can't recall
the formula to find the area of the base.

We have just adopted the Mathscapes middle school curriculum.  It
supports this type of ability mixing.  One specific adaptation I do is
require a complete homework assignment fom most kids, and a paired
down assignment for other students, who struggle with the extension
sections of the homework (but who can stil do them for a higher
grade). 

For some of my special ed students who are really struggling, I grade
them half on their achievement and half on a checklist of actions they
take during the period (participating in the activity, opening their
journals without prompting, etc.).  And students develop stronger and
deeper understanding when they explain things to their colleagues!
That's why students think teachers are so bright -- because we have
taught the material and can make connections between various concepts!

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