If you are an educator, you know every year in your classroom you will have all types of learning levels present in your students. You will have the students that are bright enough they could almost teach the class. There will be the students that consistently turn in average work, nothing less, nothing more. And then you will also have the group of kids that are on the other side of the spectrum. Either they don’t have the ability to keep up or do not have the desire to do so.
But as the teacher, it is your responsibility to close this gap between all the learners. How do you do this effectively in a class of 30 students? You definitely don’t want to bring down the brightest of the students and lower them to everyone else’s level. After all, this is the opposite of what a teacher should be trying to do.
Through all of my years of experience, I have learned a few tricks of the trade that can help close the gap between learners and lessen the need for three different curriculums in the classroom.
The Family Has to Be On Board
If a student is struggling, you only have so much individual time you can provide to the student in the classroom. It is up to the parents at home to take over some of the instruction and tutoring to get their child back on the same page as the rest of the class. Now there will be parents that will fight having to do school work at home with their kid, but you can only do so much! I have had parents refuse to help their child with homework as if it was beneath them. Don’t take it personally. In the grand scheme of things, you reap what you sow and if parents are failing their child, their child will eventually fail their parents as well.
Ask for Smaller Class Sizes
While you are asking the administration for smaller class sizes, you might as well ask them to double your salary and for every Friday off. They probably won’t go for any of the three, but if you put up a good argument about why smaller class sizes are needed, at least you can feel good about yourself because you tried. It is much easier to teach a class of 20 students and keep them all on the same page compared to 30.
Offer Free Tutoring for a Half an Hour After School
Most school districts have a dismissal time of approximately 3 pm or so for the students. The teachers are generally allowed to leave and call it the end of the day half an hour later. Offer free tutoring to those students that would like to work hard and get their grades up. Be careful though! Some parents might take advantage of the offer and make it more like free babysitting. If this is the case, only have the free tutoring every other day.
Partner Up the Students
Many teachers are wary of partnering up kids that are at different learning levels. However, it can work! You can bring the one student up to the other’s level eventually over time. It happens just like it does in the gym. If you partner up with someone more advanced than you that can run for half an hour straight and bench 225 pounds, you may struggle to keep up at first. But if you keep at it, the competition will inspire you and soon enough you will be matching them pound for pound.
Improve Reading and Math Fluency in Students While They Are Still Young
If a student falls behind early with their literacy skills and math facts, they will be behind the eight ball from there on out and always trying to play catch up. For example, if a child’s reading skills are low, they won’t be able to succeed in most subjects. In cases like this, the school district must be able to provide extra support to students that are struggling early on. This can be accomplished through a Reading Specialist or a Title 1 Math teacher whose jobs are to work with students in small groups in an effort to improve their overall skills.
Make the Future a Priority Early On
Too many students look at learning as a chore that has to be done rather than a dream to succeed at. We must give students a reason to try their best at school and this will close the learning gap. This means introducing possible careers to students at an early age that best suit their likes, dislikes, the skills they currently have and the ones they want to learn. Xello is an online program that can be instituted at all school districts for a small fee that can do exactly that.
Each student would input their information and answer some questions in Xello and then the program would suggest possible careers they might enjoy going into later on in life. Xello even suggests the classes the students should take in elementary, high school, and college to make their goal a reality. By giving the students a reason to succeed, they can take ownership of their learning.