As mentioned in the last post, I wanted to post what I have done in the class. Although I am no expert teacher, I am thrilled that my students have raised in scores (minus two, which one went down a point and another stayed the same). For working with at-risk categories of students, I have set my bar of expectation at that of any school with privileged students. I tell my students this. I tell them that I give assignments at higher levels and that I grade hard. My C is what an average student will get. You need to work hard to get an A.
A number of parents have been unhappy that this is my teaching philosophy. In the past, many of the students, to my knowledge, received higher grade. Since the parents have realized my grading scale and teaching practices, students have risen to meet my standards. Over the year, more students are testing (on my tests) at B or A level than at the beginning.
If it hasn't been apparent, I do teach at a charter school. I believe this is important to state. I believe charter schools take a different approach to teaching. Now, that be said, every classroom across America and the world, believes that each child should succeed. However, I think charter schools will take the approach to specify how they will do this across the entire school. Our school really stresses teaching all standards and having students know the standards and expectations.
Anyway, before getting off task, here is some of what I do already:
Areas that we have done strongly in, we have spent a lot of time on. In math, we have covered a lot of topics. I expect fact fluency. Each day, my students have either forty, 100, or 200 math facts to complete. My students also spend time on xtramath.org and use flashcards for fractions and the four operations when they finish the daily math assignments. I do not use flashcard games, but am hoping to implement some coming up.
With the combined classroom, I taught the whole class at the beginning of the year on topics such as place value, rounding, and +10/100/1000s. When standards began splitting, I implemented four leveled math groups. Students went through rotations: lesson, Saxon (which we use the program), facts, and game (sometimes a center, sometimes an independent sheet). After winter break, I did grade level lessons with the other group doing all the seat work when not in lesson. Now, I am again teaching the whole group. We are covering geometry and I am giving third grade assignments and lessons to all students.
In language arts, I teach each group separately for 45 minutes and have 30 minuets with both groups. This time is when the other group goes to lunch and have recess. I eat lunch during quiet time. We use Reading Street and I follow this, but teach additional activities in the progress of what I feel is right. I use literature circles, research projects, and standard-based lessons (especially with parts of speech and writing topics).
On that note, I do not find the writing portion of the Reading Street curriculum is all too impressive; so I stress creating writing assignments of my own creation. Sample prompts have included: What super power would you have? Write about what you would do with your super power. and An alien came down to Earth and you were the first human it saw. Describe Earth and humans to the alien. We do this almost every week. I do not grade them, but let the students know what I expect and offer comments. I always insist that they write two complete paragraphs at a minimum. We also do oral readings of works every once in awhile. This encourages students to write with purpose and write so they will be able to read the work later.
We do a comprehension assessment every two weeks. This really gives the students practice with test-taking. I take full advantage or edinformatics.com, which allows public to look at old state tests from around the country. New York, Massachusetts, and Flordia have some of the best selections, and I print a passage and its questions for my students to take. I have all students take a third grade test (as this is what is available at the sites).
I send homework daily (expect one similar day a week), which allows students to practice more at home. Each is a front-to-back page. There is typically math and spelling/language arts. I occasionally send a science or social studies sheet home, but I try to do these in school. The students are also expected to read at least 15-minutes a night. We subscribe on raz-kids.com, which is something that a number use at home.
I have also used other resource books for language arts and math, including: Scholastic Success (Grade 4), Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills (Grades 3-4), Spectrum Spelling and Math (Grades 2-3), and a few others. I give a mixture of these to my students, regardless of the grade students are in. I do need to get a hold of a few second grade books, I do have one big book of curriculum topics, but I can't remember the name off the top of my head!
I hope these help for others to find success in their teaching. If anything else, take a look at the links, they are very beneficial!