Sunday, April 22, 2012

How I Found Student Achievement Best Practices

 By Anya Leavy, Pre-kindergarten Teacher

Student achievement best practices include differentiating instruction, focusing on multiple intelligences, and narrowing the gap between home and school.
I’ll admit it. I'm a rookie. After 12 years of teaching on the Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten grade level, I still feel that way. On a daily basis, I am learning and researching ways to improve my approach, delivery, and ultimately, help my students to the next level of their educational career--in other words, I'm always on the lookout for student achievement best practices. And somewhere along the way, I've narrowed down some "tried and true" best practices that have helped me on my teaching journey to becoming a Master Teacher.  They are differentiating instruction, focusing on the multiple intelligences, and narrowing the gap between home and school.

Differentiating Instruction


Differentiating instruction is not a new concept. Great teachers have always known how to meet students where they are to increase their achievement level. However, this approach to a new lesson is important because the school population has become more transient in recent years. It is important to assess students where they are and then mold lessons to meet the students' needs. I've learned that a lesson that is "personalized" for each student increases the amount of information retained, as well as boost active participation.

Focusing on Multiple Intelligences


Howard Gardner’s description of the multiple intelligences is almost aligned with using the differentiated instruction approach.  Using one or more of the multiple intelligences, on a daily basis, appeals to each child, thereby meeting the student where they are academically and socially.  Each child in my classroom has an intelligence that is more predominant than the other intelligences. Joslyn is kinetically inclined, so I teach her the alphabet through an Alphabet Flashcard Relay Race.

Another child, Carlton, is a logic-mathematical learner, so as he’s building a tower, we’re counting the number of blocks using one-to-one correspondence, as well as measuring the length and width of his building. I also have a child, LaToya, who has a strong interpersonal intelligence. To extend the story of the Three Little Pigs, I have her be the director of what would happen next in the story, using her classmates as actors. All of these are examples that appeal to that child’s multiple intelligence, so that it becomes a memorable educational experience that they can place in their “prior knowledge suitcase” and reference it when they “travel” to the next grade level.

Narrowing the Gap


The most important practice that I have always used to increase student achievement is creating a partnership between the child, the person(s) at home with that child, and me. I am a firm believer that if the child, and their family, knows that you want them to succeed, the educational options are limitless. Parents and the child’s family entrust their child’s education to a teacher hoping that their child will excel beyond their initial goals. In this day and age, where the child may not have a traditional family structure composing of a Mom and Dad, it is imperative that you reach out to all caregivers of that child. My motto is the more on the “team”, the better. The more family members that are vested in their child’s education displays to that child that there is a special “cheering section” especially for them.

Children tend to do better educationally and socially if they know that are positively supported. It also helps the family stay abreast of the goals for that particular grade level. This provides possible opportunities for lessons at home that relate to the goals that you plan to reach this year for that child in school.  Having an open door policy in the classroom, for a child to see their parent, aunt, or big cousin smile at them while they are on task, goes a long way. Asking for family support on a special project or having a family member volunteer, to participate in a daily activity, helps the family, child, and teacher strengthen the sense of team. In the end, the team formed will help that child excel academically and socially.

And the Moral of the Story Is...


A teacher who had been teaching 30 plus years told me once that as a teacher “you are constantly evolving; there is never a point where you feel like you have arrived.” This coming from a teacher, that I had observed, that had her classroom running like a well-oiled machine, still continued to research ways to increase student achievement.  As teachers, we want nothing more than to have our student’s achieve and reach educational heights beyond our aspirations. I still have far to go on my educational journey, but I know that the above practices/approaches are ones that I will continue to carry in my “suitcase” from year to year. I hope that I’ve added a little to your “teacher suitcase” while we travel on the road of teaching.

No comments:

Post a Comment