The Year Before
In August of 2007, I began teaching Early Intervention Program (EIP) classes. The students in this program are students who are performing below grade level in either reading or math or both. During the first year, I was a resource teacher for first, second, and third graders who were struggling in math. Students came to me in small groups for 45 minutes segments.
I have always been a tech geek, and in prior years when I had a second grade homeroom I had dabbled with digital projects, Storybook Cinemas being one project. I loved them and the enthusiasm they engendered in my students. So almost selfishly (I really do love this stuff), I set aside the norm of drill, remediation, and acceleration for a week to do a digital project.
My second grade group became Shape Hunters searching for geometric shapes around campus, crawling and sneaking up on these “fascinating creatures”.
My third graders became Geo Detectives, finding examples and non-examples of a geometric term in the school, challenging the audience to decide which was the non-example.
The results of the project startled me. Not only did I see the enthusiasm for using video cameras and becoming film makers, which I expected, but the students also produced great work with deep understanding that far surpassed what I could get out of them in a regular 45 minute segment.
What started as a project I simply thought of as fun and, I hate to admit it, almost ‘fluff’, turned into one of the best learning experiences I ever gave to my students. Of course, my mind started reeling. Like any teacher seeing amazing accomplishments, I had one question: How can I keep this happening over and over? Then almost immediately following: What about the time? Yes, through the project the students were really able to gain deeper understanding, but there are so many topics to cover and so little time to do it in before the dreaded state testing. Battling that dilemma, that year I only did one more digital project with my third graders called Fraction Action. Again I saw amazing internalization of the concepts. I just grappled with my biggest questions – how do I deal with the time needed and still make sure these students not only caught up on prior material from previous grades but also learn the standards required for their grade level?