May 17, 2023 - 9:14 PM NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — Richard Evans makes his way through rows of his students in his third grade classroom, stooping to pick up an errant pencil and answering questions above the din of chairs sliding on hardwood floors. The desks, once spread apart to fight COVID-19, are back together. Masks cover just a couple of faces. But the pandemic maintains an unmistakable presence. Look no further than the blue horseshoe-shaped table in the back of the room where Evans calls a handful of students back for extra help in reading — a pivotal subject for third grade — at the end of each day. Here is where time lost to pandemic shutdowns and quarantines shows itself: in the students who are repeating this grade. In the little fingers slowly sliding beneath words sounded out one syllable at a time. In the teacher’s patient coaching through reading concepts usually mastered in first grade — letter “blends” like “ch” and “sh.” It is here, too, where Evans jots pluses and minuses and numbers on charts he’s made to track each child’s comprehension and fluency, and circles and underlines words that trip up a student a second or third time. In a year that is a high-stakes experiment on making up for missed learning, this strategy — assessing individual students’ knowledge and tailoring instruction to them — is among the most widely adopted in American elementary schools. In his classroom of 24 students, each affected differently by the pandemic, Evans faces the urgent challenge of having them all read well enough to succeed in the grades ahead. Here is how he has tackled it. ___ GOING FROM PANDEMIC TO ‘NORMAL’ IS HARD It is a Thursday in October, early in the school year. Six students surround Evans at the blue table, each staring down at a first-grade-level book about baseball great Willie Mays. Many are struggling.
May 17, 2023 - 9:14 PM
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — Richard Evans makes his way through rows of his students in his third grade classroom, stooping to pick up an errant pencil and answering questions above the din of chairs sliding on hardwood floors.
The desks, once spread apart to fight COVID-19, are back together. Masks cover just a couple of faces. But the pandemic maintains an unmistakable presence.
Look no further than the blue horseshoe-shaped table in the back of the room where Evans calls a handful of students back for extra help in reading — a pivotal subject for third grade — at the end of each day.
Here is where time lost to pandemic shutdowns and quarantines shows itself: in the students who are repeating this grade. In the little fingers slowly sliding beneath words sounded out one syllable at a time. In the teacher’s patient coaching through reading concepts usually mastered in first grade — letter “blends” like “ch” and “sh.”
It is here, too, where Evans jots pluses and minuses and numbers on charts he’s made to track each child’s comprehension and fluency, and circles and underlines words that trip up a student a second or third time.
In a year that is a high-stakes experiment on making up for missed learning, this strategy — assessing individual students’ knowledge and tailoring instruction to them — is among the most widely adopted in American elementary schools. In his classroom of 24 students, each affected differently by the pandemic, Evans faces the urgent challenge of having them all read well enough to succeed in the grades ahead.
Here is how he has tackled it.
GOING FROM PANDEMIC TO ‘NORMAL’ IS HARD
It is a Thursday in October, early in the school year. Six students surround Evans at the blue table, each staring down at a first-grade-level book about baseball great Willie Mays. Many are struggling.
“What sound does ‘-er’ make?’” Evans asks 9-year-old Ke’Arrah Jessie, who focuses through glasses on the page. She puts “hit” and “ter” together to make “hitter.”
Next to her, a boy takes a turn. He pronounces “high” as “hig.” Evans grabs a pen and jots down “night” and other “igh” words for a sidebar phonics refresher on the letter grouping. Meantime, the rest of the class reads on their own. While some page through below-grade-level readers, others plunge into advanced chapter books.
Most of these students were sent home as kindergartners in March 2020. Many spent all of first grade learning remotely from home full- or part-time. Even after schools reopened full time for second grade, COVID-related obstacles remained: masking and distancing rules that prevented group work, quarantining that sent kids home for a week without warning, and young children by then unaccustomed to — and unhappy about — full weeks of school rules.
Says Evans, who came to teaching at age 40 after a career as a computer graphics designer: “All year long, I had kids ask me, `Why do I have to be in school for five days?’”
MOVING FROM ‘LEARNING TO READ’ TO ‘READING TO LEARN’
At the beginning of this school year, assessments showed that 15 of Evans’ initial 23 students were reading below grade level. Of those, nine were considered severely behind, lacking basic foundational skills usually learned in first grade. In a typical year, four or five students would be reading at the lowest level, he said.
“I know I have to do something about that. That’s my job,” Evans said, looking back.
There is no time to waste. Third-grade students are under urgent pressure to progress from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Studies show those who don’t read fluently by the end of this school year are more likely to drop out or fail to finish high school on time.
Among those starting out behind is Ke’Arrah, who spent more than a year learning remotely early in the pandemic. Her mother, Ashley Martin, could see the toll on her daughter’s drive to learn. So when Ke’Arrah was assigned to a new elementary school for this year, her mother re-enrolled her in third grade.
The pandemic cut first grade short for Ke'Arrah. To keep the family safe, Martin kept Ke’Arrah home in second grade, too, even when she had the option to return to school in person two days a week. She has four children younger than Ke’Arrah, including a son born just three days before COVID-19 shut down schools and businesses in March 2020.
“It was good for me, but not great for her because she’s on a computer,” said Martin, whose employer, a restaurant, temporarily closed.
Ke’Arrah, who likes math and wants to be a police officer, remembers the pull of her nearby toys as she tried to stay focused on her on-screen teacher.
“She was talking about boring stuff,” Ke’Arrah says. Last year's transition back to in-person school was rocky, her mother said. She finished behind in math and reluctant to read.
Midway through her second stint in third grade, Ke’Arrah shows progress. Martin has passed her love of the Junie B. Jones series of books to Ke’Arrah, and the pair read them together at bedtime. Small moments become reading lessons, too.
“She’s on the phone, I’m like: ‘Read that to me. Tell me, what does that say?' We’re out somewhere: ‘Read this to me. What does it say?’” Martin says.
DOUBLING UP ON KIDS WHO NEED IT MOST
While many students are behind, Evans also referred more candidates than ever — five — for the school’s honors program because of their advanced scores on early assessments.
He pulled aside students who were reading well above grade level as the year began and explained they might not get as much one-on-one time with him, something he had never done before. That has allowed him to double up on the time he could spend helping other students to catch up, working with some groups twice or three times a week. The advanced readers spend that time reading and working together.
The range highlights the varied experiences during the pandemic, where some had more support at home than others.
“Were they read to? Was there someone to support them to do assignments and homework when they were not physically with the certified teacher and having direct instruction?” says Marcia Capone, assessment administrator in the district, which provided devices and internet hotspots to families.
In Niagara Falls, about one in four people live in poverty, and 80% of the district's students are economically disadvantaged, state data shows. Despite swarms of tourists to its namesake falls, the Rust Belt city has been scarred by an exodus of heavy industry and population that began in the 1960s.
Districts like Atlanta have sought to address learning losses by adding time to the school day. Others, like Washington, D.C., have pursued “high-impact” tutoring. Niagara Falls City Schools have doubled down on remedial work and differentiated learning, customizing students’ lessons to keep each student moving forward. The district has used federal pandemic relief money to put 12 reading specialists to work with first graders in its eight elementary schools, Superintendent Mark Laurrie said.
Using assessments to identify students' individual needs is the top strategy American schools are using to help kids catch up from the pandemic, followed closely by remedial instruction, according to a federal survey.
WITH THIS STUDENT, IT WORKED — FOR A WHILE
Evans invested his own time in one of his neediest students, a boy who is repeating third grade at Evans' urging. He started keeping him after school once a week for an hour of intensive reading intervention.
“He’s like my little experiment,” Evans said after one tutoring session in November. “With intense intervention, can you turn this around?”
The two had just slowly worked through a phonics worksheet that had the student circle words that began with the same letter as pictures. In one problem, “candy,” “open” and “after” followed a picture of an ant. “Open?” guessed the fidgeting student.
Evans had him close his eyes and say the words, thinking about the first sound of each. The trick eventually led him to the correct word, “after.”
In other lessons, the student struggled to identify rhyming words and consonant blends. Each problem revealed another concept not yet mastered.
“Very good!” Evans said after the boy correctly added the missing “rd” to the end of lizard. He responded with a satisfied smile.
In a matter of weeks, the boy went from knowing just 11 sight words — common words like “because” and “about” that students should instantly recognize — to 66 of the 75 on the district’s third grade list.
“I want to be able to read chapter books, and I want to read big old dictionaries!” the boy said after a one-on-one tutoring session that had him working on what sounds letters make when together, like “sp,” and “sn.”
Then, midway through the school year, the child stopped staying after school. Evans said his student lost interest; without a parent’s nudging, there is only so much he can do.
Earlier in the year, the child’s mother had described pandemic remote learning as fraught. The family had internet connection issues, and it was difficult to schedule school sessions around her work as a nursing home aide.
"I have a younger daughter at home and it was just a mess. She’s screaming. It was just a whole thing,” she said by phone.
When the tutoring stopped, she did not respond to follow-up calls or texts.
SHOWING LEARNERS ‘THERE'S A CONCERN FOR YOU'
Halfway through the school year, a new set of assessments suggests Evans' strategy is, overall, working. He loads results into an Excel spreadsheet which, combined with his own running charts, lets him evaluate growth from September to January and regroup students based on where they need help most.
“Thank God for paper and sticky notes,” Evans says.
What he saw in the charts arrayed in front of him was encouraging. Fifteen of his students had met or exceeded their scoring goals for this round of tests. Several who are receiving targeted help showed the biggest gains.
Ke’Arrah leapfrogged from a bottom level to the upper middle — to the relief of her mother, whose decision to have her daughter repeat third grade appears to be paying off.
“I know it’s going to be embarrassing when she gets older: `Oh, you’re a grade behind,'" Martin said. "But she’s going to have that knowledge.”
Despite the students’ progress, even some who see another big jump by the final assessments in May could finish behind typical third-graders. Evans has arranged for extra services for next year for three of his neediest students, including the boy he was tutoring after hours. But they will be far enough along to move on to fourth grade.
For the first time in his seven years teaching third grade, everyone improved, Evans says. “I don’t know if it’s the programs we’re using or if it’s the fact that everybody is more invested in it right now."
Maybe, he said, having so many students behind has made everyone in the building more invested in catching them up — "making them aware, `You know what? There’s a concern for you.’”
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News from © The Associated Press, 2023
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Educators build students' confidence, inspire creativity, encourage higher education, invite exploration, and encourage competition in events students might not otherwise have thought to do. Students often look to their teachers as mentors because of their experience and knowledge.How has education changed during the COVID 19 pandemic? ›
The pandemic meant that many of the most common kinds of education data were suddenly unavailable or less useful. In 2020, state standardized tests were canceled, and in 2021, participation was spotty. Attendance data was muddled by students learning virtually.What is instructional relevance? ›
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The Gap Effect refers to the delay in initiating an action when a visual gap or space is present, and the Spacing Effect refers to the finding that learning is more effective when studying is spread out over time, rather than being crammed into a single session (Cepeda, Pashler, Vul, Wixted, & Rohrer, 2006).How teachers can improve their teaching? ›
- Start small, think big. ...
- Utilize the latest technologies. ...
- Prioritize student relationships. ...
- Empower parents to be your ally. ...
- Ensure your curriculum knowledge.
Make your expectations clear. Make eye contact and address students by name. Supplement lectures with hands-on activities. Recognize students' accomplishments and respond appropriately to their concerns.How can teachers make class better? ›
- Use ICT tools and digital game-based learning.
- Differentiate between students.
- Use the flipped classroom model.
- Encourage cooperative learning.
- Communicate with colleagues.
- Communicate with parents.
- Create a welcoming environment.
What are learning skills? The 21st century learning skills are often called the 4 C's: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. These skills help students learn, and so they are vital to success in school and beyond.Why is it important for teachers to make learning meaningful to their students? ›
Making learning meaningful is important to children's understanding of the learning concepts and the world around them. Teachers make learning meaningful when they, link new learning to children's previous experience, relate concepts to children's lives and provide children with hands-on learning.
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An education gap is frequently a fruitful one-year break from academics taken by a person to pursue interests that are typically unrelated to their daily life or line of work.How do you close a learning gap? ›
- 8 Great Ways to Close.
- 8 GREAT WAYS.
- Evidence-Based Instruction. ...
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- Supplemental Instruction. ...
- Progress Monitoring. ...
- Motivation and Engagement.
An incomplete understanding of a specific skill, such as calculus or inorganic chemistry (as long as it is not one for which you are interviewing) Lack of or too much spontaneity. Fear of public speaking. Lack of work-life balance.Why is it important for teachers to improve? ›
Teachers Develop Better Organization and Planning Skills
Professional development training can help teachers to become better at planning their time and staying organized. This ultimately makes teachers more efficient and gives them extra time to focus on students rather than the paperwork.
- Set and communicate learning goals/targets that students can understand and articulate for each lesson.
- Ensure assessment and feedback are provided in a timely manner.
- Provide clear, timely and observable feedback for students and families.
- Provide students with options to demonstrate their learning.
- Essential questions, which are used to determine the goal of lessons.
- Activating strategy, which is a method teachers use to get students excited about and connecting the content to their own lives.
- Relevant vocabulary, which refers to using vocabulary that students understand.
- Really Get to Know Your Students. ...
- Establish Expectations for Participation. ...
- Answer the “So What?” in Everything You Do—and Say. ...
- Create Meaningful Prework. ...
- Pace Your Lessons Well. ...
- Make Learning Experiences Active and Varied. ...
- Show Students That You Care.
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- Arrange the physical environment. ...
- Set high academic expectations. ...
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- Be open to feedback. ...
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- Use current curriculum and teaching methods. ...
- Be there for them.
The four C's of 21st Century skills are:
Critical thinking. Creativity. Collaboration. Communication.
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Good teachers love their students and demonstrate their resolve to better the lives of future generations in their daily work. They respect their students, regardless of their age and skill, and make them feel special, important, and unique.How do you make a lesson meaningful to students? ›
Ask them open-ended questions, encourage student collaboration and group projects, and give them assignments that will allow them to reflect and synthesise what they have learned. But also consider the factors that could influence this approach.How do you help students think critically? ›
- Make Time for Metacognitive Reflection.
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- Ask Open-Ended Questions.
- Teach Information Literacy.
- Provide Diverse Perspectives.
- Practice Makes Perfect.
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- Graphic Organizers.
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Teachers bring content to life in a way that inspires students to think about their future careers, use their imagination, and foster creativity. A teacher's impact does not stop once the bell rings. Outside of the classroom, teachers and other support staff serve as role models, mentors, and advocates for students.How do teachers change society? ›
Teachers inspire young people to overcome obstacles.
Maybe they are victims of poverty. Maybe they wrestle with a learning disability. Whatever the obstacle, teachers can help them. According to one study, 54% of students said they received help from their teachers during a difficult time.
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They want teachers who are passionate
Students want a teacher who loves his or her job. They can tell if a teacher doesn't want to be there with them. Being enthusiastic about teaching and showing they love their subjects can be an exciting factor to students.
- Providing mentorship. ...
- Inspiring learners. ...
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- Creating meaningful learning experiences. ...
- Leveraging technology to support learning. ...
- Mediating and liaising. ...
- Researching learning strategies.
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'We find that repeat teachers increase students' test scores across all grade levels … We also find that these repeat interactions decrease disciplinary infractions for students across grade levels and improve attendance in high school by reducing truancy,' they write. '…What qualities make a great teacher? ›
- Adaptability. Adaptability is a must for teachers, who need to continuously evaluate what's working for their students — and even more importantly, what isn't working. ...
- Empathy. ...
- Patience. ...
- Engagement. ...
- Active Listening. ...
- Lifelong Learning. ...
- Free of Bias. ...
- Respectful Attitude.
The 4 Identities of a Teacher: Reporter, Expert, Mentor, Role Model.
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The findings indicated that good teachers are enthusiastic, friendly, easy-going, able to develop rapport with learners, committed to the growth of their students, approachable, interested in learners as people, and always conscious of their status as role models.How could teachers role promote and improve learning? ›
Teachers provide the right guidance and knowledge to differentiate between right and wrong and help them achieve life goals. Teachers guide them to follow the best practices and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their students. They motivate the students to do better. A Teacher helps them change for the better.