Practical Takeaways from COABEDanielle Legault, Instructor
The COABE conference in Pittsburgh was the second time I had the opportunity to go to a national conference. I attended sessions on a variety of topics, from how to differentiate lessons in an ELL classroom to MNI (MN Numeracy Initiative) sessions to how to teach GED lessons by creating thematic lessons that incorporate many skills.
What can I synthesize from these seemingly different topics? I realized more concretely that the more we can help students make the connections between topics and real life, the better all of our students from low ELL through GED can learn. Here are a few math examples:
- Start teaching the number line and very simple equations with low-level ELLs. They can do it.
- Have students at all levels collect their own data and make their own graphs.
- Teach each algebra problem in various ways: story problem (verbally), equation, in/out table, and graph (thanks to Lindsey Cermak and Amy Vickers for the idea).
- Connect the teaching of math to other disciplines. For an example in science, use exponents to show what happens in the human body when a virus multiplies. It doesn’t take that much time to find interesting information online and the students appreciate it.
A second idea that I found helpful was to give students time to reflect at the end of class. Ask them to think: “What did I learn? What do I need more practice with? What further questions do I have?” This reminded me of the ACES category of Self-Management to empower our students to be responsible for their own learning. It is also related to having students do an “exit ticket” at the end of class to test what they learned that day.
The third main idea I liked was about differentiation. This is when teachers intentionally assign students different work per their skill levels. In math, that is easy. A teacher can give all of the students the same problem, but can easily change the numbers or tasks to make the problem easier or more challenging for the student.
An example of differentiating an activity is in measuring the perimeter or area of objects in the classroom. For the most basic level, students would use rulers or measuring tapes and measure only whole numbers to the nearest inch. For the higher level, the students would measure with inches and fractions of inches. For the highest level, students could be asked to measure the same items but then increase the proportions of each by a certain percentage.
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