Getting all our students to achieve grade-level proficiency doesn’t mean choosing between on-grade level instruction and remediation. We need both. If you try to accelerate learning by only providing access to grade-level content, those students who need extra support may feel frustrated and disengage from learning. If you only use remediation strategies for students, you will rob them of the grade-level content they need and they may fall further behind. Instead, give them strategic scaffolds for the prerequisite skills they need to move forward.
The Key Is Balancing Grade-Level Content with Remediation Strategies
When thinking about where so many students are in their learning journeys and wanting to get them closer to grade-level proficiency, it’s tempting to only put only grade-level content in front of them. But some of your students may not be able to access it and will require remediation.
Here are some tips for balancing both, so you can accelerate learning for all your students.
1. Acknowledge That Striking the Balance Is Hard
Teaching is hard, but meeting the needs of a classroom full of students with diverse skill levels and learning abilities is even harder. Have patience with yourself and your students. Your job would be nearly impossible without grace, patience, empathy, and understanding. Teaching takes stamina because you won’t see results right away. Understanding the whole progression of your students instead of just where they are now is vital to growth.
2. Know the Skills
Identify which prerequisite skills your students need to accelerate learning for each lesson. Then, develop a plan for helping them master those missing skills. With the right technology, you don’t have to determine this on your own. As you create lesson plans, ask yourself, “What essential skills must my students master so they can access the new material?” Your Grade 8 English students will not experience Of Mice and Men in its full capacity if they don’t understand how to identify themes. Your Grade 6 math students will not grasp ratios and proportions if they haven’t mastered multiplication and fractions first. Learning acceleration requires first identifying which skills are required to learn the new lesson.
3. Know Where Your Students Are
Next, you need to understand your students’ skill levels. Tap into student data to identify which skills they know and don’t know. The more you understand each of their skills relevant to grade-level content, the better you can prepare to teach them. You can strategize efficient solutions like identifying and grouping students based on needs and learning trends to save time and be effective. However, if the student data shows that 90 percent of your class is missing the same important skill, dedicate time to teaching them that skill together.
4. Find the Time to Teach Them
You can’t extend the school day or the school year, but you can get creative with the time you have. For instance, you can carve out a WIN (whatever I need) block to give students remediation in school without sacrificing on-grade level instruction as a supplement to what they’re already learning. Or, if you shorten each of your transition times by two minutes, it can add up to more targeted instruction for your math and reading blocks. Every minute counts when helping address specific student needs.
5. Don’t Try to Do This Alone
You pour your heart, time, and energy into your students’ lives and push them to be their best selves, and your passion doesn’t go unnoticed—but there’s only one of you to go around. Learn to lean on the teachers and staff around you and on technology to support student success.
Don't expect results overnight, but little changes can make a big difference. If you can break things down step by step and make one change each week, for instance, it will show. Progress is more important than perfection.
To hear more from Mara, listen to this episode of the Extraordinary Educators™ Podcast.