Essential Solutions 2-MIN. READ

Acceleration through Whole Class Instruction

By: Megan Robinson 02/13/2024
Learn how to help your students accelerate their learning and access grade-level content.
An illustration of a teacher cheering on students climbing ladders at various paces.

It’s been a challenging couple of years. Students are further behind than ever, and teachers like you are overextended and feel tremendous weight on your shoulders to get your students to grade level. However, unfinished learning is not new to education, though the scale is larger. Addressing skills gaps and misconceptions is a natural and necessary aspect to teaching, though it often creates an imbalance in favor of off-grade level work. The dire situation we’re in today requires a more focused approach.

Accelerate. Don't Just Remediate.

When record numbers of students are below grade level as they are today, most teachers’ natural inclination is to remediate—to present below-grade level material instead of grade-level work, so students can fill in the gaps. But here’s the challenge with remediation: This intervention strategy lowers the bar for all students by cutting back on grade-level work to make time for catch-up work. If you try to remediate, there’s so much to cover that your below-grade level students will constantly be playing catch-up. And as hard as you try, they won’t be able to get to grade level—unless something changes.

What’s the difference between acceleration and remediation? Timing and content. 

Acceleration doesn’t mean teaching faster. It means teaching students only what they need to know so they learn faster. Think of it as streamlining rather than speeding. It also means teaching all your students grade-level content simultaneously, because every student has a right to access grade-level content.

A key aspect of acceleration is to address what students need in close proximity to relevant grade-level content. This means if students need a prerequisite skill for next week’s lesson, then it should be frontloaded days, hours, or minutes beforehand rather than weeks or months in advance. The latter describes remediation. Frontloading and reviewing the most critical prerequisite skill just in time yields greater transference of knowledge.

The other major difference is content. An acceleration approach is a much more focused approach than remediation. This is because accelerated teaching focuses on the one to two most closely related prerequisite skills rather than multiple somewhat or loosely connected skills. Can we all agree covering two prerequisite skills is more feasible than covering 10? This is why acceleration is a more effective and efficient approach.

This refined focus on content and timing is not only more reasonable given the reality of a school day/year, but also yields significant student outcomes. In other words, accelerated teaching makes addressing unfinished learning achievable.

Curated Content Lets You Accelerate Learning

Determining what skills are critical for getting your students to grade level takes an extraordinary amount time. You could search through all your instructional content to find just the right activity to address the foundational skills that need to be mastered, but your time is better spent teaching. Some solutions curate the critical content for you so you can streamline whole class instruction to provide on-grade level and prerequisite content at the same time.

In case it’s helpful, here are a few On-the-Spot Teaching Tips for Grade 4 Mathematics that will allow every level of student to access grade-level concepts. 

  • Use simpler numbers. Working with multi-digit numbers greater than 1,000 can be intimidating for Grade 4 students. If students have trouble rounding a number such as 15,622 to the nearest thousand or ten thousand, then consider one of these options as a place to start: Change 15,622 to 15,600 so that there are fewer nonzero digits for students to process. Or, have students round 15,622 to the nearest ten and then to the nearest hundred before rounding to the nearest thousand.

  • Emphasize number line models. Number lines allow students to visualize “nearest” and “closest” and connect these words to distances between points on the number line. Build on students’ Grade 3 experiences by using a number line to round. For example, before rounding 117,290 to the nearest ten thousand, use a number line with three equally spaced tick marks labeled 110, 115, and 120 to review rounding 117 to the nearest ten. Then change the labels to 110,000, 115,000, and 120,000, and discuss rounding 117,290 to the nearest ten thousand.

  • Connect rounding with estimating. Students can continue to practice and apply rounding skills when they use estimation to check the reasonableness of their answers to a wide variety of problems throughout Grade 4.

By embracing a streamlined teaching method that doesn't cost you additional time and builds confidence by honoring students with the grade-level content they have earned, the whole class can accelerate toward grade-level success.

Want to hear more from Megan? Tune into the Extraordinary Educators™ Podcast.