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Showing posts from 2013

Remediation Vs. Intervention (In Practical Terms)

In a previous post, I discussed how remediation and intervention are different. The difference between these two concepts is so great and so important that I feel it necessary to explain why this difference matters.

To illustrate these differences, let's look at two different students.

Melissa has always been an A/B student. Though she has never been in the top of the class, she has always managed to get by. She doesn't love math, but she realizes its importance in her life. Melissa's parents are available to help her with her homework, and she feels comfortable receiving extra help from her teachers. When Melissa got to middle school, however, she was struggling to keep up. The concepts were moving too fast for her, and switching classes made it difficult for her to get the help she needed. The problems were now requiring her to integrate several math concepts at one time, whereas Melissa had previously only needed to memorize a few ideas at a time. Melissa now has…

My Discipline Policy

At-risk students can be some of the most difficult and challenging students to work with. They often exhibit very disruptive behavior, and many times these students do not respond well to authority.

The largest battle intervention teachers will face is discipline.

I have had a great deal of success with the following policy:

ENVIRONMENT This is one of the first things I consider when students are not acting appropriately. I ask myself these questions: 1.Is the classroom overly stimulating? 2.Are my lessons relevant and engaging? 3.Is this a good seating arrangement? 4.Can the students do the work? 5.Is the work appropriate? POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT This is the foundation of my classroom management. I seek out opportunities to provide significant amounts of positive reinforcement. 1.I give “Good Job” tickets for behavior, academics, and study skills. When giving the ticket, I am specific in my praise. These tickets are drawn for prizes every week. 2.Continuous encouragement – …

Intervention, Remediation, Special Education....What is the Difference?

Intervention Remediation Reteaching Special Education Inclusion Resource

How are these terms different?

My official title is "Intervention Specialist," but most of friends and family refer to me as a special ed teacher. I correct them on this, of course: "I don't teach special ed." But, still they always go back to it. To those outside of education, and even to many in education, these terms are synonymous. When I remind people I don't teach special ed, I hear: Don't you teach kids with learning disabilities? Some, yes. Don't most of your kids have ADHD? Yes. Isn't ADHD a disability? Sometimes. It can be.Don't many of your kids have dyslexia? Yes.So how is this not special ed? To understand the difference between all of these, let's compare this topic to a racetrack.

Let's start with Remediation.

First of all, remediation and reteaching are synonyms, and so I will use these two words interchangeably. The purpose of remediation is to …

15 Practical Tips for Dealing with "Difficult" Students

All of my students are labeled "at risk," meaning they have some characteristic that makes them more likely to drop out of school. Working with these kids is my passion, as is guiding them through compassion and understanding. Though some of their behaviors may be difficult, I know that the behaviors are just their way of communicating something their adolescence can't express.

Here are 15 strategies I have found effective with students who are "difficult."

1. Praise often. All the time. With over-the top, ridiculous compliments. Your student completed half an assignment after several 0's? Compliment them! He worked quietly for twenty minutes longer than usual? Compliment! She spoke in class for the first time? Compliment! Compliment exuberantly. Embarrass yourself with your excessive amounts of praise.

2. Never allow students to see your anger. And by "never," I mean NEVER! Some students will be looking to make you angry. Some know only this respon…

Classroom Management with At-Risk Students

The root of the word, “discipline” is “disciple,” meaning, “to teach.” When faced with problem behaviors in the classroom, management strategies should be used rather than punishment.
Far too often, our at-risk students receive the harshest punishments: the most suspensions, the most expulsions. These students are frequently yelled at by teachers and parents. This approach typically aggravates the problem behavior, and the students and educators sprial into a pattern of problems and punishments. As the punishment increases, the bevaviors increase.

Today, I am talking about classroom management strategies that are effective for ALL students.

From the beginning, my classroom management approach has been holistic and eclectic, encompassing aspects of humanistic, environmental, and behaviorist theories. In each of my new positions, I set my plan in the following way:
1.Environmental:The first thing I consider is the environment.         Is my room arranged to allow all members full access? …

Why Do So Many Students Have Math Learning Gaps?

In a previous post about learning gaps, I expressed that the key to math intervention is recognizing the need to find students' gaps. All students come to middle school math with at least one puzzle piece missing, but some students have so many missing pieces that it becomes impossible to be successful in math.

The blame for these gaps tends to get placed in two ways:

1. Elementary teachers are incompetent in math, and, because of this, they have not adequately prepared their students for higher math.

2. The students are lazy and do not try.

Let's address these two issues before I present my understanding of math learning gaps.

1. Is it true that many elementary teachers are not the best at math? Absolutely! I have known truly fabulous, outstanding teachers who still struggle with multiplication and add with their fingers. And in fact, elementary education is a major of choice for them, because of its lack of rigorous math requirements. Is this the issue? Partly. While many elem…


The most important part of any math intervention is finding a way to motivate students so they want to try.

Intuitively, we know that most math teachers were good at math as students, and sometimes it's hard for us to understand how very difficult math can be for many students. Teachers feel frustrated, because they know these struggling students are bright and capable of learning, if they would only try.

What we fail to understand as teachers, is that ALL students have tried, at some point in their life. Most students have tried very, very hard, but after years of faliure, they have given up.

It is human nature to quit things that are hard for us, and it takes a significant amount of perseverance to continue to try and fail, and try and fail. Think about it: When was the last time you spent hours a week doing something you hated? Something that frustrated you to tears? Something that, when you put all your effort into, you still failed?

My students know that I am good at math - but…

Learning Gaps

One of the most common frustrations heard from secondary math teachers:


In a typical math classroom, all students learn the same thing on the same day. This makes practical sense - it allows for standards to be covered in a timely manner; teachers only need to create one lesson a day. It is very difficult for teachers to manage small groups or individualized lessons.

This type of lesson planning is effective for 80% - 85% of students.

But what happens to the other 15% -20%, who are lacking the significant skills necessary to understand the new lesson?


Many math teachers (secondary or otherwise) do not know how to help students who are missing major pieces of their math education. Students are sent to tutorials where teachers walk them through the current topic, often holding their hand through each step. Students white-knuckle through, memo…