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  • Writer's pictureTrish Dotts

Already tired of playing Catch up?

Are you wasting student's time?

Man, this first couple of weeks is so exciting. We meet our students. Hopefully, meet our families and begin to support learning. We make our best plans for this first chunk of school. We attend to the content and consider whether we offer the BEST learning opportunities for our kids.


As soon as we help our kids navigate our classrooms and begin to create a community of learners, we subject them to the first challenge of the year. Baseline assessments. It's a necessary evil. We can not know where the students are starting from without the testing.

We can not measure the impact of our teaching. We can not offer supports to students without data. But, after you get your data back, what do you do?

Armed with data, we zero in on our students who immediately show signs that they are 'behind the curve,' below average, at-risk and all other collection of words to describe our main targets of 'remediation." We now have our mission clear in front of us. Move the whole class forward, and give these struggling students support to keep up.


At the end of the first cycle, we measure our student's progress. The story is the same from lass to class. Some students are progressing, others are starting to get farther behind. We begin to throw more resources towards the students that worry us the most.


Usually, our students who struggle, sit in the circle, receive a mini-lesson, are present and even potentially attempt to be engaged in the 'I do it, ad 'we do it' part of the lesson. Then all students are released to try the lessons on their own, or even in groups. Sometimes a group has added support of a para-professional, or even (ideally) the teacher.

Sometimes, some students even get to leave the room to receive their supports outside of the classroom. But, my friends, I fear that this approach wastes so much of our most precious commodity. Time! The wasted time CAUSES so many deficiencies.


If a child is going to struggle, then the time at the front of the lesson is WASTED. All of the reasons the child is a concern, significantly interfere during the whole group lesson time. They are NOT often learning during the time. Then the time spent in the individual learning, group work, or added support time is allocated is the child's first real opportunity to 'learn.'

Additionally, when people, especially children, do not understand what is going on, or even worse, lack access to success, opportunities for distraction become very appealing. Sometimes these distractions cause problems for other student's learning also. Then the teacher is caught up in a management problem.

I want to invite you to try a different approach which will MAKE TIME.


Let's make the introduction to the whole-class lesson or concept, the second or third dose for the students who need extra support.

What happens when students know about the topic? They have access to success. This feeling leads to greater engagement. This feeling empowers students to learn more.

5th graders, who had been with their National Board Certified teacher for a second year, were heading toward mastery of the dreaded American experience of 'Long-division" Through the preceding months, the teacher could pretty well predict which student were going to struggle with the monotonous and somewhat abstract procedure.

This teacher decided to try something different. She taught the struggling students individually, days before the whole class. She used the time she would have spent remediating the last concept they didn't get and traded it for teaching to their future.

Now, these students did NOT have mastery over long-division before she took the lesson to the whole group. But, the struggling students went into that lesson armed with vocabulary, schema and a little bit of practice under their belt.

What happened during the whole class lesson? The struggling students were actively engaged in a manner they had never been before. The teacher called on Parker early on in the lesson so he could share an idea that the teacher was confident he understood. When Parker shared, the other classmates saw him as an emerging expert. This experience, in turn, empowered both Parker and the other pre-taught students.

When it was time for independent practice, Mekel, one of the classes highest students, asked the teacher for a little specific help. Knowing that Parker could answer the question, the teacher encouraged this 'struggling student' over to offer aid.

Do you know what happened next?

Share your inference in the comments.

I also ask for your thoughts on Pre-teaching.

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