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Linwood School: ALiM report

Number of
students
Year Initial stage
Add/Sub
Final stage
Add/Sub
Time in
programme
Predominant
Focus
5 3 2 students - stage 2
2 students - stage 3
1 student - stage 4
3 students - stage 4
2 students - stage 5
23x20mins Number knowledge,
Add/Sub strategies

Suggestions for a school considering an intervention programme

Choose the intervention teacher with great care

The teacher needs to create a high expectation, caring and supportive learning environment and to also have in-depth pedagogical knowledge.

I think that the overall most important factor in the teaching of children who are not succeeding as well as they should, is the teacher/child relationship. The bond forged by the teacher to make the children feel secure and happy to take risks is all important. This often can not happen during group teaching, especially when a child is struggling. This can only happen when the teacher is passionate and dedicated in making the programme work.  (Intervention teacher October 2010)

The students need to feel that it is safe to take risks but that the teacher also expects hard work and focussed effort from them, as many of these students are adept at withdrawing from learning in the whole class environment. The experience at this school confirms the research in the Best Evidence Synthesis.

"Teachers are the single most important resource for developing students mathmatical identities." (Anthony, G. & Walshaw, M. (2007). Effective Pedagogy in Mathematics/Pāngarau Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES]. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.)

It also links very clearly with the research of John Hattie, outlined at the Graham Nuthall Annual Lecture in 2008, showing that teacher-student relationship has an effect size of 0.72 where a typical effect size is 0.40.

There are huge pedagogical demands that this intensive work puts on the teacher. When the student encounters a difficulty with a concept there are so many decisions facing the teacher in that moment:
So what other concept is linked to that one and should that be highlighted now?
Which piece of equipment is the most appropriate to address this misconception and where will I go next with this student?
How much scaffolding should I give this student?
If I give too much they will start to sit back and not do the cognitive work that is needed for them to make the links in their own mind?
If I push too hard and they start to experience failure will they tend to withdraw or give up?

The teacher needs to care enough to find the pathway to that student’s motivation.
I found the programme to be an emotional roller-coaster.

  • The teacher needs a mentor/support person/facilitator to bounce ideas off for reassurance that the children are getting the best learning experiences possible. When left alone in a ‘teaching bubble’, the teacher can lose track of what precision teaching is and how different it is for each child. Teacher talk is very important for all teachers, therefore teacher talk at this level is also important.
  • Pressure. There is pressure to get as much done as possible during a session, but the teacher knows that it will probably be forgotten by tomorrow. Tomorrow’s precious 20 minutes will be reduced due to reminding the children of yesterday’s learning.
  • Time is needed for precision planning. Today’s work needs to be analysed to make sure that the needs of tomorrow are met exactly.
  • The teacher can be fully prepared and ready to go, but the child comes in with baggage from home/class and the lesson needs to go in a different tangent to capture the child before precision teaching/learning can occur.  (Intervention Teacher October 2010)

A maths intervention programme has positive spin offs across the whole school

Leading a Maths Intervention Programme can lift the performance of both the teacher involved and the wider teaching community.

The intervention teacher chosen will participate in some of the most rigorous thought-provoking professional development of their career! They will go back to the whole classroom environment with much greater skill in teaching numeracy. The issues uncovered in a one-on-one setting can benefit the home room teacher as well.

There are lots of learning conversations between the intervention teacher and the rest of the staff. The teachers are asking if they should try this or that with a particular student and the intervention teacher is helping identify next steps.

Students in this community come in with very low achievement. Students have moved up and hopefully will now stay with their peers. It is really nice to find something that has given these students a hand up in maths. For the teachers, it shows them that even though the students come in with huge baggage, quality precise teaching can make a difference. It really stops deficit thinking.  (Principal Interview, October 2010)

The setting for this intervention

The school is an inner-city school which is a decile 2. The children come from backgrounds varying from hardworking parents to both parents being unemployed, many one parent families, and many families where outside agencies are involved.

The intervention teacher is a highly experienced literacy intervention teacher and the lead numeracy teacher for the school. She already has in-depth knowledge of each of the students.

The principal gave the intervention full support and was involved in selecting the students.

The students in the intervention were carefully selected to ensure they were highly likely to benefit from the intervention. That is, they showed that they are low in maths but close to the standard in other curriculum areas.

  • Some of the children involved in the study come from families where there is very little one-to-one attention given at home due to the family being large, the family having one parent, parents who have to work long hours etc. This is why it was decided that a short while every day which was entirely focussed on each child could only be of benefit.
  • Some of the children find it difficult to work alongside another child. (This was obvious when  two children were taken together for a session. The children did not work well together vying for attention and only being interested in what the other child was doing and how well they were doing it.)
  • The children at this school tend to have low self esteem and get lost in a group as they rely on others to work for them. This decision of working one-to-one would, as well as building numeracy skills, also build-up self esteem through success and feeling good about themselves.
  • Oral language is a huge issue in this school. The majority of the children do not come to school with knowledge of the English language. The children usually do not speak in sentences and have no idea what is required of them when asked a question. By year 3 this has obviously changed, but even at this stage in their education, the children understand that a question is asking something of them, but they find it difficult to express their thoughts verbally. Tuition one-to-one would be an obvious way to try and cross this huge barrier.

Factors which impinged on the success of this intervention programme

  • An earthquake: one student had a chimney fall into her bedroom!
  • Frequent absenteism: one student attended only 10 of the 23 days of the programme.
  • Other commitments of students meaning clashes with intervention timing and requiring the teacher to be very flexible.
  • Professional Development commitments for the  intervention teacher reducing the time available to do the intervention.

Incidents that stand out as very significant in the Accelerated Learning study:

  • Watching a year 3 student unable to grasp a basic concept which had been taken for granted was known!
  • Seeing the power of a student proving to themselves the ‘ten-ness’ of ten, supported by the patience and skill of the intervention teacher, and knowing that a regular classroom teacher would not have the time because of the constraints of running the classroom.
  • Realising how precise everything has to be. A student needs a professional to guide them as they work through a concept with the equipment. It is not about free play.
  • The realisation that a student can be placed very low on the interview because of a language issue when in fact their thinking and problem solving ability may be sophisticated.
  • The joy on the faces of the children when they realise that they have ‘got’ what they have been learning. Confidence – from 0 to 10!
  • Seeing a student who, when handed the teacher’s pen to use, suddenly took ownership of the learning and engaged from that point on!
  • The obvious gains in achievement.
  • Desperation to go on to ‘big numbers’.

Summary of the programme

This maths intervention was set up to parallel the way that reading intervention is done in the school. Key features of the programme were intensity, high expectation, and knowing the learner exceptionally well to locate their learning edge and teach precisely at that point. The lead teacher of numeracy does both the reading intervention and the maths intervention programme.
The teacher tracked each student’s daily progress to see emerging next steps. The teacher worked closely with the facilitator. They discussed next steps together and shared ideas.

They have a very strong professional relationship as the school has been doing in-depth professional development with the facilitator for the past year. The lead teacher and facilitator both attended professional development with Bob Wright (an expert in maths intervention) at the start of the programme. Strategies used thoughout the intervention were often those from Bob Wright’s training or from his book.

Explicit positives from the Accelerated Mathematics Programme in our school

  • The boost to the children’s self esteem is amazing!
  • The children are encouraged and motivated to explain what they are thinking in a ‘safe’ space.
  • The enthusiasm for numeracy is mind-blowing. (The children stop me when they see me and ask if it is their turn yet, they nip out of class and ask if it is their time yet).
  • The shift in achievement in the 6 or 7 weeks is outstanding!
  • The attitude to numeracy has changed drastically. Numeracy is now a nice word!
  • Unengaged behaviour in numeracy is a thing of the past. These children are working on problems according to their needs and love being encouraged to take their new skill and use it with ‘big numbers’ which are usually out of bounds in the classroom.
(Intervention Teacher, Oct 2010)

Overall what makes a programme like this work is the collaboration and commitment of the intervention teacher, the principal and a mentor. It requires passion, commitment and flexibility and a teacher who excels in teacher-student relationships.The gains are dramatic and have a broader impact on the student and their belief in their ability to learn.