The Wall of Remediation (Or: My Low-Tech Version of Khan Academy)
UPDATE! I have since posted a more comprehensive guide on how I use this wall in my classroom, where I get my problems, and strategies I’ve used with this in the classroom. Check out the update here!
This semester, I finally got my act together enough to make this (click for a larger picture – sorry that it’s sorta blurry):
The top row is themed on Integer Operations. The middle row is Solving Algebraic Equations. The third row is Graphing Lines. The last row is AIMS Prep (AIMS stands for Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards – it’s the big state exit exam that all my sophomores have to take in order to graduate high school. I’ve barely used this row). This is, by far, the best thing I could ever put in my classroom. It’s AMAZING!
I’ve had students all year who have needed algebra remediation. Having this board available lets me quickly walk up and grab the particular skill they need to work on (integer operations, algebra, etc) and get them started on it. It also lets students be self motivated and do the exact same thing for themselves! For example, last week we were reviewing some algebra concepts (I’ve been trying to pepper algebra review throughout this semester – a lesson learned from last semester) and some kids finished much sooner than others. I kept working with the students who still needed my help and was expecting to at least start another lesson halfway through class. But, with about 15 minutes left in class, I looked around and realized the class had not devolved into chaos – I hadn’t given them an additional assignment to do, so I was expecting that the volume of the class would tell me when it was time to regroup and move on to the next part of the lesson I had planned. Instead, I realized that most of my students had simply grabbed a worksheet on something they needed to work on and sat down with a friend to complete the assignment. It was perfect.
I’ve gotten some really positive feedback from students about this. They like the very targeted organization, that I encourage them to pick a worksheets they struggle with so they can get better, that I encourage them to work together to figure it out, and that I encourage them to come see me during tutoring if they get stuck or have questions. It’s also provided me with a starting point for every student who comes in to tutoring and let’s me easily jump around to figure out where a student’s holes are. Lastly, I like that it’s a dominating presence in my classroom – right on the front wall when they walk in, staring at them during every class. Anytime there’s an algebra problem that my students aren’t sure of, I walk over the board and point to the folder that has those types of problems in it and tell them they just need to practice practice practice.
I need to give some credit where credit is due – you might notice that there are little arrows connecting some of my folders together. I stole this from how Khan Academy sets up their problem sets – they are tiered so that you progress through a series of questions that build on each other and get progressively harder. For example, my Algebra tier starts with 2 step equations -> equations with variables on both sides of the equal sign -> equations with the distributive property -> equations with proportions -> literal equations (ie: y = mx + b, solve for m). The idea is that if a student picks a worksheet that is too difficult for them, they move back one folder and try the one below it. I also generated most of the worksheets via the wonderful website Worksheet Works and using the Kuta Worksheet Generator software. The Worksheet Works website is free, so there’s no reason you can’t make your own bulletin board too.
In the title of this post, I make the comment that I consider this my low-tech version of Khan Academy. I say this because I used Khan Academy last semester as a way to help remediate my students’ algebra and arithmetic skills, but only to small degrees of success. I feel like this bulletin board has accomplished much more and in a much more focused way. Further, I can control what goes on this board, whereas Khan Academy doesn’t let me control what types of problems they put on their website. I think it fits my needs better than what I was trying last semester.