Strategies to help support students’ distance learning throughout COVID 19 school closures.
How can families support student learning at home? (ESP)
The Branching Minds team has curated a set of 5 evidence-based strategies to support students learning at home while schools are closed. These strategies can be used across many grades and topics, and are easily supported by families so we can all work a bit “smarter not harder.” We have described the strategies below for teachers to incorporate into at-home assignments/packets, or for families looking for additional ways to support their children. The strategies are the following:
Graphic Organizers - across all topics
Background Knowledge Chart - across all topics
QRAC the Code - a reading strategy
Concrete-Representational Abstract (CRA) - a math strategy
Customized Math Self Correction Checklist - a math strategy
Branching Minds is committed to helping teachers and families improve outcomes for all learners by leveraging advancements in the learning sciences, academic research and technology to make all of the best practices ‘practicable.’ Scroll down below for support on how to leverage these top 5 evidence-based strategies:
1) Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers can be used across topic areas and grade levels to help students organize their thoughts and construct meaning from what they are reading or learning about. They allow students to visualize ideas or concepts and how they fit together. Graphic organizers also provide teachers with insight into students’ thought processes and how they are making sense of what they are learning.
Examples of ways to use graphic organizers include:
Ordering story events from start to finish
Organizing story elements (main idea, plot, characters, setting)
Creating a timeline
Several websites provide free graphic organizers templates which can be downloaded and shared with students, either through print or email. For example, Eduplace has a selection of both English and Spanish graphic organizer templates which can be downloaded for free. Tech4Learning has a free online tool that creates custom graphic organizers. Finally, Scholastic has more in-depth lesson plans on how to use graphic organizers across grade levels to support reading comprehension.
Graphic organizers can also be used to help students solve math problems. For example, when working on word problems, students can use the organizer to identify 1) What they need to find out, 2) The steps to solve the problem, 3) How they solved it, and 4) How they know it is correct.
2) Background Knowledge Chart
This strategy helps students use background knowledge to better understand the text they are reading. It also helps students connect background knowledge to a text in order to better engage in and focus on the new material being presented. It can be used independently by students across all grade levels, using the following steps:
Select a text for the students to read and provide them with a blank background knowledge chart.
Model how you would preview the text and relate it to information you already know about the topic (this can be done using a written example).
In the chart, have students fill out information they know about the topic under the "what I know" column.
Ask students to think about what they don't know about the topic or what they don't know about the book. This should be filled out in the "What I Don't Know" column.
Have students keep the chart handy as they read to reflect on what they originally wrote, and fill in new information into the "what I learned" columned.
QRAC-the-Code is a self-questioning strategy students can use to improve reading comprehension for expository texts. The strategy is designed for older students in middle and high school but can be adapted for use with younger students. It can also be used independently by students at home.
QRAC-the-Code consists of four main steps:
Question: Students transform a textbook section subheading into a question. For example, the question for a section titled Photosynthesis and the Sun’s Energy could be ‘What is photosynthesis and how is the sun’s energy involved?’
Read: Students read the section and pause.
Answer: Students ask themselves whether they can answer their question, based on the information they read. They circle Yes or No on a checklist. They answer their question if they can.
Check: Students check the answer to their question to be sure it is correct and that it is a good summary of the section they read. If they cannot answer their question, they use one of the fix-up strategies provided.
Additional strategies can be provided if students are still struggling to understand the text, including the following questions:
Did you understand the vocabulary? Look at the definitions of words, particularly those in boldface.
Are there clues in the characteristics of the text? Study the maps and figures.
Do you know something else about this topic? Use your previous knowledge.
Were you unable to find the answer to your question? Try to summarize the section!
What is being talked about in this section?
What happens in this section?
Explain what this section is about in less than 2 sentences.
Are you really stuck? Re-read the section and try again!
More information about this strategy and its implementation can be found here.
4) Concrete-Representational-Abstract (CRA)
CRA is an evidence-based strategy for teaching mathematics by approaching problems from three levels (concrete, representational, and abstract). This strategy has shown to be extra effective for students with learning challenges. CRA is recommended for students learning equations at the elementary level, but the strategy can also be adapted for use with middle and high school students learning more complex equations and word problems.
The strategy includes three main steps:
Introduce examples of math concepts using hands-on materials, like beans, paperclips, and cups.
Introduce representational examples of the same concept using pictures or drawings (i.e., have students draw or make a representation of the objects).
Introduce the abstract form of the math concept using the appropriate math symbols. It is recommended to connect the concrete and representational to the abstract as early as possible.
This worksheet provides an example of how the CRA method can be used to teach addition and division.
5) Customized Math Self-Correction Checklist
This is a strategy that functions as a student self-monitoring tool. The math self-correction checklist helps students monitor their own work and become more aware of error patterns and how to self-correct. It can be used across grade levels for students learning mathematical equations, computations, or word problems.
This strategy can be modified for at-home use using the following steps:
Using data that is available to them, teachers create a list of errors their students commonly make on a specific type of math computation or word problem. These items on the list are then re-stated as goals on the checklist.
When working on a math worksheet or assignment, the student uses the checklist after every problem to check his or her work—for example, marking each checklist item with a plus sign if correctly followed or a minus sign if not correctly followed. If any checklist item receives a minus rating, the student is directed to leave the original solution to the problem untouched, to solve the problem again, and again to use the checklist to check the work.
[OPTIONAL] Provide Reinforcement for Checklist Use. If the student needs additional incentives to increase motivation for the intervention, the teacher can assign the student points for intervention compliance checklist.
Branching Minds is a highly respected K-12 services and technology company that leverages the learning sciences and technology to help districts effectively personalize learning through enhancements to their MTSS/RTI practice. Having worked with hundreds of districts across the country, we bring deep expertise in learning sciences, data management and analysis, software design, coaching, and collaboration. Combined with our extensive toolkit of resources, PD, and technology, we provide a system-level solution. We are more than a service or a software provider, we are partners who will deliver sustainable results for educators, and a path to success for every learner.