Three Questions with Ashley Coleman

January 15, 2015

Ashley Coleman is one of Reasoning Mind’s most successful fifth grade teachers. We interviewed her this week to gain some insights into how she fosters success in her classroom from the very first day. 

What are some expectations that you set for your students in the first few weeks of Reasoning Mind? How do you make those expectations clear from the beginning?

I spent a few days showing them examples from my kids last year and we practiced doing some of the things whole class so that we could talk about what was right and wrong. We set up our notebook at this point, with our graphs and information before we stepped foot in the lab. I also let them know up front how they could get bonus bucks and points by reaching certain goals. I feel that by the time we got to start on their own they already had a good idea of my expectations and were comfortable with what they were doing. I kept the notebooks from the previous year available for a few days and I made sure to reward and coach mistakes quickly so that they knew I was paying attention to what they were doing. I also had a RM bulletin board set up so they can see the results of each day.

Do you treat students with learning modifications differently when it comes to class procedures or expectations? What is an example of a time when you may modify procedures/expectations for them? What are some areas where you expect the same from all students regardless of their learning ability or plans?

There are very few differences in my expectations between groups. They have the same reward system for tickets and bonus bucks. They are also expected to do the notes test the same way. Most of the time another student assists them and makes sure they are using their notes and highlighting what they use and entering it correctly before hitting enter. Sometimes I will assist with it, but they seem to like it better when the other students help them. I think it helps that there isn’t a difference made in the expectations. If I think they can, so do they. I am a little more lenient with the notebooks as they are not good writers or spellers but most of the time they keep up with that too. I was careful in the way I did my seating chart so that they were close to someone that could help them that they were comfortable with and I have a pretty clear view of most of their screens from where I am.

Your class experiences consistently high accuracy (91 percent Level A for year to date!)  and this includes your special education students, who, on modified curriculum, remain between 80 to 90 percent. To what would you attribute that success?

My students are very involved with their results and they know when they aren’t meeting expectations. They graph their results from the metrics report and I keep track of things like notes tests and skips pretty publicly. If they know that the rest of the class is counting on them, it seems to make them double check their actions. While the program is individualized, there is also a team focus. We work together to fill in a goal thermometer based on number of objectives successfully completed, working toward “theme Friday” rewards. Students get to dress up around a certain theme and they love it. This gives them something to work toward and increases the sense of team and community in our class.

Notes Tests are also a team effort. When a student is ready to take a notes test, another student who has already taken that test, checks their notes against their own and stands behind them as they take the test. The student taking the test highlights the info they are using from their notes and the student behind them makes sure they are using their Notes properly on each question. Everyone wants to help with the notes test and they are unhappy on the rare occasion that they do not get 100%. Students are motivated to work on accuracy and beating their own streak by a reward ticket system set in place.

Throughout class, we check in with metrics to let them know where they stand. It’s not just me leading them- they all encourage and correct each other. Our clockwork routine also aids in our success. They know the procedures well, so they can concentrate on their task without thinking about small stuff. When it comes to the success of my students with modified learning plans,  I really think it goes back to having the same expectations for all students. They are treated the same and try to rise to meet the challenge.

Post by Desiree Sowards, Implementation Coordinator

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