Friday, September 28, 2012
Too few kids for a class?
It's a common problem, particularly in the primary grades. A school would like to offer an advanced math option for kids at that level of preparation, but there aren't quite enough kids to justify a class. That handful of children can't just go to the next grade's math class, because it isn't being taught at the same time. What to do? When I was in 4th grade, I remember joining 3 other children sitting in the back of one teacher's classroom. She'd give us a do-now type assignment, go teach the other class, then while that class was working, she'd come back and work with us. I imagine this sort of arrangement happens pretty frequently, but earlier this week, I saw a more technologically sophisticated approach at a handful of Catholic primary schools in Philadelphia. Teacher Terri Danella instructs a small advanced math class at Resurrection school in northeast Philadelphia. As she teaches, she's being broadcast to 4 other schools (I was watching from St. Peter's near 5th and Girard). She's got a split screen that shows her all the students in the different locations, and when a student speaks up, the camera pans to that child. This makes the format relatively intuitive (when someone speaks, you look at her). The technology itself obviously costs money, though this was underwritten by the Connelly Foundation, a Philly-focused charity that promotes technology in Catholic education. But it's cheaper than having an extra math teacher at the five different schools. And this method retains slightly more of the human touch than having these children take an online course. How do your schools handle this issue? What do you do for children who need advanced math?