Teacher Talks: Michele Tonge on using Front Row successfully in centers

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This edition of teacher talks features Michele Tonge, a teacher in the Flemington-Raritan school district in New Jersey. If you’d like to share your story about helping your students excel at math, please drop us a line. 

How did you hear about Front Row? How did you start using it? 

I was introduced to Front Row through an acquaintance and thought that it might be beneficial to use with our struggling students. I initially tried it with students in our after school homework club and have gradually been sharing it within our district with other teachers. Seeing how much the students enjoy Front Row, we are hoping that it will encourage our students in their math skills as well as provide us (teachers) with feedback on our students’ performance to help inform and guide instruction. I also use Front Row with my Gifted and Talented students. I have been able to pre-assess their knowledge (especially in geometry and fractions) in order to tailor my lessons to meet their needs. The students have been very excited about using it both at school and at home. My day usually starts with a student coming into class boasting about how many points they got from the night before. The fact that they are voluntarily going on Front Row at home, after doing all their other homework, is amazing. 

Since each teacher in our school has one iPad for their classroom, I have been borrowing iPads from neighboring classrooms on days that I am having center work. This allows me to have students rotate through activities with everyone having an opportunity to use Front Row. On the days that I only have one iPad, students may use it for math practice once their work is complete. 

What are some ways that you use Front Row? 

– I have a little more time to help other students since Front Row provides for peer tutoring. On Front Row, when another student’s name pops up as someone who can help, the students don’t mind asking because they know this student knows how to solve the problem. 

– The video tutorials are an added plus. The students are able to receive guidance with their work even though I may be working in a small group with other students. 

– I use some of the questions from the individualized worksheets as a Ticket In or quick formative assessment for each student. 

– I have an answer to the question I always receive at conference time. “What other things can my child do at home that will reinforce the skills he/she is learning in school?” Front Row has been perfect. I have an honor system with my students and parents. The students do their work independently. The parents really like the fact that the program presents material at the students’ level of understanding so the students have a great deal of independence. 

Are you and your school taking any initiatives to prepare for the Common Core? 

Our district has been very proactive in preparing for the Common Core. We have standards based unit assessments in Math for every one of our grade levels, including a midyear and end of year assessment. These assessments were created by our district and were presented and discussed with the teachers through professional development. Last year was definitely a year with a lot of change for us, but I think it was worth it. We are all feeling a bit more confident about our ability to teach the standards and meet the expectations of the Common Core. I plan to use the teacher portion of Front Row as an additional guide as to how my students’ are performing with regard to the Common Core Standards. To have a tool, other than my own assessments, that provides me the ability me to see which students still need more guidance in particular areas, or to see which students are excelling beyond what has been taught in class, is wonderful. Front Row will also mesh beautifully when we move to a standards based report card. All the information is delineated in a clear fashion for easy reflection. 

Tell us about a low student, and their story with how they used Front Row. 

Recently one of our struggling students was introduced to Front Row during an after school club. The vice principal happened to stop by and was noticing how that is particular student was really engaged and focused. As he completed numerous problems using the whiteboard function of Front Row (and occasionally listening to a video tutorial), the student would punch the air and whisper an emphatic “Yes!” everytime he got an answer correct and was rewarded coins. Soon 20 minutes had passed and I had to have the students pack up to go home. The student was very reluctant to stop. I walked the students out of the school and my vice principal was smiling. He laughed and said, “I have never seen this particular child spend 20 minutes doing anything!” He was very impressed that any math program could hold this child’s attention for so long.

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