Do Your Learners Need A BOOST?

This post may point you in the right direction.  There is no acronym involved here and I did not develop the program.  BOOST is academic intervention for all learners.  The initial idea came from Rebecca and Richard DuFour’s book, “Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don’t Learn,” and a workshop they both delivered in Chilliwack, B.C.

Following this workshop one teacher, with the help of her peers, developed BOOST and together they’ve been using the program for the last two years.  As far as I know this type of intervention is only used in one elementary school in Chilliwack, but after a recent workshop presentation showcasing its merits I’m certain it will grow.

BOOST’s Goal:  To implement a system of effective intervention for students with their specific learning needs.

One of the main reasons BOOST was initiated in one elementary school in Chilliwack, B.C. was because of the gaps found in their grade 5/6’s fundamental understanding of math.  Because of this teachers found students were ill-prepared for middle school math at the time.  The second reason for introducing BOOST was because their LA schedule was proving to be very chaotic and almost counter-productive because of sheer number of students in the school.

Presently, Boost is focused on math intervention but may spread to languages arts in the future. It is designed specifically to tackle gaps in math fundamentals, such as understanding that numbers have differing value/worth depending on which place value column they are written in.    Here’s a brief introduction of how the program works.  You’ll see the successes and the challenges:

  • At beginning of year 1 students were given pre-assessment on place value.  Assessment was targeted to reveal specific gaps in place-value understanding.  First Steps In Math was used as the primary assessment tool.
  • In this particular school, with the help of school administration, 8 math groups were formed.  This helped in a variety of ways, firstly it enabled teachers to breakdown the skills required to successfully master understanding of place-value, and at the same time it allowed for groups of students who may not work well together to be separated.
  • In the 8 groups which were formed, there was an IEP group which stayed the same the whole year, an enrichment group which had already mastered the concept but worked on problem solving within a given concept (i.e. division) and the other 6 groups were divided based on the key understanding of each concept, they failed to understand.  Often, two different groups worked on the same key understandings (i.e. covered the same materials) because of the sheer number of learners.
  • After 6 weeks learners were given a post-assessment to determine they understood the new concepts taught.
  • After the results were obtained teachers decided whether to move on to a new topic o remain and explore the topic further.
  • If teacher’s decided to move on to a new topic and learners remained who had not successfully understand the previous topic, they formed the lowest group in the new topic.  For example, those learners (after 6 weeks) who continued to have difficultly with key understandings to successfully complete multiplication formed the lowest group when moving to division.

Format In A Nutshell:

  1. Pre-test skills set
  2. Assign groups
  3. Direct teach
  4. Re-assess

Here are a list of quote from people who have been involved with BOOST:
“Enhances student understanding of math concepts…”  “Targets the specific problems students are having…”  “Teachers discussing assessment and teaching strategies…”  “Students who are able to work at their own level…”  “Connects different classroom teachers with all intermediate teachers…”

At this particular school BOOST is still a work-in-progress.  Some of the challenges and areas that need to be addressed (according to the school) in order for BOOST to improve are as follows:

  • Creating the time for teachers to meet and plan outside of their lunch hours
  • Easier access to resource (resource binders, electronic resources etc..)
  • Varying teaching/learning styles
  • Generating more effective assessments to properly and easily identify where a learner is going wrong when tackling a new concept
  • Strategies to deal with students who are at the same level but for whatever reason shouldn’t be in the same class together
  • Looking to expand to language arts and beyond

Thanks to everyone at Promontory Elementary Community School for showcasing BOOST at the recent Pro-D event.  I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and look forward to implementing BOOST soon.  Great work guys!

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