View a selection of implementation strategies from educators who are successfully using ALEKS to achieve dramatic learning outcomes.
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Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, Private
St. Louis, MO
Grade(s): K - 12
Scenario: One-to-One Laptop Program
Purpose: Intervention, Enrichment/Gifted and Talented, Core Curriculum, Supplement
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 10%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 1-2 hours per week
ALEKS Course: Essential Mathematics (with QuickTables), Pre-Algebra, High School Preparation for Algebra 1, Algebra 1
Jody Marberry, Faculty
ALEKS allows me to provide each of my students with a tool geared specifically to their individualized needs. For some students, ALEKS is a way to revisit and practice skills that had been taught in previous courses but have not yet been mastered. For other students, ALEKS provides them with practice problems and explanations that correspond with the skills and concepts being taught in the classroom. For my advanced students, ALEKS gives them the opportunity to stretch their knowledge, as well as to preview future topics in my course and math courses beyond. I have found that it is very easy to maneuver through the site, that help is always provided in a timely manner both electronically and by phone, and that the facilitators of ALEKS have used my feedback to enhance and change the Teacher Module so that it is easier for me to keep track of student progress in a variety of ways.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
Before I adopted ALEKS in my classroom, differentiating skill-based material was very time consuming. I would have to search for worksheets that addressed the specific skills needed by a few students, and then sometimes I would make the whole class do the worksheet even though only a handful of students really needed it. All of my students have different needs at different times during the year. ALEKS is an easy way to address the needs of individual students within a whole classroom setting.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
How do you implement ALEKS?
Once we moved to a one-to-one laptop program for our seventh and eighth graders, implementing ALEKS was pretty seamless. I have adjusted my weekly homework assignments so that kids are using ALEKS 15-20 percent of the time. At first, I was concerned that I might not be able to cover as much material or that some students may not get enough practice on a certain skill or concept that was part of my curriculum. Instead, I have found that in my Algebra class, we are further along this year than we were in the past. In some ways, ALEKS provides students with a much needed "break" from the traditional homework and projects that they were being assigned every night for homework.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
While ALEKS is occasionally used during class time, the program is predominantly used as homework. However, students who complete classroom projects and assignments early always go on ALEKS when they are finished. I have ALEKS days where the entire class will work in the program, while I move around the room and check in with each student on what concepts they are working on and what progress they have made. Often the students will sit in small groups and peer teach each other when necessary.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
My teaching goal is to provide a variety of avenues with which to help my students both understand and use mathematics. What works for one student does not always work for another. ALEKS is another tool in my tool box that I can use to reach students at all levels. ALEKS allows me to design more "station" work based on student choice, it enables me to quickly and accurately assess students on an individual basis, and it provides me with the opportunity to push my gifted students so that they do not become complacent, but enthused and motivated to learn more.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
For 1-2 hours per week.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
The parents at my school love ALEKS. For many of the students, this program has erased the need for tutors or for parents to buy workbooks that are never used. We require the students to purchase a 12-month subscription so they can use it over the summer. Again, our parents love this because ALEKS can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection, and the program provides immediate feedback about the student's progress.
Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities? If so, what part of the total homework load is it?
ALEKS is 20 percent of their homework load for the week, but many students do more than the minimum required time.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
ALEKS is worth ten percent, which is based on the completion of the weekly time requirement. I have students print, complete, and turn in an individualized worksheet for an accuracy grade, which is worth ten percent. Also, I create quizzes that are used during exam time, which is worth 20 percent.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
This year, progress is measured by time spent and topics mastered. I give parents updates on their student's weekly progress and overall progress so that they can motivate their children at home.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
For some of my students, ALEKS has been the "hook" they needed to take the time to complete the skill work that they have avoided in the past. For my more advanced students, I often hear them speak up during a conversation about a new topic I am introducing to the class and say, "Oh yeah, I did that on ALEKS." Sometimes those students will lead the class in an example problem and other times, the students will say, "Yeah, I saw that on ALEKS the other night, but I didn't get it. Now that you have taught it in class, it makes total sense." In essence, the connections between material happen quicker now than before when I wasn't using ALEKS as a part of my curriculum. My students love how easy it is to see their progress. They like that fact that they can pick and choose which concepts to work on; some days they feel like knocking out a few topics that are review, while other days they want to focus on one particular concept and use the explanations and practice to learn something new. They like to use the review questions that pop up to make sure they really learned the skill. You can feel the anticipation in the classroom when someone is presented with an assessment; "If I do well on this," they will say, "then my pie is going to get bigger."
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
Let your students choose which topics they want to work on; choice can be a very big motivating factor. Encourage students to work together in small groups and to use mini dry erase boards so that they can help each other and have fun while doing it. Introduce the ALEKS Student Module to parents at the beginning of the year so that they can see how easy it is to access information about their kids, but also remind the parents that ALEKS is for the students and not for the parents. Often my parents are so impressed that they want to buy a subscription for themselves.