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Central Middle School, Community Consolidated School District 146
Tinley Park, IL
Grade(s): 6 - 8
Scenario: One-to-One Laptop Program
Purpose: Special Education, At-Risk Students, Core Curriculum, RtI
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 20%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 2.5 hours per week; 22.5 hours per week
ALEKS Course: Mathematics - LV 3 (with QuickTables), RtI 8, MS RtI Tier 3, Middle School Math Course 3, Algebra 1
Sandra Struck, Teacher
I have found ALEKS very helpful in my classroom thus far. It has targeted my individual students' areas of concern and helps fill in the gaps of their learning. We are currently using it as an intervention for RtI, which has made the transition very easy.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
It was nearly impossible for me to be able to know what gaps students had in their learning. It is not possible for me to sit down and teach each student to their individual needs on a daily basis. ALEKS allows this to happen and I have seen great improvements.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
5 days per week.
What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
How do you implement ALEKS?
We started ALEKS by just using it in the classroom 15 minutes a day. Now, we require students to complete 90 minutes of ALEKS outside of school in addition to the 15 minutes they use it per school day.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
I encourage students to fill in the Arithmetic section first, but other than that, no.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
The last 15 minutes of each class period is spent on ALEKS. I am looking into switching it to the beginning since it seems to provide a good structure for students.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
I am able to group students based on the short quizzes that I give them every few days. Then, I can target students that don't understand what I'm teaching in class.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
90 minutes per week.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
We held a parent night at school to answer questions that parents had and taught them about the program. We also sent home a letter detailing our expectation of 90 minutes outside of school a week with instructions of how to download Java for the parents.
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?
It's about 50% of the homework load.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Students are graded on ALEKS based on 30 homework points a week. Homework is 30 percent of their grade. All other homework assignments are four points each, with an average of 20 points per week. So, on an average week, ALEKS is worth 30-50 homework points for a total of 60 percent.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
No. I speak to individuals about the amount of topics they have covered. We encourage them to persevere and not skip around their pie pieces looking for easier problems.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
It was a hard transition at first. Students weren't used to doing math on the computer. However, once they started using the program and saw how neat it can be, they started to buy into it. They really like some of the tools that the program has, such as the protractor and the ruler. I can see that my students are learning material that I do not have time to go back and re-teach. Their procedural skills are increasing and their motivation to succeed and fill in their pies has improved greatly.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
My best advice would be to make sure that students show their work while working in the program. Most students were trying to do all the work in their head, so I now make students keep an ALEKS journal so they are more organized in their thinking and keep all their work in one place. Also, stress to students that they are only allowed to use a calculator when the program lets them. Many students try to sneak one under their desk. Last, I have students all sit with their computer screens facing me so that I know they are on the program working and not on other websites.