View a selection of implementation strategies from educators who are successfully using ALEKS to achieve dramatic learning outcomes.
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St. Patrick's Catholic School, Omaha Archdiocese
Grade(s): K - 8
Scenario: Computers in Classroom, Laptop Carts
Purpose: Intervention, Enrichment/Gifted and Talented, Improve State Test Scores, Supplement
Time Spent in ALEKS: 2-4 hours per week, 30 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Mathematics - LV 5 (with QuickTables), Middle School Math Course 3, Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1
Chris Nelson, Teacher
I use ALEKS for three purposes. First, I use it for remediation. Students who are struggling in my sixth grade math class are working with Level 5 ALEKS coursework. They are building skills and confidence so that future math retention will be better. They often struggle with new concepts because they lack the fundamental basis for making connections. Working with Level 5 is establishing those connections, and the students are enjoying math more. Other math assessments are improving and their confidence is growing. Secondly, I use ALEKS for challenge. My top students are able to test out of chapter sections. If they can show mastery on a pre-test, they can work in ALEKS and learn something new. I am excited because I can say that every single day each of my students is learning something new in math. I have students working in Pre-Algebra and a few are even working in Algebra. It's a great opportunity for my advanced sixth graders to really be challenged. Finally, I use ALEKS for my on-grade level group. This group can reinforce the skills they are learning in class. They can also learn topics prior to covering it in class. It is a great motivation to be able to "pass" out of a section on a pre-test because they put the time in ALEKS to learn the concept.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
With a diverse group of ability levels, meeting the needs of everyone every day was sometimes a challenge. ALEKS enables the kids to work in class and at home to enrich and supplement what they are learning in the classroom.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
2-4 days per week.
What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
How do you implement ALEKS?
I started with one class of remediation and one class of enrichment. Soon after, I added it for my grade level students as well. For my on-level and enrichment groups, they are required to complete 80 minutes of ALEKS as homework each week. This is monitored, and they are graded on the completion of the time. Students chart their progress and set goals each quarter.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
No order. Students are allowed to choose the order they learn concepts.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
For remediation, I conduct ALEKS labs. These happen in four 40-minute sessions each week. This group does not have homework in ALEKS. For enrichment and grade level students, I require 80 minutes of ALEKS homework per week. This is in addition to their coursework/textbook homework.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
Prior to using ALEKS, if a child passed a section on the chapter pre-test, I was creating activities to enrich and challenge. Now when a student passes a section, he/she can work in ALEKS and I know that they are learning new content. As a teacher, I can view the class report and see the areas of strength and weakness for the class as a whole. This enables me to be a more effective planner. If Geometry is a weakness for my class, I know I have to spend a little more time on Geometry during instruction and practice. It really helps me to know my class and each of my individual students.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Eighty minutes per week at minimum.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
I send out detailed information on the reporting capabilities of ALEKS. I print the graphs and use them at conference time to illustrate growth. It is nice to use them along with other assessments to track student 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 30 percent of their homework load per week.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Each week, 50 points are given if a student meets all 80 minutes of the assigned time. Points are deducted for failing to meet the time.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
As long as they are putting in the time, I can watch their growth. As the concepts become more difficult, they grow less rapidly. I am less concerned with assigning a specific amount; I know it will happen with time and with the right teacher feedback.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
ALEKS enables me to meet everyone's educational needs. I've watched a student who started with 15 percent mastery at a grade level below move to 85 percent mastery with just over 35 hours spent in the program. That's great growth. While that student is still working at the grade level below, her confidence is growing which impacts her ability to be successful in my classroom. She likes math so much more now. ALEKS is a big part of changing poor perceptions about math! Additionally, my top students are being challenged. They are working hard, they are learning new concepts every day, and they are even learning how to work through frustration. Many of these students did not know what it was like to be frustrated with work because learning always came so easy for them. I like that they are learning how to learn, even when it is challenging. ALEKS is a safe environment for that to happen in. My students love that they can watch their progress. They can communicate about the skills they know and those they need to work on. They want to take assessments, and they love QuickTables. It isn't a fight to get them to do the assigned homework on ALEKS or spend time in class.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
We host ALEKS labs for our school. We have four teachers who each take a before school or an after school time. Students sign up to come to the computer lab and work in the program. The teachers who staff it are math teachers, so they are able to provide assistance for those who need it. The students are motivated and the parents are excited to watch the growth of their children. We started with 4-5 students in our ALEKS lab, and now have nights when we have 15 students. We plan to offer ALEKS labs during the summer to help keep those skills sharp!