Over the last year or so, I’ve done a lot of work with very low-end students. Between teaching summer school for two years straight in the inner city, and teaching support classes in my regular semi-rural school, I’ve really been pushed to find other ways to convey information that work for my students.
One thing that I found is that no matter how small and bite-sized of steps I could break a process down to in our notes, many of my ELL students and students with IEPs for processing disabilities just couldn’t follow along and rework through the steps to get themselves “unstuck” on a problem. Working toward self-sufficiency is really big for me. I strongly believe that the purpose for high school is to prepare students to be productive once they enter the “real world,” whatever that means for them (school, workforce, military, etc.). Being self-sufficient and being able to problem-solve on their own is a big part of being able to reach this point. So, I kept searching and trying new things until I made my first flowchart graphic organizer. It was a game changer for my class!
Students were able to easily follow along. Using the graphic organizer, they were forced to read and do only one small chunk at a time and they had enough space to do their work right on the flowchart (it’s hard for some students to go back and forth between where the steps are written and where they’re doing a problem on a separate page of paper). Students were able to use the flowcharts as long as they wanted. As soon as they felt comfortable enough without it, they stopped using it. I have also laminated a class set that we used for practice early on.
I’ve also found that these have been very successful with my older students to jog their memories about a method they haven’t used in a while (such as solving systems by elimination). For a lot of my seniors, I’m not the only math class that they are taking–many of them are also taking a class called Math Skills that gives them opportunities to take more Work Samples, which are needed for graduation. Work Samples are an animal of their own and the topics on them can vary widely, so students find themselves needing review on topics that they may have not seen for a couple of years. I’ve had a lot of these students specifically ask if I had a flowchart for topic _______ that they could look over to remind themselves of the details of how to do ________.
With my younger classes, the first time we learn a method, I have a student working at the document camera as our class’ scribe, and the class (no help from me) discusses their way through the problem. They determine which path they need to go down (the “yes” path, or the “no” path), and then work in pairs to do that step. Then, they compare their work for that step as a class, and then move onto the next part of the flowchart and repeat the process. I love, love, LOVE how student and discussion centered this makes my lessons! Seriously! LOVE! It’s almost as if I’m not needed (shh! don’t tell anyone that, because I still want my job).
From there, we do a few examples that we glue into our INBs, and do some practice with dry-erase pens on the laminated copies of the flowcharts. I find that starting slow and having them work their way through a problem as a class, without me, helps them remember the ins and outs of the process a bit better, since they had to struggle together as a class.
Although I don’t have students referring to their notes quite as much as I would like, I have found that they go back to these flowchart examples in their INBs more than anything. When I ask my students why they like these so much, a lot of what they say comes back to the fact that they have the steps on the paper, and the space to do the work on the paper, and the flowchart really forces them to go one step at a time. A lot of them know that they have a tendency to rush through steps, and using the flowchart makes that very difficult to do. Students then self-wean off of the flowcharts at their own pace, which is great in my books! They are taking accountability for their knowledge. If they can do their work straight away, they do so. If they need a bit more help to get through a problem, they don’t just give up–rather, they walk to where I keep extra copies of the flowcharts, grab one, and work through the problem. This has really helped develop the no opt-out culture in my classroom. If students want to learn, there are tools to help them learn. For my classes, the flowchart has been an instrumental tool for their development, both in math skills as well as self-motivation and persistence.
If you like the flowcharts, you can find them at my TPT store! Today, they are 19% off when you couple your purchase with the 10% discount code OneDay.
Thank you so much for reading,