Planning for Pandemic Math Instructional Gaps

Post pandemic planning is definitely NOT the same as pre-pandemic planning. The students are missing instruction from multiple grade levels in addition to the gaps that were there before the Pandemic.

As a result of the missing instructional content, the pacing of my lessons is off and how much content I can cover during one class period is sporadic. Some days depending on the content I can teach what I’ve actually planned for that day.

If you are anything like me, you’re looking for ways to cut down on your planning time by implementing a routine for planning. After four weeks of being in school, I’ve finally found three things that I must add to my planning in order for me to have a successful lesson.

Learning Deficit Support

The media and some educational gurus often refer to the pandemic learning deficits as learning loss. This is not the case. Students can’t lose something that was never there.

The learning deficits that are being seen are gaps in instruction. This means that no instruction took place. In addition to the misconceptions and deficits that were there pre-pandemic, the students now have two years of missing instruction.

From a planning point of view this is a nightmare, especially if you’re like me and teach in a Title I school. For the first three weeks of school, I struggled with pacing my lessons. It wasn’t the content but the students holes in instructional content. 

These holes would literally stall my lessons! So, what I started doing is frontloading my lessons with the content that the students would need before the actual lesson. At first the idea of doing this freaked me out, because my students were struggling with getting back into the school routine.

After a week of frontloading my instruction, the pacing of the lesson has returned.

On-going Formative Assessment

The missing instructional content has almost rendered summative assessments ineffective. Until the missing instruction is addressed the summative assessments will only show failure. Based on what I’ve seen with my lesson I haven’t been able to identify which math concepts are missing until I teach the lesson.

During the lesson, a true formative assessment will give you accurate timely information about the deficits that students may have with a particular skill or concept.

The book  Formative Assessment in Practice references a study done by Black and Wiliam that called for “sound models of students’ progression in the learning of the subject matter” so that teachers could interpret and respond to assessment evidence in a formative way.

The author defines learning progressions as progress variables, progress maps, and learning trajectories that invite a developmental view of learning. The ability to adjust your instruction during your lesson depends on your knowledge of what the development of that skill or concept looks like as the student progresses towards mastery.

For example, I was introducing solving one-step equations to my students using a model and the property of equality. I used Hands-On Equations to model the process. When I put the model of x + 3 = 5 on the mat, one of my students who really struggles with math said that’s two.

I immediately knew that she was drawing from an elementary concept of missing addends. Immediately following her comment, I adjusted my lesson introduction to include her thinking in the introduction because I realized that she was missing some other skills. 

If I didn’t know the learning progression for one-step equations, my whole lesson would’ve been derailed.

Anticipated Learning Difficulties

During our Implementation Zoom Chats in my Math Intervention Academy, I help teachers to focus on planning what the students will struggle with during the lesson.

About three weeks ago one of the teachers in my membership was planning to teach rounding decimals. As we discussed what prerequisite skills she would need to teach before getting to rounding decimals, she asked, “Will they need to know about adding the zero?”  My response was that they would need to know about equivalent decimals.

Needless to say, by the end of our discussion she said, “Yes, they’re going to need to know why they need to add a zero.”

These three instructional practices aren’t the only strategies for closing the Pandemic gaps, but they are starting points for those that may need them.

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