View the movie below and then proceed to the Initial Thoughts section (time: 2:40).
Ms. Torri, a middle school math teacher, loves her job.
Both she and her students are thrilled when they demonstrate their seventh-grade-level abilities, like solving algebraic equations and applying strategies for solving word problems.
Ms. Torri has always enjoyed working to help all her students achieve their ultimate potential, but for two of them, Alexandra and Zach, she just can’t seem to find the right approach.
She’s been stumped by Alexandra’s inability to pay attention and by Zach’s inability to complete his assignments. It’s not that the work is too hard for either of them; she checked that out first thing. And, although they each have individualized educational plans for reading, their math computation skills are at grade level.
For example, Alexandra’s attention problem seems to manifest itself in chatting with friends or being out of her seat instead of doing her work. She just can’t seem to stay on task. When Ms. Torri talks with her about this problem, she seems to understand at the moment, but it’s soon forgotten.
Zach, on the other hand, can’t stay focused. Ms. Torri always needs to be right next to him in order to get his class assignments done.
Ms. Torri really believes that Alexandra and Zach don’t want to be off task—they just can’t help themselves. She has talked with Zach and Alexandra. She’s explained how when she has to stop what she’s doing and get them back to work it’s unfair to the other students. Needless to say, Ms. Torri is frustrated, first because Alexandra and Zach are not learning life skills for managing their time and attention, and because of the time their behavior is taking away from the other students.
As they get older, Ms. Torri is worried that Zach and Alexandra will be unable to focus and complete tasks independently, and she knows she better do something about it! One thing she’s tried has been the use of positive reinforcement along with the daily enforcement of classroom rules. This has helped a little; however, she still feels they need something more.
Ms. Torri feels in her gut that Alexandra and Zach don’t need a heavy-duty behavior intervention plan. She believes in them and thinks that with the right tools, they can be successful.
Here’s your Challenge:
Why do you suppose Alexandra and Zach can’t stay on task and are so easily distracted?
What might Ms. Torri consider to help her students stay on task and also help her regain some lost instructional time?
What techniques will help Alexandra and Zach become independent learners, and how can they gain those skills?