Chronic absence had plagued Tiffany’s math abilities for years. Since math skills are sequential, often building upon each other, and requiring prerequisite skills to complete grade level work, missing multiple days meant that Tiffany missed out on learning key material that prevented her from doing the work that the class was doing when she returned.
For example; she missed the days on how to convert fractions. So when she returned to school, and the class was adding fractions with uncommon denominators, she didn’t have the tools necessary to complete the task.
I didn’t know it when I was Tiffany’s teacher, but Tiffany and her three siblings lived with their single mom, who had no employment, and was battling cancer. Their living arrangements were constantly changing, as they would move from one bad situation to another. Getting to school was hard for her when her mother was too ill to get her to the bus stop, or there was no electricity in the house to set an alarm, or an assortment of other poor circumstances plaguing this family.
Fortunately, I had started implementing learning stations where students are not progressed to the next skill until they demonstrate mastery on the first one.
So when Tiffany would start on adding integers, and then was gone for a few days, though many of her peers had moved on to subtracting integers, she would pick up right where she left off.
Of course Tiffany spent longer than most to complete a station and demonstrate proficiency. But she was comforted by the knowledge that she wasn’t being given up on, or left behind. And she reveled in the fact that for the first time in her educational career, she was understanding the things being taught to her. Which gave her confidence to continue to succeed, and joy in doing so.
If you have not implemented learning stations into you class, I strongly recommend doing so. And when you do, don’t progress students to the second skill until they have demonstrated mastery on the first skill.