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Follow-Up: Helpful Instructional Tools

In my previous post I focused on attitudes and beliefs that I have seen in successful schools which have led to achievement for our students in low-income communities. Other teachers posted blogs of what they would put in place if they had the financial means. I have had the privilege to work with administrators who were savvy about securing resources to improve our students' education. I thought I would just use this final post to highlight a few of the instructional tools that I have found useful in working with disadvantaged students.

Achieve 3000: One computer program that was particularly effective in our Dual Language program at MS 223 was Achieve 3000. I have not seen a more useful tool for differentiating literacy in English and Spanish. I was so proud to see that some of our students finish the 8th grade reading at a high school level in Spanish and showed mastery on the New York City Regents exam.

AR: A similar tool to improve literacy is the Accelerated Reader program. Using AR, students are tested on their comprehension and progress is tracked in a way that teachers can use to motivate them. At my current school, we are only in our second month and we have surpassed 10,000,000 words already. That is more than 1,000 books in all!

ST and Khan: In math, there are two outstanding programs that I currently use in my student-centered classroom. ST Math from the MIND Research Institute pairs conceptual learning and uses standard algorithms using virtual manipulative pieces to learn important skills. We also use Khan Academy on a daily basis to demonstrate mastery on skills. Khan's vast collection of exercises and videos ranges from place value to calculus and beyond. Unbelievably, this tool is free and available to any person with access to the Internet. Even better are their reports to help guide teachers and students. As a school, we are near the 10,000,000 energy-point mark.

I hope that these resources are of use to others. Please leave a comment or question if you have used these programs in the past or if you know of others that have been useful for you. Engagement is key in the education of our children. These resources free up teachers to work with small groups and individually while the children work within their zone of proximal development. They also help build independence and make students masters of their own learning.

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