I visited an 8th grade math class at Coventry Junior High School on Friday to learn more about Coventry's new block scheduling for math. Basically, the district doubled the amount of time students spend in math class. Some block schedules squeeze a year's worth of math into a semester with block scheduling, but that's not what Coventry is doing. Kids get math, every day, every week, all year. The district credits that for its big math gains on the state achievement tests last year reflected on the state report cards released on Friday.
Korianne VanAuken, 23, started last year at the district fresh out of Bowling Green University. Last year, the district was able to tap into federal stimulus dollars by hiring her out of Summit Educational Service Center. This year, she's on the Coventry payroll. She said all of her student teaching was done in traditional 45-minute segments, so he had to make adjustments to how she taught and monitored the energy level of the room. The longer period allows her to some direct instruction, some hands-on activities and to help individual students or small groups of students who need extra attention (the traditional 45-minute periods leave no time to circle back, the principal explained. If you didn't get chapter one, well, too bad, we're on to Chapter Two this week).
I observed Ms. VanAuken's morning class on Friday. The subject was adding integers (positive and negative numbers). After a review of previous material, she dove in with some basic definitions and rules of thumb. The students practiced adding integers when the signs (positive or negative) were the same and when they were different. Some preferred to do it by the rules, some preferred to stand at the blackboard and literally count it off on a number line.
The students took a break and after some more practice, they played a game in groups of four with a deck of cards. Black cards were positive numbers and red cards were negative numbers. The four divided the cards evenly. In turn, they each placed a card on a center pile, adding to or subtracting from a running total until they reach 25.
Here's a video of Ms. VanAuken's Friday lesson.
Video by Akron Beacon Journal education reporter John Higgins