Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to "Float" in a "Lab Classroom"

Assisting in a multi-level classroom involves many different types of activities. One of these is “floating”, or moving around and helping students while they are working independently. If you are volunteering in a drop-in center or “lab”, you may be assisting many different students, each of whom is working on a different level and/or topic. This could also include a computer lab.

1) Circulate around the room.

Observe students as you circulate, checking to see if their understanding of the assignment is accurate. Ask students if they would like help. If they do, ask students to show you their work and explain it to you.

  • Find ways to help students become independent learners. Resist the urge to give them the answer. Suggest other resources, like a dictionary, that students could use for assistance. If an answer is incorrect, ask them to go back and look at the problem or text again.

2) Assist.

Give hints. Don’t correct an error or give a student an answer immediately – facilitate the detection and correction of their own errors and/or help them find the answer themselves. For example:

  • Ask the student to go back and look at the reading again.
  • On a page with 8 questions, where 2 are incorrect, ask the student to look at those again.
  • Ask the student why he/she chose that answer.
  • Go over the instructions again and, if necessary, do an example together.
  • Ask a student to explain something to you, either the directions or the problem, to help figure out the source of their confusion. Students often forget to read directions thoroughly before starting an assignment.
  • Try to provide real-life, concrete examples before moving on to the abstract ones. For example, in math, make a paper pizza and cut it into equal parts to demonstrate fractions.
  • Check for the student’s prior knowledge of a subject. Perhaps some context is missing and needs to be filled in.

3) Don’t linger.

Assist a student with a couple questions/corrections/clarifications/etc., and then move on. After helping a student with a couple of problems, they should be ready to try again on their own. Encourage the student to continue with the rest of the activity, and tell them you’ll return to check on them or to find you if they need further help.

4) Continue to circulate, so that you can help as many students as possible.

Thanks to Kara Rotramel, ABE Instructor and Site Coordinator for Forest Lake Adult Education Center, part of Metro North Adult Basic Education Consortium, for suggesting the need for this tip and for providing valuable input.