Support: Changes

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Feb
  • 14
  • 2009

The Support class isn’t about support in any one subject area. That’s really not the reason they are there nor is it something that’s going to get them out. It’s about support for playing the game of school. We ran the numbers (more on that later) and Support classes are not creating students who do well in Core classes. The overwhelming majority of students are failing their Core English or math, regardless of the grade earned in the Support. It seems that this is a trend across my district, so that covers well over fifty Support classes, likely over one hundred when you include math Support. It’s just not working. So here’s what my class looks like now:


They will read five hundred pages for me outside of school reading by the end of May. That puts us on a course of forty pages each week. This can’t be reading done for their Core English class or any other subject. We visit the library each month to renew books or check out new ones. We read in class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for ten minutes, with the goal of getting up to twenty minutes by the beginning of May. Right now, we can barely get through ten minutes, but we couldn’t even get through three minutes when we started this last semester. Beginning next week, Fridays will be days for them to write a response about what they’ve read during the week and I’ll have them catalog the number of pages they read each day.


On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I provide some type of lesson where the students need to take notes. We have periodic notes quizzes and will move toward taking those quizzes without the aid of notes, so notes become study tools. I’ve so far covered what to bring to class every day, the eight basic parts of speech, rules of capitalization, and how to eat sushi. During vocabulary presentations, the notes were to write down the first word and definition each student discussed (they spoke about five different words). The content of these days is not so important, so my options are wide open here. So far so good, but it’s a lot of not getting the notes down in the moment and asking what to write down later. We’ll get there. Cornell Notes will enter into the equation a bit later.


On Fridays, for about twenty minutes, my vision is to have students in groups by English teacher working on whatever reading, writing, or other assignments their teacher has provided. The maiden voyage of this was disastrous this past Friday, full of “Nope, we’re not working on anything”s. A possibility given that it was the Friday before a week vacation, but I still don’t buy it. We’ll try again the Friday we return, but before then I need to think of what I can have students do who give me that excuse. Email to and notes in boxes of seven different English teachers asking what is going on in class, that’s my Monday after-school plan.

The Support class has transformed, so I don’t feel overly guilty about not having new ideas for course work. We work on usual stuff with added attention to how to do said stuff successfully. If any of you have something, I welcome suggestions on what to do with a group of kids who are disenfranchised, accustomed to not working, and violently against the idea that any of the things we do in school actually matter. I’d also like to know what you think about my changes and if you have any ideas for tweaks to make them successful.


1. Damian says:

[2/14/2009 - 6:03 pm]

This sounds like a highly structured plan for teaching discrete skills – I love it. I often took for granted as a teacher that students knew how to take notes, or could read fluently on their own. I like the schedule and choice of tasks you’ve chosen here. Is it just you who’s doing this, or is it a district-wide restructuring of the curriculum?

I regret I have nothing more substantial to add than cheerleading, but here’s a resource you may find handy for when you get to those Cornell Notes: – a customizable Cornell Note page generator.

2. Todd says:

[2/14/2009 - 6:16 pm]

This is all me. I think I’m going against what my district wants this class to be since I’m dropping direct support for the pacing guide of the Core English class. But if my district would get on board, we could probably turn these classes into something useful. The implementation of Support has been a wreck, really. Add to that the fact that these kids already feel left out of the whole school thing and, in its current incarnation, Support is doing far more harm than good.

Oh yeah, that site is killer and exactly the type of thing the kids will need when we get there. Once I get a few more like it, I’ll throw them together in another “Hey, check out these links!” type post. Keep ’em coming if you have more.

Cheerleading is OK with me. I’ve had little to no feedback on this class (except a few close and lovely colleagues) so it’s nice to read that someone else agrees with my thinking. I’ve certainly had no support from my district on the direction of the course.

3. Laurie says:

[2/15/2009 - 10:52 am]

I like that this structure allows students to know what to expect. I think it can work very well for this type of student.

You might even try some listening exercises from Speech.

I might suggest that 40 pages a week is a lot for this type of students. Have you broken down the scale for them something like 40=A, 35=B 30=C 25=D? I assume that many of them are very slow readers so 40 a week is about 13 pages in only 20 min. and it seems like a bit much.

And on my workshop days, I usually have a alternate…read this and answer these questions assignment. Works to deter the “I don’t have anything to do” blues.

4. Todd says:

[2/15/2009 - 11:16 am]

And I thought 40 pages was taking it down a notch… I’ll revisit it. The scale is what I’m working on this break. We only started reading this week.

I’ll also get a host of those types of assignments to combat those with nothing to do on tutorial days. I just cut it off this week after about 2 minutes because I didn’t want to put up with it and because they were probably right: we’re going into vacation and might have wrapped everything up.

Did you see Damian’s link above?

Seriously cool Cornell Notes generator

5. Jason (InnerEd) says:

[2/16/2009 - 8:37 pm]


Please keep us updated on your reading program. I re-introduced a reading program to my 3rd & 4th periods (it crashed horribly under a different method last semester) two weeks ago.

I assume that they are picking what they read? Are you introducing them to any new books? Do you have any books in the room for those who won’t or refuse to use the library?

I’m interested in how much buy-in that you are getting from the kids after a few weeks. I had widely divergent results–a 1st block that loves it, a 3rd that tolerates it, and a 4th that hates it.

And thanks for visiting InnerEd!

6. Jean says:

[2/18/2009 - 8:57 am]

I know what you’re talking about when it comes to students reading. It sounds like we are working with a characteristically similar group of students. Are the students reading on their own? Are they reading the same or different material? I have been having all my students read the same book, short story, etc…. Usually, depending on the story, once the students get interested in whatever we’re reading they’re fine; however, there are always some students who just don’t like to read, regardless of the kind of material it is.I have been having us read together as a group (myself included). Usually a chapter a day, depending on the length. We just go round robin, with students reading one page each, aloud. This gives them an opportunity to see the words, hear the words, and I usually include some sort of written excercise that is based on whatever we are reading; trying to hit all the learning modalities. I would be interested in hearing what others are doing in this regard.

7. K says:

[2/18/2009 - 4:32 pm]

I agree, your structure sounds like it could be really awesome! I teach 5th graders so obviously the dynamics are different, but I ask my students to read for a little over 2 hours a week – an average 15 minutes a night outside of school added to what we do in school. (I’d require more except for a HW policy that makes me reluctant to overload them on “official” requirements – when parents ask I strongly suggest more like 30 minutes a night). And in that week I’d expect that most of them would make it through a medium-sized chapter book. Some, obviously, won’t, and some read long books that take forever, and others can’t really sustain a book over a length of time and I encourage picture books, magazines, etc., and some don’t do it regularly at all – but I think that 40 pages a week of reading material they are interested in and is on a good reading level for them is not at all too much to ask.

8. Todd says:

[2/19/2009 - 10:38 am]

They read what they choose. We did a read around 2 weeks ago and that exposed them to several new titles within a class period (easily 50 titles, though some got to more). I have 3 bookcases in the classroom, but there’s only about 2 shelves of books that these students have been reading so far. I’ve gathered some titles from the students to inform a big book purchase I’m planning. And I’m getting a similar range of buy in that you’ve experienced, Jason. In my regular classes, the buy in is a lot higher.

For the most part, students are not reading on their own outside of class — even though they need to. Jean, I’m right with you in terms of varying the reading styles. I don’t keep us together on the outside reading because it’s important to me to let students go at their own rate on this style of reading. Whatever we’re reading for class, though, we read as a class and usually out loud.

K, for these students, it’s finding that reading material they are interested in. Especially the males.

9. K says:

[2/20/2009 - 5:49 pm]

I know, finding that stuff is hard – especially when they’re struggling as readers. No high school kid wants to read Junie B. Jones or something! The Bluford High books are big favorites with the older kids at my school, and even the struggling readers seem to be able to get a handle on them (and there’s some boy-focused books in that series too).

10. Jason Brasskey says:

[2/26/2009 - 10:45 am]

Sounds like a very structured plan. I also think it’s important to find a way to inspire the desire to learn again. Find what it is that the individual is passionate about and integrate it into the lesson. This might help…

Jason (EducationDynamics)