7th Grade Students Teaching 4th Grade Students

This semester we had the pleasure of facilitating 7th-grade to 4th-grade student lessons on math and 3D modeling. The learning took place between my 7th-grade math class at Emerson Middle School and the 4th-grade class of Bethany Gonzales (no relation) at McKinley Elementary School. Our schools are separated by a non-public access rode, so essentially we are neighbors.

The Why

The two participating schools in the peer teaching sessions are both first-year Focus Schools under the Bakersfield City School District Focus Schools Initiative. According to BCSD, a focus school has been designated as such because of low academic performance in ELA and Math (BCSD Focus School Initiative). With the full support of my principal Polo Marquez and assistant principal Sara Williams, I set out planning a peer-tutoring experience as Polo set the groundwork by reaching out to McKinley Elementary and arranging for a meeting between our classes. McKinley principal Rona Chacon was able to coordinate the elementary scheduling and made it easier for the process by working around the middle school schedule.

Through my own classroom assessments, I know first hand that about 40% of my students are missing essential 4th-grade level skills in mathematics. Within that group, there is an additional 10% who came into the school year lacking such skills as subtracting 3-digit numbers. These are students who may or may not have received additional interventions at the elementary school level, and who require more than small-group instruction (special education services were also vetted).

McKinleytoEmerson

To be at least three years behind at the 7th-grade level means that the educational system has failed you.  I have seen first-hand, high school students who moved up multiple grade levels and made dramatic behavior changes through peer-tutoring experiences.

The primary reason for these gains is that peer-tutoring gives students a purpose for being involved in school.  When older students teach younger students, they mature because it is required of them, not in a punitive way, but in a reflective and introspective way. The older students tend to take on the role of an older brother and sister and do not exhibit the same behaviors or attitudes that they exhibit around their peer-age group. Some of these positive behavior changes occur naturally in the peer-tutoring setting, but I was intentional and transparent with my students. As a class, we spoke extensively how the experience would help us grow, improve, and create a positive change in our classroom, the school, and the community.

The How

Once Bethany and I connected through our principals we met to discuss the different needs of our classes and planned on a shared vision for the experience. Our first session was on 3D modeling with TinkerCAD, with the intent of tying further sessions to specific math standards for 4th-grade students that would also overlap the needs of the 7th-grade students.

The agenda for our first day was as follows:

  • Every 7th-grade student paired up with a 4th-grade student.
  • Introductions (7th-grade students had questions ready).
  • Introducing the agenda
  • Sharing exemplary 3D work created by 7th graders.
  • Stage 1 of the lesson
  • 3D modeling competition
  • Prizes and celebrations.

You can view the presentation that we used to facilitate the learning between our classrooms below.