Contributing Author: Savannah Boone
If you’re a special educator or interventionist, you’ve likely felt like you’re drowning in paperwork. Or, maybe you’ve spent hours looking for assignments and activities to address a student’s goals, only to find out that it’s too easy or too hard for that student. If you’ve felt this way, you’re not alone. As most teachers know, behavior problems also tend to stem from work that’s too easy (and finished too quickly) or work that’s too hard (and left incomplete). For me, Front Row has helped to address these issues and, as an added bonus, my students love it!
In my time as a special educator, I have ALWAYS dreaded independent work time. My students struggle academically, usually with learned helplessness. When they are asked to work independently while I work 1 on 1 with another student, chaos typically ensues.
Every two weeks, I monitor my students' IEP goals, which I must do 1 on 1. This means other students must work independently. In the past, this has led to much frustration for me and my kiddos alike. I had not been able to find activities/assignments that were engaging, academically beneficial, and within their ZPD (zone of proximal development). When I learned about Front Row from another school in my state, it was a game changer. Now, my students (almost all of whom are labeled with Emotional/Behavior Disabilities) enjoy independent work time and are making real progress toward their learning goals. Students who typically lose their cool during independent work time are loving Front Row, asking to work on it regularly. They love the reward time they receive for working and respond really well to the limited amount of reward time.
Using the Diagnostic Assessment to Save on Valuable Instructional Time:
I especially love the accuracy of the diagnostic assessment. I have noticed that what is assigned to my students in Front Row matches their IEP goals very closely. The assignments they are given are challenging enough to make them work hard, but close enough to their ability level where they don't get frustrated. Also, they LOVE the videos that are available. The feature/tool that reads problems aloud to my students is icing on the cake. Half of my students are functionally illiterate and they are able to use Front Row with ease thanks to this tool.
Front Row is not an over-stimulating technology tool like so many programs are today. Front Row really accommodates students on the Autism Spectrum or who suffer with attention deficits. The ease of use both on a computer or iPad make it very easy for students to log in independently.
One Student’s Success Story:
Finally, what I feel like is the strongest testimonial I have for Front Row is the story of one particular student, let's call him B. B has an IQ of 50 and is labeled with an Intellectual Disability. He is in 5th grade, but works on a Kindergarten level. He spends most of his day being very different than his peers. He doesn't communicate as well, he does different work, he doesn't understand instructions the first time their given, etc. However, despite his disability, he has noticed that he is different and even expressed to his mother that other students think he is stupid. When we started using Front Row, B could log in to the program and work on math at his level without everyone recognizing that he is "different". Even though the level of work he receives on Front Row is very low, it often appears to be similar to the assignments his peers are given. The opportunity for him to work independently on a program that his peers are using and feel like he is "part of the group" is awesome.
Final Words of Wisdom:
Front Row has not only reduced my workload, but it also has allowed my students to flourish. My students have gone from struggling with a learned helplessness to adopting a can-do attitude that allows them to grow personally and academically.
Savannah Boone has been teaching for 8 years and has taught every subject to students in grades 2-12. During this time, she’s made a lot of mistakes, watched students achieve amazing things, and learned how to adapt. She currently teaches fifth grade special education classes in a rural school in Kentucky. Follow her on twitter @mrsboonesroom to see her classroom shenanigans and read her super deep thoughts about the future of education. :)