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Front Row Teacher Talks: Garrett Sheskey on using Front Row for curriculum planning

Posted by Alex Kurilin on November 20, 2013 at 3:27 PM


This edition of teacher talks features Garrett Sheskey (twitter), a teacher at Blair Elementary in Waukesha, WI.  If you’d like to share your story about helping your students excel at math, please drop us a line.

How did you hear about Front Row? How did you start using it?

Describing Front Row as just an App is such an understatement. For our staff, Front Row has been one of the best interactive tools that we can offer students. Originally, I discovered Front Row after searching for Math Apps aligned to the Common Core.

Without a curriculum, planning for effective lessons requires reliable and supportive resources. In addition, I needed a tool that could help me track the progress of my lowest performing math students. While this was my initial plan to use Front Row, I soon saw the benefits of having every student on the Front Row roster and incorporated it into our math workshop model.

The first group that used Front Row in my class embraced it quickly but no one faster than one of my lowest students. While this particular student’s scores are low, her attitude to improve is very high. However, this attitude is not without some frustration when given an equation to be solved in her math journal. This task can slowly lower levels confidence that we have worked to build all year. With Front Row, this student is solving similar equations with less frustration. This is not to say that she doesn’t need help anymore but instead, I am able to track her progress and follow-up with a more personal lesson for her based on her mastery of certain grade level standards.

Many of my high math students have comprehension skills similar to a sponge. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to challenge a handful of students with math that may be beyond that of their peers and all consistently put in great effort. When I introduced the Front Row App to this group, I was concerned with the simplicity that I knew the placement test would start off on. However, all really enjoyed the opportunity to build off each question and work their way from kindergarten on to fifth grade. Now, some of my higher level math students have the opportunity to learn something that we have not gone over in class yet and are looking forward to helping me teach!

Are you and your school taking any initiatives to prepare for the Common Core?

The Common Core has provided great destination points for teachers to use when instructing students. At our school, our community of teachers have created a strong network to bounce ideas off each other when it comes to finding resources aligned to the Core. It is this system of support that has been a crucial step in creating the journey for the scholars to reach the endpoints laid out by the Common Core. We are excited to have Front Row as part of our Common Core initiatives!

What is the one part of Front Row that you think has had the biggest impact on your students’ learning?

With a class of 45 students, the ability levels vary at great ranges. Both the highest and the lowest math groups contain a mix of fourth and fifth graders. Each grade level requires the mastery of separate standards. Prior to the implementation of Front Row, differentiating for students in both grade levels brought many challenges with it. Now that my students have access to this resource, they are able to create their own path in math and truly take charge of their own learning. In addition, from the Front Row dashboard, I am now able to practice flexible grouping in the classroom at a level previously unreachable when simply tracking student progress using paper assessments.

So much of what we see in ‘teacher world’ is black and white. For this reason, I appreciate the color-coded organization of the Front Row dashboard. When I need to regroup my students, I know that I can press the ‘Groups’ tab and easily access groups based on the standards my students need extra practice in. I also enjoy the individualized data on each student. From the Matrix and the Score Tree to the new Report Cards, I am impressed with the continuous growth of this resource.

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