I have a tutoring student who I have been working with for almost two years. He is in a regular classroom with pull out. He has a speech disability (chromosomal) and a borderline IQ. He was retained once already and has an early birthday, so he is ten and a half in 3rd grade. He's tiny and fits in well socially. At this point, he is not making sufficient progress for promotion, though they can't retain him again. The parents are considering a private school for learning disabled kids for next year. Sorry for the long story, but I'm at a kind of crossroads now. He has begun to dread tutoring and I believe it is because he just can't deal with having to work on homework and review of classwork that he is really not ready to do. I, personally, would rather work on skills that are at least accessible to him. How do you do this? What if the support and scaffolding you provide a student are not sufficient for him/her to work on a skill set? How far do you go back? Particularly if the child is in a pullout situation, what happens to the regular classwork? I am just heartbroken about making this child dread tutoring. Does anyone have any suggestions?

I will always advocate for teaching kids on their instructional level. It's not helpful for them to have someone help them muddle through grade level classroom work if they're not able to understand it. I would go back as far as you have to in order to find the students' instructional level. In a tutoring situation, I honestly wouldn't worry about the student's classroom work. If he's that far behind, he should be getting modifications anyway...but as the tutor you can make your own decisions separate from the classroom.

Yeah, the muddling through just isn't worth anything. It's just the mother who really wants the homework done first because the teachers do expect it. Poor kid.

I just had a very brief, hallway conversation with my P about how I decide to pull out or push in. I do try to do both, but honestly I don't have time. If they are really low and are missing phonemic awareness skills, I will pull out to do that. I also will work on their reading at their level.

What do you do about math? My student can memorize, but he still won't have all his multiplication facts for a good long while. Plus, his long-term memory isn't great. And forget about all those alternate methods for computation. There is no way he will do anything but get confused and frustrated.

And the bigger problem is that he is getting more and frustrated by having to cope with material beyond his level.

I'm the reading specialist so I'm not concerned about math. Is he ready for multiplication? My daughter learned her facts by writing them over and over and over again. Does he have an IEP? If so, what are his goals? The classroom teacher needs to be providing instruction at his level.

What kind of work are you doing with him? If it's reading, yes he should definitely spend some time reading books on his reading level. It would depend for me on other subjects.

I do the same thing with math- keep going backwards until I find the instructional level the kid is at. For example, if the teacher is up in arms because the kid can't do long division, I would keep going one step back until I found out what step the kid was stuck at. Can they do simple division? Can they subtract? Can they count backwards? Do they know their numbers? (Yes, I've had it happen where I've figured out a new student doesn't even know all of their higher numbers, past 50 or so). I think math builds on prior skills so much that it would be impossible for kids to learn new concepts without understanding the basics first.

If the parents can afford the private school you mentioned, it might be a good choice for him. It sounds like he is falling further and further behind grade level standards, at least in math. He may need to be in a setting where his individual needs can be more directly addressed. Im a sped math tutor at the high school level. It's really a challenge to help kids keep up with homework and address individual goals, but it can be done. It may be easier in high school, however, because the students have been prepped and tutored for many years leading up to this point. Many of my students do not have their multiplication and addition tables memorized, but they understand the concepts and can use a calculator for support. Understanding the concepts is most important. If a student is still lost regarding math facts and basic concepts by high school ... they are probably not good candidates for a diploma program.

Thank you all. Last week and this week I went back to a lower level for reading and math. He responded very positively and actually asked a few times, "Can I do more of this?" That is pretty amazing for him. He has many of the basic multiplication facts memorized, but the difficult ones he just can't seem to retain. He finally was able to use the fingers trick for products of nine. It is just amazing to me (not trained in SPED) how he doesn't use any strategies. Though he can count by twos and fives, he will never do anything than count one by one. That includes his fingers. He will never say, five fingers on one hand and two more on the other, so seven in all. No, he goes to the first finger and counts each one. Anyway, I appreciate the insight you've given me. I plan to keep on at his level. He is supposed to spend a day visiting the private school next week. I hope it works out well. He will still be below the IQ level most of those students, but they should be able to work better with him.

It's interesting what you observed about the student not using strategies. I've noticed the same thing among many of my students with learning disabilities. I wonder if it's due to to not being able to connect possible strategies to outcomes. Applying a problem solving strategy of any kind requires reaching into our memory, sorting through what we know, and then choosing a method that will likely result in success. It's actually quite a complex process. So now I'm thinking that giving a child a small assortment of cue cards with possible strategies to choose from might be a way to teach the strategy selection process.

With me, a lot of the time, the strategies seem too abstract/roundabout, even if I am having a lot of difficulty with whatever the math concept is, so I have difficulty learning/retaining it.

Kids like this often find it difficult to process the fact that there are multiple ways to solve a problem... once they learn one strategy, that is THE WAY to solve a problem.

I have to agree that sometimes the strategies end up being harder to learn and remember. If you think about some strategies, you have to analyze the numbers, find the strategy that fits, then some strategies require multiple steps. So, if the child struggles with recall and memory, strategies just add layers of complexity to the problem. So a strategy might be quicker than adding up each time, counting by ones each time always works.

Agreed, agreed. Yes, either the memory fails, the construct is too abstract, the link between the strategy and the desired outcome is not apparent, or reliance on the is the only safe way for the child, these are all part of it, I think. Once my student finally realized that 3 x 4 meant three groups of four in each group (that took a while), the only way he wanted to solve multiplication problems was by drawing circles on a white board. That was fine for low factors, but once he got above sixes, it was cumbersome and he always miscounted. Even when he had 4 x 2, though, he would count each separate tick in a circle - instead of counting by twos. The only other method he will use is to count on his fingers. And he has forgotten many of the facts which he previously had memorized. So, yeah, all of these things are complex processes. And, since my student has a severe language deficit, even common phrases or concepts get in the way of his understanding in all subjects. It is so hard to tell, though, which of his issues is the impediment to a certain task. It makes him an interesting student, to say the least.

ORLY?!? Not when they hit middle school. Apparently in middle school we can just do middle school math with no basics. :sorry: