October 5, 2017 | Written by: Ulana Ainsworth
Categorized: Teacher Advisor With Watson
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I am like most of my students on the first day of school – excited, eager to learn new things and a little bit anxious. This year, also like most of my students, I am moving to a new grade level. After teaching kindergarteners with learning disabilities for the past four years, I am now educating fourth and fifth graders from diverse backgrounds and with a range of learning styles.
This is the kind of challenge I live for. But it’s also pushing me to get up to speed fast on grade level subjects I will be teaching for the first time – especially elementary math.
If there’s one thing I have learned in my teaching career, it’s that an educator must find a way to be flexible with the little amount of time they are given. What I love about teaching is helping students work through their struggles, because I had my own struggles with learning.
Having to transition from teaching basic numbers to helping students understand things like fractions can be difficult and overwhelming. Fortunately, a new free tool by the IBM Foundation called Teacher Advisor With Watson has helped me make this adjustment. It’s simple, easy to use and saves me a ton of time.
I initially used the tool to understand fourth and fifth grade math academic standards. When students enter a grade level, some might be above, some might be behind and some might be right in the middle. That’s the trickiest part of teaching – understanding where kids are coming from and helping them move forward.
TeacherAdvisor.org generates tons of activities, lessons and strategies to fit a range of student abilities and learning styles. I can type in whatever I’m looking for and it instantly brings up targeted resources for me to use to teach that exact concept. And the quality of the content is strong. Typically, it’s hard to do a ton of research and make sure your lessons are expansive enough for all students to comprehend, but Teacher Advisor generates prerequisites for instruction and shows extensive activities and videos to make the classroom more interactive.
Here’s an example: equivalent fractions are a major concept in fourth grade mathematics. If I’m teaching that concept throughout a unit and I need to scale back and figure out what the pre-requisite standard is for equivalent fractions, I’m able to look at that efficiently through Teacher Advisor.
One of the most important things I’ve learned as a teacher is the need to develop lessons that can be adapted to help get my students through a year of growth. The part that I like most about this online platform is that you can differentiate your lessons. I can break apart the standard, the content or the lesson to make sure I’m serving the needs of each and every child in my classroom. I can find fun, engaging methods to help students who may initially have trouble comprehending a lesson. It’s amazing that you can also search for things by concept and easily move across grade levels, making the tool useful for new and veteran teachers.
There are 24 hours in the day, but you only have six with your students. Before Teacher Advisor, I spent so much of my nights and weekends searching online for lesson plans or checking various sources across different websites. Instead of going through all of that work, now I just go to Teacher Advisor, type in the math concept I’m looking for, and I have complete, credible resources at my fingertips.
Now that I’m using this tool, I can’t imagine to going back to teaching without it. It’s given me a lot of ideas about what I can use in my classroom. It has streamlined a process for me that used to take hours down to minutes because of the targeted resources.
Teacher Advisor With Watson has made my transition to 4th and 5th grade enjoyable instead of intimidating. This school year, I am so excited to teach my students and learn alongside them.
Ulana Ainsworth is a special education teacher at Curtis Guild Elementary School in Boston, MA.
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