Freddy has to go to speech now. Nancy's back from AG. Jimmy's still in the resource room. Help!
Dear The Mailbox magazine,
Every day, kids are pulled out of my class for various reasons, and it's driving me nuts. I know the pullouts are necessary, but when students come back to class, they're behind in their work and they've missed important instruction. I'm also finding that since I spend more time playing catch-up with these students, I don't have time to move forward with the fun projects I've planned. What can I do to make this less of a nightmare?
Pulling-My-Hair-Out Any Town, USA
Try using one or more of the following strategies to help you deal with the ins and outs of pullout programs.
Create a weekly class calendar that outlines activities and assignments. If students miss instructional time or assignments, their first responsibility is to refer to the calendar for the information. Also pair students for peer tutoring. When students return to class, check their calendars, and find that they have questions, they can ask their peer tutors to explain the information. Using these methods will keep you from having to field all the questions.
Analyze the traffic flow in and out of your classroom by creating a sign-out form to keep near your door. When teachers arrive to take students to special classes, have them sign the form for documentation. Use this information to determine when the most and least interruptions occur; then consider the following options:
Adjust your schedule so that core-curriculum instruction is held when most of your students are present.
Add a catch-up period to your daily schedule to give students time to complete work that they've missed.
Develop a list of times when pullout programs would best fit into your schedule. If feasible, ask teachers of those programs whether they would adjust their schedules.
Discuss the pullout concern with colleagues who teach at the same grade level. Simply trading a few students' pullout times may improve everyone's schedules.
Plan ahead. If schedules can't be changed now that your school year has started, prepare to develop a working program for next year.
Go ahead and start the "fun projects" while your pullout students are out of the classroom. As these students return, they will usually integrate quickly into these types of learning activities with the help of their classmates. This approach allows you to include fun projects even though all your students are not present for the introduction.
Work with the remedial instructors to incorporate classroom topics and skills into their lessons whenever possible. The students don't feel as if they're "missing out" if they focus on the same subjects.
Meet with the other teachers involved and reschedule the pullout times so that more convenient blocks of time are created. Whenever possible, schedule all your pullout students to be out of the classroom at the same time, which creates fewer interruptions.
Pair the students in your classroom (not just those who are pulled out) so that every child has the opportunity to be a peer tutor. When students who have been pulled out return to class, they can ask their partners for help. You'll find that students take pride in helping each other. This buddy system will also prove helpful if a student is absent from school or is having difficulty with a particular assignment. It's a good solution for everyone involved.
If disruptions of numerous pullouts have become a huge problem, try the following steps toward a solution:
Bring your concerns to the attention of your administrator and the other specialists involved.
Create a large chart to show all pullouts throughout the day. This will vividly depict the magnitude of the problem.
Determine times when no pullouts will be scheduled; then create a reasonable schedule for the pullout sessions.
Occasionally, try rescheduling a pullout session during a recess time. Most students don't mind this change in their play schedule once in a while.
Prepare a recording sheet that lists categories such as name, subject, pages to read, assignment, and time or date it's due. When a student leaves for an out-of-the-classroom program, place the blank recording sheet on his or her desk. As you introduce information, write it on the sheet so the student will have a complete record of what was covered during his or her absence. You might try having a student fill in the information to make the task less intrusive on your teaching time.