The Science of Learning Blog

August 23, 2017

We Asked the Fast ForWord Experts About Back to School

BY Carrie Gajowski, MA


Back to school already?  Our Professional Development Managers (PDMs) spend weeks - months - years(!) on the road working with schools all across the country. We asked these experts their top suggestions, ideas, and tips to make this the best Fast ForWord year ever. Have you tried all these yet?    

1. What is the most creative way you have seen to motivate students?

An image of a classroom art project, with the words, on your mark, get set, goAnn and Sheila:  Wall of Fame!  

Sheila: I worked with one 2nd grade teacher who displayed the whole solar system and all the planets along a very long hallway, and the students were each represented by a rocket ship so they went from planet to planet as their completion scores went up by 10% increments (the sun was included, as well as the former planet Pluto)!  

Joel:  One teacher told me she can get her kids to do anything for a bag of chips. 

Andrea:  One of my favorite things is a reward system that takes into account both Fast ForWord and general habits of mind/soft skills. I saw a secondary teacher in Starkville, MS who built structured free time into the class period on a Friday every three weeks or so. To attain this structured free time, students had to be up to date on their CAPSs (no flags), have no misbehavior in class (no infractions), and no disciplinary write-ups from any class (no referrals). I think it’s so cool because many of our students see social gains before they may see numerical/test gains, and this system is a great way to reward those social gains. 

2. What’s your TOP piece of advice for schools getting started this fall? 

Ann:  Communicate progress and struggles with the students through MySciLEARN reports.

Christina:  Strategy! Strategy! Strategy! Take the first week of school to reintroduce Fast ForWord! Remind students of the purpose of Fast ForWord and go through each exercise and show strategies for each. Have fun with it. You can do classroom activities and have students practice in demo mode to help them get back their Fast ForWord groove! 

Andrea: Communication is KEY! Make sure classroom teachers, administrators and parents are on the same page. 

3. You travel a lot to schools all across the country. What do you see?

Laura: I see teachers and principals that want all of their students to be excited about education and grow.  I see so many “do whatever it takes” attitudes.  It is hardly ever easy, but schools are not giving up.

Andrea: No matter where you go, kids are kids. They all want to do well. They all want to be acknowledged. They all need someone to tell them that they are doing a great job, or that we can work together to get through a problem. I also get to see really cool intervention and motivation ideas! Half my phone’s pictures are pics I’ve taken of room decorations, and it’s always really cool to see how each campus comes up with an individual way of doing things.

Sheila: I see amazing administrators and building leaders taking great care to ensure that our products are utilized to the maximum usage, helping them to make great gains.  The real success comes when they see their own data change for the positive year over year.  It’s amazing!

4. What motivates YOU to get up every day and coach people about Fast ForWord?

Andrea: Getting to work with products that I believe in and I know work and having such a great team and support system make it super fun!

Laura:  I love being able to share the successes from one school to another.  Showing them how a school that faces their same hurdles can succeed, and offering practical, tried and true advice about how to accomplish these goals. I also love that every day I get to see the good in education.  So much of what we see and hear about education is negative, but I don’t see it that way.  I see the students that have not always seen success being successful and growing.

Lastly, the most powerful stories our PDMs share are often from the students themselves:

Joel:  I've seen Fast ForWord change people's lives. Years ago, I was consulting at an elementary school in South Texas near the US/Mexico border. A newcomers' class had just finished their Fast ForWord protocol, and students were asked to speak quietly until the bell rang. I was behind two young boys, who were maybe 3rd graders, who were speaking Spanish. They didn’t even know I was there.

One asked the other, "How do you like Fast ForWord?"

The second boy said that he liked it and that he liked computers.  

The first boy seemed disappointed with his reply, so the second boy asked, "How do you like Fast ForWord?"

"I love Fast ForWord," he said. "I love Fast ForWord, 'cause I'm not the dummy in my class anymore." 

He went on to tell of how he now raises his hand in class because he knows the answers to many of the teacher’s questions.

If you ask any of us why we work with Fast ForWord, we all say it has to do with helping struggling learners.

Our program is only as effective as the coaches and educators who bring it alive to students! A warm welcome back to school for you and your students! We are pumped up, focused,  ready to meet you, and to have fun making this your best year yet. 

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