Puzzlets Redefining “Remedial”

Matt Eversole Education, School Snapshot

School Snapshot is a blog series which illustrates how Puzzlets and its various games have been implemented into classrooms across the United States; and how they have impacted how students learn, through the eyes of education professionals.


tapping hidden potential in “remedial” students

Teachers are generally aware that each their students possess unique learning styles, but what can we do with students that inexplicably fall-behind their peers? What do educators do to engage students that are all-to-often labeled as “remedial?”

As our team interviewed educators for this installment of School Snapshot, we found two teachers with very unique ways of telling a similar story. The story they shared with us was simple: “Puzzlets helped them to reach students when traditional teaching methods had failed.”

Waverly City Schools

A veteran classroom teacher with 15-years experience, Rebecca Martin doesn’t describe herself as a “techie.” Her rural-Ohio school district doesn’t typically budget for ed-tech products and she was apprehensive when she began using Puzzlets with her class.

Ms. Martin connected a Puzzlets Play Tray to a MacBook and used a digital projector to share Cork the Volcano with the students of her first grade class. (The entire process took only minutes and didn’t require the attention of the school’s IT staff.) After using the 8-Week Coding Curriculum to introduce the class to fundamental programming, students were able to learn with Puzzlets as apart of a station rotation.

exhibiting higher levels of bloom’s taxonomy

Ms. Martin was surprised to see how her students reacted to learning with Puzzlets. The lessons were engaging and encouraged the students to go beyond reciting the information; it forced them to put the lessons into action.

“They weren’t just repeating the information they’d learned in the lessons; they were using higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.”Rebecca, FIRST GRADE TEACHER

Not only was she thrilled to see her students utilizing the lessons learned in Cork the Volcano, but they were also exhibiting “soft skills” like communication and collaboration. While students might not see these skills on any standardized test, Rebecca knows they are important life skills that are important

reducing achievement gap

Rebecca relayed the story of one student who was especially transformed by his work with Puzzlets. As the end of the school year approached, this student lacked many of the skills his classmates had developed and was almost, as she described, a “non-reader.”

Rather than passively observing his classmates, this student actively participated in lessons taught with Puzzlets. The combination of tactile programming and iconography used in Cork the Volcano engaged his senses, allowed him to overcome his inability to read, and helped him to become more confident in his ability to learn.

Souderton Area Schools

Rachel Irvin has been an educator for 20-years, and currently teaches technology to students aged Kindergarten through fifth grade in a suburban-Philadelphia school district. While Puzzlets is far from the only ed-tech product in her classroom, she believes that its tangible characteristics set it apart from other tools.

Ms. Irvin began Puzzlets in her classroom while her student’s were participating in Hour of Code. After they finished the month-long program, she transitioned Puzzlets into a programming station. (The Puzzlets station was so popular with her students that she was forced to create a sign up sheet.)

overcoming language barriers

While, like Ms. Martin, Rachel noted her students exhibiting higher levels of thinking; she was most impressed by how Puzzlets was able to engage her classes’ English Language Learners (ELL). ELL students often struggle to participate in the same way as their non-ELL classmates. Puzzlets use of tiles and iconography reduces that frustration and allowed all of her students to blossom.

“Students who struggle with reading, writing, or have a learning disability, Cork the Volcano and Puzzlets take that out of the process. They don’t have to read directions, blocks, or figure that language which is sometimes a barrier for other ed-tech products. They can sit down and start to play Puzzlets right away. [English language comprehension] falls by the wayside while learning with this tool.”Rachel Irvin, TECHNOLOGY TEACHER

Ms. Irvin continued to describe how her ELL students, whose native languages include Korean, Arabic, and Bengali, began to take-on active roles as they learned with Puzzlets. Instead of being reluctant participants, they were empowered to communicate their ideas to their partner as they collaborated to find a solution.

Much like Rebecca’s “remedial” student, the self-sufficiency they gained from learning with Puzzlets carried-over to over other activities and encouraged the students to improve in other areas of their education.

Recommendations

When asked what they would say to their fellow educators about Puzzlets, both teachers pointed to the platform’s unique ability to engage young students.

“Whether they speak a different language or have a learning disability […] Puzzlets allows them to be placed in the driver’s seat and it changes the way they see [education].”Rachel Irvin, TECHNOLOGY TEACHER

All teachers know that not all of their students learn the same way; some are visual learners while others are auditory or kinesthetic. It’s important to recognize these differences and utilize tools that engage each student’s unique style. Teachers shouldn’t settle for labeling a young students as “remedial,” but instead search for teaching methods that help them tap into their potential.


Have a question or comment about how Puzzlets can be used to reduce the achievement gap? What do you do in your classroom to engage underachieving or struggling students? Let’s continue the discussion below.