Fishtank's Approach to Supporting All Students

March 22, 2023

As teachers, we know that every student deserves an opportunity to meaningfully engage with content and participate in classroom conversations. Because your students and their needs are incredibly diverse, you need easy to employ strategies that help you support all students.

These 5 strategies for supporting all students are embedded into every Fishtank ELA and Fishtank Math unit  because they can make a noticeable, positive change in your classroom. You have the flexibility to decide exactly how you want to apply these strategies to your own, unique students.


1. Partner and Group Work

Whether your students are multilingual learners, part of another special population or not, making sense of a problem and deciding on a first step can be a daunting task. Even once students have attempted a problem, the prospect of being asked to share out in front of the entire class can be overwhelming. 

To help support all the students in your room, Fishtank prioritizes opportunities for partner and group work. Not only do these opportunities allow students to build relationships with peers that help them feel confident taking academic risks, but they allow students to work through the solving process aloud. As students talk with one another to assess what a task is asking them to do, they can begin to formulate a plan for solving that pulls from each students’ understanding. 

Once students get to work, they can help one another recognize any errors in their thinking and work to find the best possible solution together. Because students have had the chance to talk about their answers with other students, they are more likely to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with the entire class. 

Within every Fishtank Math and ELA lesson, there are opportunities for you to put students into partners or groups based on your knowledge of what your students need and how they work best. This flexibility allows you to strategically group students and ensure that everyone has a chance to dive into the content.


2. Strategic Checks for Understanding

Imagine a lesson where students only have to critically think and apply their new skills independently at the very end of the lesson. You might assume that students are absorbing information and not realize how confused they were until you grade their Exit Ticket/Target Task and see their mistakes. 

To avoid creating a situation like this, it is critical to provide opportunities for students to check their understanding throughout the lesson. This ensures that they practice applying new skills, ask questions, and get feedback before the end of a lesson. By doing so, you can not only gauge which students need additional practice or guidance, but students can feel empowered to seek out assistance themselves.

In Fishtank Math lessons, you have access to Guiding Questions and Teacher Notes for each Anchor Task that you can use as a jumping off point to check for student understanding throughout the lesson. In Fishtank ELA Enhanced Lesson Plans, available with Fishtank Plus, you have access to prompts you can use to check for student understanding within each portion of the lesson. 

For both Fishtank Math and Fishtank ELA, Plus users have access to comprehensive unit prep support through Unit Launches. Each Unit Launch offers you the opportunity to consider the types of questions you will ask students at key moments throughout the unit and how your students’ responses will guide your future instruction.


3. Content Modifications

Because we believe that every student, with the appropriate support, can attain grade-level content, solve complex problems, and discuss complex ideas, we try to think about what that support looks like for each individual student. For some, appropriate support means working with modified materials to ensure they can access the content in a meaningful way. 

One of our favorite ways to modify content to increase access for multilingual learners or other special populations of students, is to engineer text. This is a process through which you make visual changes to the text you put in front of students so that it is easier to read and easier to understand. With Fishtank, you have the ability to modify the content you present to students as much and as often as needed with editable handouts, available with a Plus subscription.

Engineering text isn’t the only option for modifying the content you put in front of your students. In ELA, you can supplement texts with audiobooks, allow students to use sentence stems when completing their daily writing, or provide students a vocabulary glossary to use as needed. In math, you can modify the language of word problems to focus on key information, provide a list of solving steps or a worked example, or include a word bank for short response questions.


4. Varied Opportunities to Engage

When considering all the different students in your room, it’s important to consider the different avenues through which students can engage with material and show their understanding. Not all students are going to want to engage with the content in the same way. 

You have the flexibility to decide what you want to grade from your students and can therefore use data from these varied activities to ensure students are fairly assessed. Because you are the expert on your individual students, these decisions are left up to you. 

Through our library of Teacher Tools, we offer suggestions for possible academic discourse, reading, and other instructional routines, but ultimately you as the teacher determine how students will engage with material. By creating opportunities for your students to work in groups, as a whole class, or independently on a variety of tasks, you ensure that every student can show what they know in a way that feels authentic to them.


5. Foundational Skills Development

Regardless of what grade level you teach, you have probably encountered a time when students were missing some piece of foundational understanding that created a barrier to new learning. To help ensure all students can access, and meaningfully engage with grade-level content, Fishtank lessons embed opportunities for students to build foundational skills. 

In Fishtank ELA, language and grammar mini-lessons are embedded on process writing days so that students can build these skills in context. Additionally, with Fishtank Plus, teachers have access to guidance on building background knowledge, reviewing foundational skills, and spiraling vocabulary review in Enhanced Lesson Plans. 

All Fishtank ELA teachers have access to Fishtank ELA Connections for each unit which frame the unit in the context of what students have learned in previous grades. This can support you in identifying areas for growth you may need to focus on with students and inform how you activate students’ prior knowledge. 

In Fishtank Math units, we prioritize the process of accelerating learning rather than remediation to build foundational skills. This means that skills are reviewed or retaught in the context of grade-level work when students need them. With Fishtank Plus, you have access to our Expanded Assessment Package that provides a pre-unit assessment and assessment analysis guide to help you identify and create a plan to address any foundational skills your students need to work on.

All Fishtank Math teachers have access to both Foundational and Future Standards outlined for each unit. These allow you to spiral review when needed and frame the current unit in the context of what students have previously learned, and what they will see in future grades.


Want to learn more about supporting all students? Dive into our Supporting English Learners and Supporting Special Populations Teacher Tools. Upgrade to Fishtank Plus today to unlock everything Fishtank Learning has to offer to help you ensure every student can succeed.

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