Lafayette parents, students learn education strategies

The Guidry family uses teamwork to help fourth-grader Tracy with her homework some nights.

Often, the family’s seventh-grader, Jason, takes the lead in helping his little sister, said dad Johnny Guidry.

“We gotta keep up with him. They’re doing things different from how we learned it in school,” Guidry said.

Together, the family attended the Lafayette Parish school system’s Academic Super Bowl, a two-hour event Tuesday at the Cajundome Convention Center for families to learn strategies to help their students with their homework.

The event was organized to provide resources to families to better support their students’ learning at home, said Latikka Magee, district federal programs director.

“The Lafayette Parish school system fosters the belief that families are important to their students’ success,” she said.

The outreach is timely as the school system — like others across the state — has implemented curriculum changes in math and English language arts to align with new learning standards known as the Common Core State Standards. Louisiana is one of 45 states that has adopted the new standards as part of a national initiative to set uniform learning expectations at each grade level.

On Tuesday night, teachers and district curriculum specialists provided adults practice lessons on concepts students are learning in the classroom.

Learning more about Common Core also attracted the Guidrys to the event, said mom Tabatha Guidry.

Jason, 12, attends Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy and Tracy, 9, is a fourth-grader at Prairie Elementary.

“We’re all learning together,” Johnny Guidry said. “We want to be able to help them, so we need to understand what they’re learning in school.”

Some of the concepts — particularly in math — may be foreign to most parents, but things such as tape diagrams or number bonds are helping students build a solid foundation in math, teachers said Tuesday.

“It’s more about teaching students what the concept means rather than teaching them to memorize the process,” said Penny Gennuso, district math and science specialist.

Miko McDaniel, an elementary math coach, showed parents an exercise on number bonds. While parents may have learned to carry numbers when subtracting or adding, students are now being taught to break down the numbers using a number bond.

McDaniel worked a problem — 87+5 — and showed how students would diagram the separate numbers, breaking down 87 into 80 and 7 and 5 into 3 and 2. The new string of numbers is 80, 7, 3 and 2, which students more easily see as 80, 10 and 2, or 92, McDaniel said.

“It seems like a lot of extra steps when they’re little, but when they’re older it will make it easier for them to understand other concepts,” she told parents.

At the kindergarten booth, teachers illustrated the concept using three small plastic hoops placed on the floor in a pyramidal shape and bean bags. Young students distributed bean bags into the lower two hoops to equal the number in the top hoop.

“Understanding number bonds leads to them understanding positive and negative numbers as they get older,” McDaniel said. “It’s all about teaching them strategies and ways to think through problems.”