What in the world is "Spiral" method??

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What in the world is "Spiral" method??

Postby Jenamarie » Thu Jan 21, 2010 2:02 pm

I keep seeing this word mentioned in math curriculum reviews. What the heck is the "spiral" method? What are the pro's and con's of it? What type of learners is it best suited for?

Thanks. :)

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Postby Jill » Fri Jan 22, 2010 9:05 am

A spiral curriculum basically keeps revisiting the same skills over and over with increasing difficulty over a period of time.

IMO, it works well with some subjects, not so much with others.

We use a spiral curriculum approach for history. We did a "surface" study of world history when my kids were younger, then American History, now we are on our second "pass" of world history - this time a little more in depth. We'll cover American history again next year with more depth. Then we'll repeat the process so by the time they finish high school, they will have done a 3rd round of each.

Science is another subject that lends itself to a spiral curriuculum. There are things kids are not ready to learn about in early elementary, but can comprehend in high school. Just because they are young, they don't have to be shut out from the subject entirely.

I'm not convinced it works for math though. For example, my daughter's school used a spiral curriculum for math. They worked on basic addition and subtraction for a few weeks, then they'd take a break from that and work on fractions for a few weeks, then they'd take a break from that and do multiplication (yes, multiplying in 1st grade.) Once they got through several topics, they'd "spiral" back and repeat them....addition and subtraction again, fractions again, ect. She didn't know if she was going or coming, and when I brought her home in 2nd grade, she was struggling with all the math concepts they had covered.

To me this type of spiral math curriculum is different than "reviewing" math concepts you've already taught and kids have mastered to keep in practice. This particular program "left" addition for several weeks to cover fractions then moved to multiplication. Math skills build on each other, so I'm not sure how you can fully understand multiplication without having a firm grasp on addition. :? I discussed this with her teacher who totally agreed with me, but of course had to continue with what the district demanded. Maybe it made the kids "feel smart" if they could multiply at 6 years old?

Hope that helps!

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Postby dkocur » Thu Jul 29, 2010 10:16 pm

Any subject that you can understand at a high level and then drill down endlessly into details (such as history and geography) would be a good match for the spiral method. With math (and reading for that matter) you start with the tiniest details and build upon them. The spiral method just doesn't make sense for them.

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Postby Munchie33 » Fri May 04, 2012 4:16 am

The spiral method certainly does work better for some subjects than others. Any subject where you have to learn a lot of facts works well. History, for example, can be taught as a general overview when children are younger, but as they get older different parts of history can be revisited again and again and again, going into more detail each time.

A major strength of the spiral method is that rather than always learning something totally new and difficult, children build on what is already familiar to them. It is much more comfortable, and called 'scaffolding' by education researchers. Basically, if you give a child a fact like "The French Revolution began in 1789", it is meaningless unless they have a context for it. What is France? What is a revolution? How long ago was 1789? What was life like then that made people revolt? Etc. So if you teach big overviews first and then start revisiting various parts and narrowing in as they get older, they will always have a context and not struggle with new concepts.

The beauty of the spiral method is that it can be adapted to all learning types. Visual learners can revisit topics through visual means, kinesthetic learners through kinesthetic means, and so on.

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Postby deenamathew » Wed Sep 03, 2014 4:24 am

spiral is a plane curve that winds around a point while moving ever farther from the point. i came this information about spiral.


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