It's easy to be frustrated at the numerous "trends" in education. Educators are constantly bombarded with new ideas, new vocabulary, and yes, new policy. It seems that just when teachers have mastered understanding and implementation, the trend loses its luster and a new one replaces it. One educational trend in particular, differentiation, has inspired both love and hate. Critics say it's an impossible goal to customize every lesson for every learner.
Advocates claim that each student deserves to be taught at the correct level of difficulty; otherwise, it's a futile endeavor. I am going to ride the fence on this one and say both positions have merit. Critics have a point about the overwhelming feeling teachers get when they begin to think about personalizing lessons. To make matters worse, PD on the subject can be confusing, intimidating, and guilt-ridden. Supporters believe that a teacher can be more intentional in planning lessons that benefit the maximum amount of students. Most “new” ideas in education begin with a perceived shortcoming. In the case of differentiation, could it be that years ago most high school teachers lectured, assigned homework, and gave a test at the end of a unit and moved on to the next unit? I know that was standard for my high school experiences! Even if you are uneasy about the "differentiation situation," take a look at the protocol below. With the help of Bruce Campbell, I have listed ways to incorporate differentiation in the classroom.
TIER TIME (Writing, Reading, Discussion)
Description: Comprehensive in manner, Tier Time outlines various approaches to differentiation within a classroom. Author-teacher Bruce Campbell encourages teachers to use more than one approach within a lesson.
Application: Tier Time is appropriate for all classes and levels of students.
Process: Examine the six different approaches:
Campbell, Bruce. “Using Tiered Activities to Differentiate.” 2nd Annual SDE National Conference on Differentiated Instruction: Theory Into Practice. Las Vegas, NV. 18 July 04-21 July 04.
Happy New Year! I hope your winter vacation was all that you needed it to be and more! As for me, I went to the local movie theater and enjoyed escaping reality for two hours, well, really, two and a half hours because of the previews. It hit me that movie patrons are captive to the previews and not only do they provide interest in upcoming movies, previews also include advertisements and subtle (and not so subtle) reminders about appropriate behavior within the theater. This simple marketing method works and since students are part of the movie-going pop culture, incorporating a preview slide deck at the beginning of each class or each week will give students something comfortable and meaningful to view as they settle in for the day’s lesson. Just think of the possibilities of converting marketing methods to the classroom!
SLIDE DECK (Feedback, Discussion, Writing)
Description: Just like movie theaters use a slide deck loop as patrons enter the theater (The loop features things like movie facts, advertisements, trivia, and reminders.), the Slide Deck is used to focus, remind, and inform students as they enter the classroom.
Application: Use the Slide Deck in any subject as a class starter either daily or weekly depending on focus.
Process: Create an attention-getting slide deck of five to ten slides that will loop as students enter the class. Include slides related to the course material, but also items such as multiple-choice questions, quotes from a reading, a picture with a “What is this?” question, fill-in-the-blank statement, and/or important announcements that outline upcoming deadlines. If available, post the Slide Deck for students to use as an additional resource.
Honeycutt, B. Three Focusing Activities to Engage Students in the First Five Minutes of Class
Last week I read an intriguing article on "Exam Debriefs" by Maryellen Weimer, PhD in the online magazine Faculty Focus. Dr. Weimer challenges instructors to make testing a learning opportunity instead of just an entry in the grade book. This is innovation at its finest. Traditionally, teachers will "go over" answers from a test/exam, either in total or only the answers missed. (How tedious it must be for the student to review things she answered correctly!) While some may have questions about the implementation; for example, how to grade both quickly and efficiently or how to keep students from cheating, the notion that learning can happen from an unlikely source (exams and tests) has merit.
DOUBLE-TAKE TEST (Feedback, Writing)
Description: Based on an article by Maryellen Weimer, PhD, a Double-Take Test allows students to correct their own tests giving them opportunities to learn material missed during study or to clear up any misunderstandings of the content. It can also be used as a measuring stick for the effectiveness of a student’s study methods.
Application: Use this two-stage testing method for multiple-choice tests in any subject.
Process: Create a multiple-choice test with a separate answer sheet. Before administering the test, decide corrections format. (Will students make corrections independently or in a group, during class time or at home?) Review the guidelines with students: 1) Read question, review answer choices, select best answer, and mark answer on both test book and answer sheet; 2) at completion, submit answer sheet and keep test book; and 3) follow format instructions and review answers in book, make corrections, and submit next class meeting. Score both test book and answer sheet awarding two points if answers to question are correct on both, one point if answer was correct on one but not the other, and no points if answers to question are incorrect on both. (If cheating is a concern, avoid “at home” corrections and provide time the next class meeting for students to make corrections.)
Weimer, Maryellen (October 19, 2016)
Feedback is one of the greatest tools a teacher can wield to help students improve, but teaching students to look at their own learning and adjust has double the power. Consider teaching students ways that they can check their work and you will give them a gift of gold! Here are two examples:
LEADER OF MY OWN LEARNING (Feedback, Discussion)
Description: Students keep track of their own learning by keeping a data record and reflecting upon it. “Research shows that when students track their own learning and data, they take ownership of their learning, have intrinsic motivation, and perform better on high-stakes tests.”- Kristine Nannini
Application: Use of a student-generated data tracker with reflection tool allows students to monitor and adjust their learning at any given time.
Process: Explain the purpose of a student data tracker and that it is not optional. At the beginning of the course, remind students to enter data as they receive grades and to comment when needed (improvement strategy or reminder to retest, etc.). To make students accountable, occasionally require students to present tracker for a graded assignment.
STEP BY STEP PROJECT CHECK (Feedback, Writing, Collaboration, Discussion)
Description: Similar to the KWL chart, this graphic organizer specifically targets steps in a process or project in a meaningful and deliberate way.
Application: Use this graphic organizer when student accountability in a multi-step process or project is desired.
Process: Hand out graphic organizer (Addendum VV) to students (individual or groups) at critical points in a project. Tell them to describe what they have accomplished thus far (discernment) and what they need to do next (prioritization). Only after the priorities list has been accomplished will they reflect on how they did it (accomplishment). Ask for students to turn in sheet and use as a formative assessment. If students are struggling with the project, direct them to review the priorities list.
The traditional high school math class can be tedious. The teacher asks students to take out their homework and then review some or all of the problems students had difficulty solving. Questions to ask the teacher: What are all the students doing who answered that particular question correctly? What if a student doesn't feel comfortable sharing he had difficulty solving the problem? What if students are delaying the lesson by seeking help with problems they know how to solve? What if the teacher is working harder to solve the problem than the students? Student accountability, engagement, and interaction with fellow students can reduce symptoms of a tedious classroom. Special thanks goes to visiting Jamaican teacher, Keno Kerr of Cross Creek Early College, for this engaging mathematics-centered protocol.
68. EVERYBODY TO THE BOARD! (Discussion, Collaboration, Writing)
Description: An adaptation of Chalk Talk, this highly engaging approach provides students not only an opportunity to be accountable as an individual learner, but also as a team.
Application: Everybody To The Board! can be used to assess student understanding, increase participation in discussions, and/or to review homework. The protocol is perfect for math but can be adapted for other subjects.
Process: Have specific problems in mind before class meets. (If using as a review of homework, ask students which problems posed difficulty.) Determine if there is enough space at the chalk/white board for every student to work at the same time. (If not, arrange for one mini white board per student.) Before using this protocol for the first time, give the following directions: 1) move to the board or get a mini white board when the teacher says, “Everybody to the board;” 2) write first name at the top of the working area; 3) listen and write the problem down underneath name or copy the projected problem (all students work on the same problem at the same time); 4) work the problem as an individual, showing steps; 5) at teacher’s signal to stop, switch places with partner, standing in front of partner’s problem; 6) study partner’s steps and answer; 7) explain the steps to the originator of the steps/solution, either agreeing with the answer or challenging the solution; and 8) repeat process with partner. At appropriate time call on a random team to share with the entire class, asking for other team’s feedback (Was the solution correct? Is there another way to reach this answer?) Direct all students to move to another location with new neighbors and repeat process with a new problem.
Keno Kerr, CCECHS
I am going to shock a few teachers out there when I tell them that our innovative model wants students to be engaged and talking in class 80% of the time which means only 20% is left for the teacher. Think about it, 20%! While we may never reach the nirvana of 80-20, it should give us pause as to how much we dominate the discussion in class. Direct instruction is necessary, but how many opportunities are missed or how many behavior problems occur because students sit passively listening?
Facilitating student talk is a skill that must be honed. Start small and work your way to the magic numbers. We want each student to be actively involved in class so that their confidence in articulation increases. Students need to be good at both speaking and listening. Both teacher and students are accountable:
How do we know that student talk is taking place? What is the evidence? Ask:
ASK THREE BEFORE ME (Questioning, Discussion)
Description: This is a student-centered procedure focusing on student self-reliance.
Application: Use this procedure as a guiding doctrine in the classroom.
Process: Teach students that at certain times when they are working on an assignment and have a question, they must ask each other rather than asking the teacher first.
Last week I moved houses. There was fun, drama, and an occasional pity party, but all-in-all, I realized I needed it. I transferred this idea to teaching and it made me think about all of the educational moves I made in my nearly twenty years. I took a serious risk about ten years ago when I heard that my district was adding an early college to the system. It was going to be located at the local university and the entire program was just starting. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that moving to this school would change my life, but it did! Just one year later, I became the district's Teacher of the Year and that opened other doors of opportunity. That original move, as scary as it was, was the best thing that happened to me as an educator. I still reap the rewards.
Moving to another school or even a different classroom in the same school can spark a renewed sense of purpose. Moving can also force us to trim our collections of materials or resources, get more organized, or even use more technology! Look at a move as an opportunity rather than the hassle that it is and you will be settled sooner than you think! Good luck!
This protocol is wonderful and it involves students moving. Take a look:
STAND-SEEK-SPEAK (Collaboration, Feedback, Discussion, Questioning)
Description: This protocol allows students to think individually before thinking and explaining together.
Application: Use this activity to practice a concept just taught or as a review. It can be used in a mathematics course.
Process: Create a set of questions. Ask first question, requiring students to answer it on their own. (Give them a time limit, depending on the difficulty of the question.) Once time is called, ask all students to stand. Direct them to raise their hands when they have found a partner and assist students that still need a partner. Have partners discuss their answer(s) to each other or help solve if the problem was unfinished. Instruct students to stay where they are to solve the next question and to find a new partner, repeating the process until all questions have been asked and answered.
Alison Thetford, M.Ed