Friday, May 24, 2013

The Practice Predicament (Part 2)

I followed through with my goal of differentiating for more in-class practice for students.  It was nothing too extreme.  One day the warm-up problems were based off of the previous day's lesson (for example factoring x^2 +bx+c).  Students who were able to show proficiency from the warm-up problems were given a worksheet immediately.  They could ignore the rest of my teaching and begin working or they could listen and work once the rest of the students got to work.  It was up to them.  Either way I would not be able to provide assistance as I was still working with the rest of the class.  (I let them listen to music while they worked, and they always get excited for that.)

With the students who had not shown proficiency from the warm-up problems went through them with me.  Different students had been able to factor different ones, so together we made it through all four and restated some hints along the way.  At this point I gave them a few more to do independently and put a star on their paper if they could now show proficiency.  Those students received an intermediate assignment (from the textbook in this case) and began working.  I moved students who still had not shown proficiency to the back of the room and worked on a beginning assignment with them.  This was a guided reteaching worksheet from the textbook.  Most of my energy for the remainder of the class period needed to be focused on these students.

Oh I forgot to say how I introduced this idea...I shared a "new plan" with students the day before that would include "less homework" which excited them (even though I rarely assigned more that 5 problems/night and none the whole month leading up to this...).  I clarified that this was an important part of our learning and students who were not willing to work in-class would be sent to the office and would work with me after school in the form of a detention.  I also clarified that my goal was to reach all students where they were.  Sometimes it might be embarrassing if you are beginning, but the goal is to get you to proficient, and then it wouldn't be embarrassing anymore.  I also reminded students that the same people are not always going to be advanced; I'm basing it off of what I see.

Random Thoughts:

  • I am not capable of creating 3 assignments from scratch at 3 levels for each concept that students need to practice.  I wish I was, but I do not have enough time.  So you can see that I relied heavily on the textbook and its resources.  In this case it was a smooth alignment because it was a "traditional" Algebra 1 concept.  However, my textbook is not fully aligned to the Common Core, so there will likely be times when I will have to create 3 assignments (but maybe not from scratch) at 3 levels.
  • I did not like making the lowest students get up and move to the back, because I think it was still a little bit embarrassing for them.  I still think it's better than making them come to the front of the room. Perhaps if we had been doing this all year it would be less embarrassing.  Perhaps there is something else I could try that would be less embarrassing...still thinking.
  • I need to consider students with an IEP and how they would best fit into this.  They are able to leave the classroom to work with an associate, however I want them to have some understanding before that happens.  Is this fair to them?
  • There were almost equal students in each group in some classes.  Others had more beginning than intermediate.  What are good amounts to have in each?  I would think that intermediate should be the largest group, what are ways that I can quickly help students who did not demonstrate proficiency at the beginning of class be able to demonstrate proficiency?  Maybe working through examples is not best?  
  • Perhaps if I had been doing this throughout the year not as many students would be beginning.  Some students who really don't struggle with learning the Algebra, but struggle with the motivation to do the Algebra, were in the beginning group.  Maybe they thought they could get out of doing work???  But I think if they would see that the beginning group is sometimes more work they would show proficiency earlier.
  • I posted all answer keys on my bulletin board and made students check their own work during this time.  I did not spend any class time going through answers the next day.  I'm trying to teach them to be responsible for their own learning in that way.
  • It was a little bit frustrating that so much of my attention was focusing on the beginning students.  There were other students who had questions, and I felt like I wasn't able to do them justice because of needing to push those beginning students. Once again, perhaps if I had been doing this throughout the year not as many students would be beginning.  And then I could meet all students needs better.
  • During this time I had almost no behavior issues.  There was one (out of 85 all day) student who showed intermediate level of proficiency and then didn't get much of the practice problems done.  I didn't notice soon enough because I was so focused on the beginning students.  That was about it.
  • I also had one student who "showed" advance proficiency by copying (I think) and really thought he was ready for the advanced assignment.  He got almost none of it done and score extremely low on that target on assessments.  I likely should have "manned" up and just told him no.
  • It ended up that usually students who were absent the day before were in the beginning group.  Not sure if this is OK or if I should address them in another way.

I did have a student directly thank me for doing this.  Other students offhandedly mentioned that it was better, but this student directly approached me after class and thanked me for doing this.  He said that it really meant a lot to him because he knew it took more work for me.  I count that as a win, at least for now.

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