Category Archives: Differentiated instruction
I’ve been so lucky to find wonderful bloggers, teachers and writers who are willing to add their ideas to Lessons From The Middle. This post is by Laura, from 123Contact Form and she’s sharing some info on how you can use quizzes in your classroom. We all use them, but do you ever create online quizzes?
I don’t usually take guest posts from “companies” even if the rep was once a teacher. However, I see so much potential use for these online forms in my classroom and on my own blog. Also, because my students just started their own blogs, I see tons of potential for them to create their own forms, surveys or quizzes with the tool below. Uses in math, beginning of the year surveys…so many ideas! Take it away Laura!
When speaking of evergreen teaching methods, quizzes certainly own a place in the top list. I’ve yet to encounter a K-12 teacher who hasn’t ever used at least one quiz with her pupils. This post will discuss the magic of quizzes in creating a higher level of class engagement and why it’s useful (not only trendy) to make use of online tools for designing your own.
Education quizzes come in all shapes and sizes. Trivia quiz, revision quiz, thematic quiz – the possibilities are almost endless. Pre-made quiz templates you can find on the web are a great timesaver for teachers looking to create something useful and engaging. It’s important to caliber your quiz to be “smart”, as so to challenge pupils’ knowledge level while being fun and engaging. Quizzes can help gather instant feedback from students, by students and therefore increase the level of independence in the learning process.
Why use an online app for creating your quiz?
The web holds a couple of very good tools that will help you build an electronic quiz in just a few minutes, then pass it along to kids in the classroom. This way, pupils will also get used to filling in online tests, which is a great way of building their internet culture.
With an online app such as 123ContactForm, it’s easier to share your education quiz with all the pupils, without having to create hard copies of everything. Moreover, you will be able to track responses later and get a quick overview of all data within a single dashboard.
Smart quizzes in action
During my teaching years, I used to give quizzes most often as consolidation exercises, but they can also be a great evaluation tool over various curriculum expectation categories. It’s not about separating the wheat from the chaff, but rather to engage children in an educational activity that stimulates their interest in discovering new things. Also, quizzes help triggering the natural sense of competition that leads pupils to great results.
Here are a couple of use scenarios for quizzes that students absolutely love.
- He who knows, wins!
Students divide into three groups and the teacher chooses one group leader for each. Next, the teacher offers a trivia quiz that every group leader answers independently with the help of their team in a given time. The teams are ranked: first, second and third by percentage of correct answers. Each of the participants receives a symbolic prize – cards, tokens. This type of exercise encourages discussion and interaction in the classroom, helps participants mingle together and works well before doing other activities that involve team spirit such as sports.
- Intuition Quiz
The idea of this quiz comes from Marlene Caroselli’s “500 Creative Classroom Techniques for Teachers and Trainers” (pg. 331) and works best for upper grade middle school students. It’s great for stimulating pupils to take decisions on the run and cultivate their “intuitive powers”. You can use questions such as “How many different vocal sounds can a cat make?” (100+) “How about a dog?” (10) “What is the lifespan of a dragonfly?” (24 h) Provide a range in which you believe the correct answer will fall. Pupils can be categorized as having intuitive powers if they can “guesstimate” the answer with some degrees of precision.
- Jigsaw Technique
This is a great method of learning by teaching. The class divides into groups of 5-6 students, with the most responsible of them as a team leader. Each student of the group receives a certain topic to learn (same combination for all the groups) and he should only have access to his own material. All students take a quiz before everything starts, to test their level of knowledge. Next, they form expert groups, when students of the same specialty exchange viewpoints over what they’ve learned. After that, the jigsaw recomposes and students take turns presenting their topic to their group mates. There is a final quiz to view the level of achievement at the end of the exercise.
These are just a few examples of what you can achieve in class using education quizzes. You can always vary styles and strategies. Be creative and positive outcomes will show up in no time!
I had heard about this site a while back. I checked it out and knew that it looked pretty cool and that the kids would probably enjoy it. Then I got busy. I didn’t have time to register all of my students and get their logins and passwords created. I just didn’t have time – period.
Well, turns out I should have found the time. Sumdog is an amazing math site (designed for ages 6-14) and I’ve only just scratched the surface. (I know that this is old news to some of you out there – so I’m talking to those of you who are like me and love to get new ideas and websites, but just don’t always have the time to actually do anything with the lovely new resources.)
So, what makes Sumdog so great?
1) It’s FREE! There is a priced option that gets the kids more games and you more statistics on each student’s progress - but the basic package is free. I know you love that, right?
2) Students can play not only against the computer, but against other kids in their class or kids around the world who are online at the same time. They’re more engaged since they’re trying to beat their friends or “that kid from The States”. (I actually have kids playing this on the weekend – I can see when they last logged in!)
3) There are little extras to hook our middle-schoolers, especially. They can change their avatars to look more like themselves. As they advance through the levels (correctly answering questions and/or winning games) they collect coins to buy new clothes, accessories and other “cool stuff” like instruments and bicycles from the Sumdog Shop for their online persona. They can also use those coins to access special games. My students are surprisingly motivated by this “Shop”. We haven’t gone “shopping” yet, but they want to get in there!
4) Teachers can choose the skills to target, or you can let the computer generate the problems as the student is playing. Sumdog is set up so that the computer generates questions that are at the appropriate level for each of your students. When the questions get too hard, the computer will automatically drop the skill level down, so that the student doesn’t become frustrated. It’s built-in differentiation!
5) You can easily find out how your students are doing because Sumdog has a “Reports” section that allows you to monitor the level that students are working at and where they should be working next. (Again, you can pay for more detailed stats – but the basics are free.)
Here’s a look at the page where students will start off when they play. This is my avatar:)
Here’s a look at the “Shop”.
There’s tons more that I could tell you, but you should check out the site yourself. You can set up challenges, lessons and activities. There are contests and competition options.
I know that my neighbors to the South will be happy to know that you do have the option of having students answer questions aligned with the Common Core State Standards (grades 1-6)! There’s also the classic version which is what my students are using.
If you teach math, make it your homework to at least have a look at the site by the weekend. Try some of the games. Then next week, make some time to get your class set up, and students’ logins created. That’s the only thing. You have to plan to take your kids to the site. They can play as “guest”, but it makes more sense for them to have their own account to start earning coins!
Sumdog has been motivating to my students and so I hope it’ll be motivating to yours too!
I know that my students are more motivated to write when they know it’s for a “real life” audience – not just me! I’d be the same way, honestly. So far this year, I’ve been conscious of trying to provide my students with real audiences for their writing, making the revision process much less painful and more motivating for them.
This year, I had all students write a personal narrative for a writing contest, the main prize being their work published in an anthology (other school and cash prizes are available to be won as well). They thought it would be pretty cool to see their writing in a book and so I was lucky that they bought in. I’ve had past students enter this writing contest and some of our students always get published and so it’s worth the effort. If you want to check out this particular contest, it’s for K-12 in the US and Canada. As I said, I’ve had multiple students published over the years (which makes a publishing party celebration extra special) but last year I also had a student finish in the Top Ten which was fantastic! For more information, you can visit Poetic Power.
Currently, my students are completing essays and poems for a local Remembrance Day writing contest and the work that they’ve been doing for this contest has been really well done - which is awesome! For grade 7 students, some of their poems in particular are quite unique! Since they know that their piece will be in front of judges, having them continue to edit, hasn’t been a big deal. I’m sure most communities have similar contests, as well. I don’t always find time to get to this one – but luckily this year, I did! Now we’ll see if anyone gets their work chosen.
Finally, I am a contributor to GlobalTeacherConnect – a one of a kind teacher blog with teacher-authors from all over the globe. I had my grade seven students do the photography and writing for my most recent post, to once again, provide a “real audience” for their writing. They’re quite excited to see if we get any comments on the post – so if you have a minute…it would be much appreciated;)
Writing – especially the revision and editing processes can be time-consuming – and for what? Kids are smart. Where does their writing go after it’s been marked? Home? Their desks? Many don’t think it’s worth the hassle to craft a piece that’s only going to be read by the teacher. Gone are the days of trying to impress the teacher. Yes, there are still some “teacher pleasers” out there who want the approval of the teacher, the pat on the back and the good mark. However, there are more students who want the quickest way to get xyz completed. Period. They can’t be bothered to go back and improve it once they’ve decided it’s done. It’s these students, especially, who’ll benefit from writing opportunities that provide a wider audience than just a single person.
Have a look around your school, community and online. There are LOTS of opportunities out there to give your students a real audience.
Your students could:
-Write a school newspaper
-Write the morning announcements
-Enter writing contests
-Create and judge a writing contest at your school (what a project that would be!)
-Read and comment on blog posts, or write their own posts
-Share their work with the class and parents in a publishing party
-Write a children’s story and share with a younger grade
-Write letters to the editor about local issues (don’t forget to okay with parents)
-Write notes home to parents (fundraising information, school updates etc.) that teachers usually compose
-Maintain a class blog (students can write blog posts, book reviews, or post their own creative writing)
-Start a class Twitter feed and have a student contribute a tweet a day (approved by you first, of course)
-Find a class/school to penpal with
-TeenInk is another great option to contribute work to for publishing
-Instead of “book buddies” have shared writing time with another class
Think about writing from the students’ perspective. If you didn’t like writing and found it difficult to begin with, how motivated would you be to revise and edit your work? Even if it meant a higher mark, it’s an awful lot of work to be committed to making a piece of writing stronger.
Make the writing process a little more meaningful, by giving students an audience!
What other ideas can you add to the list of “realistic” writing opportunities?
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, and heck I’m going to say it right now: Don’t underestimate the power of a well-planned seating arrangement.
I had allowed my students the privilege of sitting beside a person of their choice. I know when I do this, it probably won’t last the day. However, I let them know up front that they will keep their seats if I don’t have to speak to them for being chatty and off-task. Having to speak to them more than a couple of times shows me that they obviously won’t be able to work productively beside that person and they will have to move. So, fast-forward a few days into the seating arrangement (basically chosen by them). Some partnerships are working (as usual) and others are crashing and burning. There were a couple of pairings, in particular, that were poison for one another. So, one day at break-time, I made some quick seat changes and the difference in the noise level from before lunch to after, was measurable – especially for a Friday afternoon.
If you have never given much thought to your seating arrangement OR you need to give some more thought to it now, I’ve got a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind. This is not a complete list – just a few things to get you started.
Seating Arrangement Tips (in no particular order):
1. When you’re planning your arrangement, think about the space that you have and how you usually teach. Will they be taking notes? Can everyone see the board? Will you be asking them to work with a group every day?
2. Survey your room and see if there’s any furniture that could be placed elsewhere to free up floor space for desks. Your teacher desk, computer, shelves – are they all in the best spot giving you the most usable classroom space? (I hadn’t considered this one until just this past August. I had my furniture as it was when I inherited the room and I realized that the configuration wasn’t optimal for space and utility.)
3. Think about the different seating options that will fit/work in your room: Single rows, rows of pairs, rows of threes, small groups of 3 or 4, a horseshoe shape, a horseshoe shape with a few rows inside the horseshoe etc. Have a look around your school for inspiration of desk/table configurations that will work in your room.
4. Students with hearing or seeing issues should be placed close to the teacher if possible.
5. Are you going to seat by ability, pairing like students together or students with different abilities together? There are pros and cons to both – there can also be some mixing and matching here to try to reach the needs of your students.
6. Who is easily distracted? Try not to seat these students by the sharpener, the windows, door or other high traffic areas – IF possible. Try to seat these students beside students who tend to be more focused, to balance things out.
7. Students who tend to turn around in their seats need to sit at the back, if possible.
8. When you make changes to a seating plan, always move more than one person. If ONE person is being a problem and s/he comes in to class to find that s/he is the only one moved, s/he may feel targeted and could get defensive. However, if you have moved multiple people, you can say that a few pairings weren’t working out and so you had to make some changes.
9. Write each student’s name on a post-it (there are online options for doing this as well) and then move the post-its on your desk until you have students where you want them.
I’ve stopped at 9, hoping that you can help me to continue this list. What other tips or lessons learned about seating arrangements could you share?
“Guided Math: A Framework for Mathematics Instruction” was one of my summer reads. I posted about my goals for Incorporating Guided Math into My Classroom in a post not too long ago. Well now I’m a month into school - time for an update!
I decided to start out by trying to give students some choice in math class, for the work that they would complete. Giving choice is something that I do in Language Arts, Social Studies – every other class, really. However, I hadn’t carried it over into math, for some reason. So, I created a Math Menu for my students to work through (basically a choice board). It’s great because it’s generic enough that I can use it with any chapter that we cover – I just have to change the activities and problems on the menu. I’ll be honest, it was A LOT of work! To try to find activities that ALL students in the class would be able to understand and work on (students with modifications, IEPs, adaptations and oh yes, those on the regular program) was difficult – but in the end – I did it. So, how’d it go?
First if all, students were confused. They couldn’t seem to grasp that they were getting to “choose” what problems to complete. “I don’t get it,” one boy said, after what I thought was a thorough explanation. I explained again, that rather than me (the teacher) telling everyone what problems and activities they were doing, they’d get to choose. They had to complete one choice from each row on the Math Menu. He still didn’t get it.
Well, we worked our way through a rocky start and have made to the other side. I just gave my students a brief formative assessment on the outcomes that we were working on (around the topic of Transformational Geometry) and I was pleasantly surprised. Most “got it” in the end, through the activities that they chose, which made me feel really good about doing all of that differentiation. Also, those students on IEPs and modifications were able to choose from the same menu as everyone else, building the confidence that many of them need.
So, my thoughts so far on Guided Math, in real life? It’s going to be great – once I (and my students) get the hang of it. I know that the next time that I present a Math Menu (in the next chapter) I will only have to explain the activities and not how the whole thing works. We’ll be one step ahead. However, I haven’t yet gotten to meet with students in small groups more than once, due to the classroom management aspect. The students I have this year love to chat and it just gets too loud for me to focus with a small group. Some days are better than others - it’s a work in progress.
Here are a two sites that may be helpful if you’re working on differentiating activities in your room:
Kutasoftware has some great printable worksheets. You can print what they have, get the 14 day free trial or buy their actual software to generate worksheets and tests. I just downloaded some perfect sheets on translations, rotations and reflections which can be a pain to find (an even bigger pain to create).
The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives is also a cool site for…you guessed it! Virtual manipulative of all kinds.
Have you set some goals for yourself this year? I’d love to know how things are going with you and your students!
I’ve spent much of the day prepping for Thursday which will be my first day of school with students. I go back to work tomorrow for our Orientation and PD days before the kids arrive. I’ve got mixed emotions about going back this year, but I’ll fill you in on that after. I honestly don’t know where the summer went!
Anyhow, I’ve been trying to figure out which activities I’m going to start off with, and so I thought I’d share one of the things I’ll be doing on the first day of school.
I always like to have students do a student survey so that I can learn a bit more about them, straight away. In addition to that, I also like to have students do a Multiple Intelligence (MI) Inventory and a VAK (Visual-Auditory-Kinestheic) Inventory so that their learning strengths are identified early on. Learning preferrences and styles, also happen to be a part of our grade 7 Health curriculum, which is a bonus.
I found a great MI Inventory to use this year! There are various versions of it, but the link I provided is the PDF version. The home site has tons of knowledge quizzes and a VAK Inventory, as well. There are also awesome inventories in Start Where They Are: Differentiating for Success with the Young Adolescent (with CD-ROM) by Karen Hume (I know that I’ve mentioned this book before and I’ll mention it again – it’s just that good) if your school happens to have it. I’ll be using her VAK inventory from the book.
Starting with these quick little inventories gives me some insight into the types of learners I have in my room. This year I’m pairing the inventories up with my “A Piece of Who I Am” activity (a visual ”get-to-know-you” activity) asking students to include their learning strengths on their puzzle pieces.
Another plus for me, is when a student inevitably asks why students are doing different work (students on IEPs are doing “easier work”) I can go back to the inventories that we did on the first day. “Remember how we all learn differently and we all have unique strengths? Students do different work, because I am trying to reach everyone in a way that they learn best, and I’m doing the same for you.” Usually, this satisfies these inquisitive students and they seem to understand.
The first day butterflies are setting in already! This year is slightly tramatic for me, as I’m also taking my four year old with me to start Kindergarten, hence the mixed emotions. On that note, I’d like to share something that my mother-in-law posted on my Facebook page that had me in tears. I don’t know the original source – sorry! But, I do know that it had me sobbing. It’s everything I’ve been thinking, while I anxiously anticipate sending my little boy into the big bad world. To all of you mothers out there, perhaps you can understand…
Guided Math, by Laney Sammons, was the second professional resource that I added to my reading list for this summer. It was quite a quick read and I’m ready to share with you what I have taken from the book. I’m not going to completely review the book and give away all of the good stuff inside, as I don’t believe that the author would appreciate that. However, I’ll share with you my three “take-aways” that I’ll hopefully be able to incorporate into my room this year.
1) Use more small group instruction for math.
This one is VERY important to me, but I’m already overwhelmed with how much work this is going to be. Of course, there are heaps of research supporting using small groups for instruction and I am looking forward to trying to modify my main teaching style, which is definitely heavier on the whole class instruction side. The book did a great job of explaining how different small groupings may work and I related a lot to the idea of feeling like I’m failing by not being able to challenge everyone at their level, neglecting those at the top and those just floating by, while trying to get the whole curriculum “covered”. It’s overwhelming to think about how I may possibly get to everyone more effectively, because their levels vary so much. That being said, I know that I am ready to try to spend more time working in small groups with my students. I know that it’ll be a learning experience, because of the class management systems that must be in place to not be interrupted and so on – but I know it’ll be worth it!
2) Start the day with a Math activity.
Well, the last literacy book I read suggested starting the day off with independent reading! I can’t do both…or can I? I’ve decided to flip-flop independent reading and morning math activities. Three days of the cycle they’ll start the day with reading and the other three days, I’ll have a quick math activity for them to do. Actually, I’m QUITE excited about this! Every year, I get students who still struggle with basic facts (I teach grade 7). It’s hard to find time to practice math facts, since the expectation is that they have their facts by now. You know what? They don’t. Some of them just haven’t gotten them yet – for whatever reason, and this makes learning the grade seven concepts more of a struggle. Providing morning math activities that target basic skills and problem solving two or three times a week, will be super-helpful and might just give students the boost that they need!
3) Give choice.
In Math? This one, really got me! I give lots of different options in Language Arts and Social Studies for projects, topics, book reports, posters – whenever I can. But Math? I have NOT been giving choice in Math. I’ve given projects, played math games and created stations. However, I have NOT said – you can complete this activity OR this activity. Why? Not really sure, to be honest. However, this totally fits in with my goal (from a previous post) of using Bloom’s taxonomy more effectively AND working menus into my classes. I’d like to try to use menus for math – giving choice to my students and building in differentiation. It can be done. I’m sure of it! Even though I’ll inevitably fall on my face, trying to get it all done – I’m excited to try!
Guided Math is a great resource – especially for elementary grades. I focused in on just three things, so as to not be totally overwhelmed by all of the ideas that it offered. I think that I’m going to start with the morning math activities and then the math menus. Finally, I’m going to try to do more small group instruction, but I think that this one is something that I’ll be working toward all year – and not just in math! I’d like to spend more time with small groups in the other subjects that I teach as well.
There was a book study on Guided Math this summer, that I’d mentioned in a past post. If this book sounds like something you may be interested in, you may want to check out some of the conversations and comments that teachers made with this book study. Here’s the original post for the Guided Math Book Study.
So, over to you: Those of you who are already using small group instruction or guided math effectively…. How are you doing it? Class management issues? How time intensive do you find it, preparing the different tasks for the different groups, versus one activity that you modify for the class? What tips for time management could you offer?
Please share your thoughts and questions!!!
Thanks so much to all of you for your thoughtful comments on yesterday’s blog post. It seems like many of us feel the same way about differentiation. We are doing it, we would like to do it more – because it really is the only way to teach, but it’s the time necessary to plan for the differentiated instruction that’s the challenge. It’s a HUGE challenge – especially when you throw in a couple of discipline issues, report cards being due, PLC meetings, soccer practice, a new course, family obligations and then actually teaching, of course!
Thanks to all of you for the titles you mentioned, links shared and participation!
Now, on to the business at hand!
The winner of the flash giveaway from yesterday is…
Congratulations Sue! You have your choice of these two prizes:
Thanks for participating everyone! I look forward to reading your future comments in the “Must Reads” tab of Lessons From The Middle!