Getting Around

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Did you Differentiate?

Some reflections on the past few weeks:

Worksheet Hell Works For Some
After I threatened to make worksheets, we did them. Some of the kids preferred them! It turns out that my kids with behavioral issues preferred the security of knowing exactly what to do. Hmmmm. My other kids were miserable, but this class is about 2/3 difficult and it was nice to have a peaceful period, so help me (GUILT GUILT GUILT).

Differentiation Can Work For Short Bits of Time
We have double periods for a couple of weeks so that we can do the state standardized tests and so I decided we'd remediate and retest the last set of standards. The kids who mastered all the standards got out their iPads and began doing online practice for our next topic, integers, in the back of the room (I'm in a science room with lab space). I told them that they couldn't watch any videos because some kids would be testing and that they had to use trial and error to see if they could figure out the rules regarding integers.

The kids doing remediation (another packet) worked really hard. Most of them did well and I was able to spend a few minutes one on one with each kid as I went around the room.

The kids moving ahead did very well too. By the time everyone had finished their retakes I had two kids who had worked through absolute value, addition, subtraction, and had figured out that two negatives multiplied together make a positive. I did not work with this group at all other than to make sure their technology was working. When we debriefed at the end of the period a few of them were so fired up they planned on working on integers at home with friends.

Some Kids Aren't Ready For Freedom (This Makes Me Cry)
As the remediation kids finished their retests they got their iPads to begin work on integers. Here is where it started going south. These kids had trouble focusing on the task. Many of my kids who are behind in math are also my behavior challenges (I see you all nodding there). As soon as a enough of them got to the iPads I ran out of classroom space to keep them separated, which seems to be part of the key with them. I ended up making everyone move back to their desks as soon as the last retest was finished. I had to take one kid's iPad away for working on an unapproved website.

The Upshot
I am trying to figure out how to give my mature students more freedom to make choices and move ahead at their own pace. At the same time, my kids with behavioral challenges seem to thrive in more controlled and scripted environments. When I asked another teacher how to do this, she said, "When you figure it out, let me know!" Not really the response I was looking for.

Ideas?

3 comments:

  1. Worksheets are not evil if used in moderation. As you noted, students who struggle appreciate the structured practice. Obviously all students need to deal with the ambiguity in problem solving but for routine skill practice (that has to occur sometime) a well-planned worksheet makes sense.

    I understand the problem you are having with the less able students. I sometimes have a similar problem with "freedom." I am using competition on Manga High to keep all students focused on doing well. I don't have iPads ... we have laptops and internet access.

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  2. Hi there,

    When my daughters were in grades k-2 , (both went through same multi-graded class system, though did not overlap), the teacher put the days requirements and the days can dos on the board.

    I have always dreamed of doing this in my high school classes and have tried several times! Has never worked as well as it did in my kids classes! Whaa!

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  3. Beth, the iPads are on a cart that I have to check out, but the carts are getting very little usage. I typically use very old netbooks, but those have been popular lately because the computer labs are taken up with state testing. I've heard of Manga High but never looked into it very much. I'd love to hear more.

    Amy: Ah, the "can do" lists! In elementary school, this seems to work and I've done it myself. But since the middle schoolers change classes every little while they'd rather wait until the bell rings with nothing to do than get something else done. The problem is that the mature kids will do the can dos even though they don't really need more practice. The kids with behavioral difficulties seem to see can dos as extra work and appear overwhelmed that they can't even get their regular work finished. It's demoralizing.

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