As school districts prepare for Common core tests to hit schools in spring of 2015, schools are scrambling to ensure they are ready for these online tests.
At my school, in order to gauge students’ skill levels, we used the NWEA MAP tests this school year.
While the tests themselves are a fine indicator of student ability (and inability), the bigger results we gained were from the actual online testing experience. We had so many difficulties in internet speed, browser compatibility, system compatibility, computer speed, etc., that it took for.ev.er. to test our students. I am dreading the next two testing sessions unless something drastically changes in NWEA’s testing process or in my school’s internet speed.
Here are some things I learned:
-do not test all students at once; stagger testing of classes
-ensure browser compatibility before testing
-load the URL or save to favorites before testing
-buy brand new, high-speed computers and install a high-speed internet connection (a girl can dream, right?)
What are your tips and suggestions?
Tweet me @barry_christine
Balancing the needs of all the learners in a classroom is no easy task. It is certainly not something I have mastered. Every year, I try different methods and techniques to try and differentiate the instruction in my classroom. This year, I have found a balance that seems to be working for my classroom so far: small skill groups. Now, this idea of small group instruction is by no means revolutionary. Teachers have placed student in small learning groups for many years now. But what I decided to do is a bit different than what other teachers at my school, at least, are doing.
I still teach my whole-class instruction. Then, based on my students’ benchmark test results (we use NWEA’s MAP), I place students into their small skill groups. I only do small groups twice a week when our schedule allows for it. During small groups, the instruction is solely focused on a specific skill as identified from the benchmark test instead of reinforcing the whole-group lesson that was just taught. I haven’t found the reinforcement of the whole-group lesson to be beneficial to my middle-schoolers. Because my classes are so small to begin with, I can easily reach all my learners during whole-class instruction. Whereas, the reinforcement of a specific skill they need has been beneficial for their overall reading progress.
I am really liking this method I am using in my classroom to catch students up on specific skills they are lacking. What do you do in your classroom to “catch up” your students? Share it here in the comments or tweet me @barry_christine!
Since I teach in a school that does not use letter grades and instead focuses on assessing each student based on the standards, differentiated instruction is definitely the norm. While we do use the standards to guided our instruction and plan our curriculum, we see each child as an individual learner with individual goals. After completing the benchmark test at the beginning of the school year, we establish three learning goals each in the areas of math and reading. These goals are then used to determine small group instruction.
For example, in my language arts class, I use the writing and reading workshop approach. I teach a mini-lesson to the whole class, then work with small groups and individuals on their individual learning goals. I have found this dual approach of instruction to work well for my students. We are still working on meeting the grade-level standards, but I can also work with students that are above and below grade level as well as reinforcing skills for students at grade-level.
What about you? What does differentiated instruction look like in your classroom?
Comment here or tweet me @barry_christine!
I know September’s focus was STEM resources and we are now in the middle of October, but I just came across a fabulous website chock-full of STEM lesson plans, activities, and resources. I couldn’t pass up sharing it with you all!
The Science of Everyday Life is a joint venture from 3M and Discovery Education. The website has tons of free resources for K-12 classrooms, including standards-aligned lesson plans, virtual labs, videos, and more. There is a place for teachers, families, and students. The STEM lesson plans will definitely be of interest to teachers.
Check out the website today!
(Not a paid advertisement. I just really like the website and the resources it offers.)
- Set expectations for yourself and your students.
- Provide clear and concise directions to students.
- Students must know what you want them to understand and be able to do.
- At the beginning of the school year, teach students routines and procedures for entering classroom, turning in homework and class work.
- It is important that students know what they are doing, where to go, and when to go.
- Take ample to time to plan; create a schedule if needed.
Stay up-to-date on best practices by:
- Attending conferences or professional development on differentiated instruction.
- Observing other teachers in your content area differentiating in their classrooms, and invite colleagues/administrators who are proficient in differentiated instruction to your classroom to observe you differentiating. The feedback is invaluable.
- Read literature on differentiated instruction. Here’s some examples of professional books:
- The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners by Carol Ann Tomlinson
- How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed Ability Classrooms by Carol Ann Tomlinson
- Differentiated Instruction: Different Strategies for Different Learners by Char Forsten, Jim Grant and Betty Hollas
**Helpful and Useful Tips written by a Middle School Teacher, Kechia Williams
Begin small. Creating a classroom where individual needs are met can start with one activity such as allowing students choices. Choices give students a feeling of independence and ownership. Allow students to choose:
- Journal topics/writing topics: An example for journal prompts is 5-Minute Daily Writing by Marc Tyler Nobleman
- Reading Books
- Varied graphic organizers
- Working alone or together
- Provide students with anchor activities
Gradually add more complex lessons or plans per nine weeks or semester, literature circles, or alternative assessments.
Tips that I found helpful and to the point, written by Kechia Williams, a Middle School Teacher.