Friday, February 17, 2012

Work at Your Own Pace

My middle school classes are structured so that I see them once every four days. Keeping every student synchronized on the same activity is a challenge. Since I don't mind students working on different things at the same time, I decided to reread a website and book that really opened my eyes to doing things differently in the classroom, Layered Curriculum, by Kathie Nunley and implement some of her ideas. I had worked with this concept years ago on some selected activities, but now I decided to apply it to an entire unit.

My lessons always begin with the basic information and skills needed for our topic. From there, I assessed what the students really needed to know and then added activities and projects that worked their way up the Bloom's Taxonomy scale. Once I had done that, I looked over all the components again to determine what I felt all students needed to complete, which was everything except a final project. Additionally, if some students complete that before the rest of the class finishes the basic assignments, I am prepared for them to develop an independent course of study. 
 The entire unit is posted on Moodle so that as students complete one item, they move right on to the next. Each morning, I go through my log sheet and meet with small groups of students to instruct them on what they need for that day, having three to four groups come up. I am able to provide smaller, more individualized instruction and the students are more focused because they know this is their task for the day. I make sure that I stay on top of my grading so that they receive timely feedback, and can look in their online gradebook to see what assignment they should be working on next. If needed, I will also have students redo assignments that were below average.

For the final project, the students will have a choice of an "A grade" project, a "B grade" project and a "C grade" project. If they don't have enough time in class to finish the "A grade" they may still do it, but as homework. This is still a work in progress, and it is taking some adjustment for the students to pay attention to where they are at on their own instead of me telling them what to do. However, I feel like I am meeting the needs of the students better to reach them where they are at now, instead of treating them as one large group.


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