Friday, April 01, 2005

Differentiating Instruction-ish

In the old school I taught at, the kids were tracked to death in basically 5-6 different math levels. We had the (not the appropriate names, of course) sub level, average kid, regular kid, honors kid, gifted & talented kid. Like it or not, each class was pretty homogenous in ability, so you could feel comfortable teaching at a certain pace/level/speed. At this school, we do have 2 different levels - regular and preAP, and supposedly, the kids are (or maybe I'm wrong) supposed to be grouped according to ability. Well. In my preAP classes I run the gamut from kids that shouldn't be in there (work ethic issues), kids with great work ethic but need extra time digesting things, kids appropriately placed, and kids that should really be in a faster paced more challenging class because they're bored and finish all tests in 1/4 the time it takes other kids and they still have a 100% in class.

So. I've never successfully figured out how to differentiate my instruction. Because what these kids really need is a separate class all together where I can teach at their speed. I haven't figured out how to teach the other 30 kids (at their varying levels) and then concurrently/on the side teach these 3 brainiacs at their level while still running around and helping everyone.

I had a brainstorm about an upcoming (now passed) quiz that I would give these kids a different version of the quiz (logs, ln, e ...) that is more challenging. So the test time comes around, and I pass out the different versions on the sly and on the tops of their quiz (the hard version) I put that they'll get 100% if they attempt all problems and check their answers and explain explicitly what they're confused about if they were confused.

I didn't know what to expect back from them. I didn't know if it would be too long, or too easy, or too hard, or if they'd even step up to the plate ..... we're talking a total of 11 kids from 3 classes totaling about 87 kids. I haven't graded the quizzes yet, but I'm so excited. They worked bell to bell (all but one), and seemed to be thrilled to be challenged like that. I prodded some along with hints. I reassured one that she'd get 100% no matter what, that I just wanted to see what they'd do. I had one kid say to me afterwards, "that was fun". I had a revelation that in my 1st class, I only handed it out to 2 boys. Then when one (smartie) girl finished her "regular" quiz in 10 minutes .... I gave her the other one. Then in my next class, to 2 boys again (on hindsight, I could have tried it with maybe 2 girls there) .... but I was going by memory and by their average in class .... THEN by my 3rd class, I actually looked at their class averages and gave it to all the kids that have over 100% in my class (plus to surly pregnant girl even though she doesn't but she could) .... that was 5 girls (woo hoo) and 1 boy.

Funny side note. By my 3rd class, before I handed out the quizzes, I had one girl say to me, "I heard the quiz was hard and that the smartest kid in class didn't finish" (talking about the regular quiz). I had to smile and then I told her that there were different versions of the quiz. Who knows if I'll have to have some explanation to the whole class or if they can figure it out.

Let's see how it turns out ..... should have done this sooner .... oh well, at least it's a new tool in my tool box.

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