I have gotten behind with my newsblogs because I’ve been out in schools supporting school leaders as they collect Inclusion Rounds data. That process has been exciting, but the best part what the amazing teaching that I witnessed. I just have to share with you what I saw!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the long road ahead for our students. We have to equip all of them, but especially those with disabilities, with the tools they will need to travel that road. We won’t always be at their side and neither will their parents. We have to use long term thinking – much longer than How can I help him complete this assignment? or How can I improve his math scores on the state test?
I listened to an inspiring CAST webinar last week on using universal design for learning to empower students to become “expert learners.” What does that mean for teachers? How can we inspire student to be “purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal-directed?” This is a topic for a future blog. But now, I want to share with you two examples of teachers with fictitious names who were putting this into action!
Classroom 1: Let’s Take a Walk
I visited a co-taught classroom where students were working on fractions. At first glance, I thought I was seeing stations. There was a countdown clock and a rotation chart on the smart board. Most of the students were in groups of 4 or 5 using manipulatives and recording their answers on a worksheet.
- The assignment at station 1 required them to work together to solve a problem adding fractions with unlike denominators. Each child leaned in to offer different approaches to the dilemma, moving the pieces around to show potential solutions, but there was no fear of failing. If one got stuck, another picked up the pieces and kept going. What a life skill! There were two other stations (one on the floor) that I didn’t visit.
- Ms. K called one student to join her at the back table for a brief tutoring session on a concept missed yesterday. Then while that student tried two problems on her own, Ms. K called a second student for individual tutoring.
- Students gathered at station 2 with Mr. R. who prompted their productive struggle. Mr. R watched with a smile and asked them to explain their thinking aloud for the others. When one boy was visibly getting frustrated, Mr. R. said “Let’s take a walk to the fractions wall.” Together, they strolled to a bulletin board with pie wedges of different fractions. After a few minutes of review (and a brain break), the boy was ready to re-engage with the problems – which he could now solve!
These two teachers combined station teaching and alternative teaching AND they reinforced the life skills of cooperative learning and goal persistence. Wow! That lesson could NOT have happened with only one teacher!
Classroom 2: Instant Flexible Grouping
Two secondary math teachers used a simple approach for flexible grouping that could be used in any class.
Ms. G greeted students and prompted them to begin their warm-up drill on index cards. As they finished, Ms. B walked around to collect them. She immediately sorted the cards into five groups between the fingers of her left hand based on their answers.
Then she and Ms. G invited students to form 5 groups:
- Group 1 got everything correct. They could resume their work in Khan Academy.
- Group 2 made arithmetic errors. They would cooperatively help each other find and fix their mistakes. Then – Khan Academy.
- Group 3 didn’t reduce to lowest terms. They would cooperatively help each other reduce their answers. Then – Khan Academy.
- Group 4 would work with Ms. G to think though the problem.
- Group 5 would work with Ms. B to think through the problem.
This quick formative assessment approach allowed each teacher to work with a small group (3-5 students) so they could monitor student mastery and address individual needs. In a short time, all students were working in Khan Academy on learning tasks that appeared to be motivational for these students. What a great example of shared facilitation and alternative teaching combined! AND building a responsible culture of learning! Bravo!