One of the biggest challenges teachers face when they are teaching a multi-ability class, where some students are working at the honors level and other students are struggling, is to be able to teach all of those students at an appropriate level and still maintain classroom control, engagement, and interest.
When chunking lesson plans, which is a strategy whereby you divide your lesson plan into chunks of approximately 10 minutes or less, you can have a 10 minute chunk of time with three ability-based groups, each doing work at their level of instruction. In this scenario, one group could be your specially designed instruction, or reteach group, another group might be working on practice items while the third group would be working on enrichment activities that challenge and accelerate learning.
While teachers typically focus on the group of students who are receiving specially designed instruction, or being re-taught the material, other students need activities that keep them engaged and behaving appropriately. It’s typical for students to work on practice activities after instruction in the classroom without much need for teacher attention. This group is not much different than the group that might be doing the odd numbers on page 35 after a lesson on how to work an algebraic equation. Teachers are used to this scenario and may lightly supervise students in this group. In reality, this doesn’t change the chunking strategy. The difference is that teachers are teaching one group of students while their other students are engaged in the practice activity.
The real challenge is what to do with the students who are ready to move beyond the current level of instruction. How do you give those students something that’s more challenging, that enriches their learning, but doesn’t cause them to feel resentful that they’re doing harder work, more work, or boring work?
It seems logical that we might give these higher achieving students more difficult problems to solve, more challenging work to accomplish, longer and more demanding essays to write. They’re capable, so the temptation is to challenge them with these types of assignments. However, what often happens is that students become resentful, start to misbehave, and then go home and complain to their parents that they are being discriminated against because they have to do more work than other students in the classroom. The key is to give students challenge activities that are fun, engaging, and take learning up a level in a way that they find stimulating and motivating.
These activities can be used to challenge students for a 10 to 12 minute chunk of time while you are reteaching another group of students.
10 Minute Acceleration Center Enrichment Activities For Use Across All Content Areas
1. A WebQuest Challenge: Send students on a WebQuest to answer an open-ended question about the topic you just taught. WebQuests move students beyond just the facts. They require students to use prior knowledge and stimulate curiosity that promotes an investigation of the topic at a deeper level.
A WebQuest provides students with the goal, or quest. They then have to research the given topic on the Internet to find information about that quest and analyze what they find by reading, watching videos, listening to audio, viewing images, etc. in order to synthesize their research and come to a conclusion.
An excellent resource for Web Quests can be found at Tommarch.com. Also, check out http://webquest.org/
2. Be a Character Detective: Research a key person (scientist, author, historical figure, mathematician, etc.) to come up with a theory as to why they are notable. What prompted them to do what they did? What events or people in their life influenced them? Where would the world be if their lives had been different? Students can present their findings and conclusions in a quick presentation (via screencasting, a skit, a song, an iMovie or Animoto trailer, or a mind map).
3. What’s the Source of that Theory? Use Wolfram Alpha to research background information on a theory in geometry, algebra, or science, and present that new information to the class in a creative manner.
4. Visual Research and Analysis (Math): In math, use Google images to find structures that include a specific shape, such as a parabola, and determine the formula for that particular shape. Possibly, consider how a shape might contribute to the structural integrity of objects such as chairs or tables.
5. Video Curation and Analysis: Find videos on the topic of instruction that present the knowledge in a unique or entertaining way. For example, find music videos that explain the difference between metaphor and simile. Or find videos, for example, that present the prologue to a Shakespearean play in three different styles (a skit created by students, professional production, a dramatization uploaded by a teacher). Analyze how the different presentations provide the viewer with differences in perspective on the piece of literature.
6. Analyze that App: Provide students with a rubric to analyze a device app, or a video, or an instructional website. Have them use the rubric to create a “top three” list of resources for the other students in the class on any given topic.
7. Create a Whiteboard Movie (Screencasting): Instruct students to create a whiteboard movie using an app such as Explain Everything, and show two sides of an issue, both sides of an argument in a debate, or two different characterizations of a social situation.
8. Karaoke Mnemonics: Students choose a karaoke version of a popular song so that they have the music without words. Create new lyrics to sing the concept just taught so that they will remember the lesson.
9. Dramatize Dry Text in Person or with Video: Show students an episode of Real Actors Read Yelp and have them use the movie app on their device to dramatize content area reading that would typically be very dry, similar to what the actors have done with the Yelp reviews.
Next week, I’ll share six more great ideas from real teachers who use the ideas they share in their own classrooms. Don’t miss it!
For more information on differentiation strategies to reach ALL learners, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Special Needs in the General Classroom, Strategies That Make It Work. Available in both print and electronic versions!
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