Last week, I discussed our attempt at having students choose their own rubrics. I promised a follow-up, and before I provide that, here’s a little background on the vision for this learning experience.
First and foremost, what were we trying to achieve? What did we need to happen?
We needed to teach basic measurement skills, specifically within the customary system, in order to support our classroom design project, in which the students have been designing furniture for the classroom. We needed to balance this experiential learning with some activities that helped to build skills in a more systematic manner. Both of these modes of learning are useful in the classroom, and we wanted to be sure that both were available to students. We also wanted to be sure that we were holding our students accountable to the Common Core State Standards and monitoring their individual growth in these standards.
Finally, we needed to appeal to a wide range of skills and ability levels. We have four grade-levels-worth of children, all of whom learn in different ways. While no two children are ever alike, these differences are even more palpable in our classroom, due to the range of age levels and abilities.
And then, of course, there are always constraints. So what were ours?
There are only two of us, and at any given moment, needs like these could entail as many lessons as there are children in the classroom. While it is not common to have thirteen lessons running synchronously, it is common to have upwards of four different lessons occurring at any time. Even within those ability groups, though, there are other needs. Many of our students do not learn best when sitting and listening in a group lecture format. They find themselves unable to sit still and participate constructively in this manner. This also makes ability groups difficult to conduct, as students need to constantly be interacting with something. Simply listening in a group format proves to be difficult, but sitting individually and engaging with technology seems to be preferred for these kids.
So how are we meeting these needs? How did we attempt to solve this problem?
The first portion of this solution was creating vertically aligned rubrics, so that we could track student progress across the four grade-levels, meanwhile not confining students to a rubric based on grade-level. In order to achieve both of these, it was necessarily to redistribute all math targets related to customary measurement into five lanes: estimation, measurement, calculation, conversion, and finally, interpreting and representing data, which can be seen here.
The second part of this solution entailed pairing videos from LearnZillion, Khan Academy, and BrainPop!, as well as videos made on Educreations (Check out one of the videos I created below.), in order to help children all receive instruction simultaneously—only on different topics. These videos, in turn, were then paired with follow-up activities on IXL or through probes created by Illustrative Mathematics, Everyday Math, or activities embedded within our classroom design project.
Finally, of course, was threading a common experience throughout all of these. Personalization is a great thing, but not if it completely removes the common, social experience from the classroom. Learning is social and cultural, and this is where our classroom design project served yet another purpose. Through measuring spaces and designing furniture using inches and feet, all students have been able to connect with one another
So is it working? Yes, there are definitely parts that are working… Working very well, actually.
By preparing most of this ahead of time, we have been able to achieve a structured yet flexible and responsive unit of instruction that balances common goals with individualized and personalized objectives to help all students grow. In fact, just this morning, I was able to reflect on data from the previous day and deliver new activities to students.
But, of course, it’s not perfect. What could be better?
With any new idea comes a learning curve, and I’m learning a ton about this one. We had them choose rubrics, but I think that having them do so after simply reading student-friendly objectives wasn’t the wisest. Next time, I’ll provide a pre-assessment and have them choose a rubric off of that pre-assessment. I’m also seeing some alignment challenges. Not all IXL skills align well with each of the Common Core Standards cleanly, even though many of them do. However, this has paved the way for some more performance-based learning experiences, like data collection, organization, and interpretation, based off of real-world things like blades of grass and paper airplanes.
But I’ll save that for another post. More to come on our super differentiated math experience.