English 10-11, Chesapeake High School, Math Department Chair
In my classroom, it is uncommon for me to be teaching one kind of learner. I work with many different grade levels and students of varying abilities. You see, I am a special education teacher. There are only two of us in my building. Each year I have a different set of kids and am learning a different curriculum. At times when these students are all in a classroom at once, it is difficult to find new ways to keep them engaged in our lessons. With the devices, I can make a whole group lesson for them to follow on their own active inspire lesson. They enjoy having the control in their hands. I also utilize the devices as a way to work with each of my students in a one on one setting.
Much of my role and time is used to work with the students on their individual goals. To do this I use the device as a center in my classroom. I can either use games (relating to our whole group lesson) or individualize some Wixie or ActivInspire for the students to complete on their own (or in a group) while I rotate working with students individually on a reteach or goal work.
In the beginning of the year, the students need time to get used to doing certain technological things independently. At the end of last year I really saw the students’ confidence rise in completing their independent work independently.
Many of the students I serve have OT and/or weaknesses in their writing ability. Having the device at their fingertips in the classroom environment has gained them access to so much more.
When I think about where my students will be in the future, I think that they will be able to use typing and technology to compensate for some of their other weaknesses. If and when they can learn to type, this will be an amazing way for them to contribute to our real world. I do practice with them focusing on staying in their “home base” with their fingers. They slowly exercise those fingers in order to type certain letters in isolation. I know the more the feel more comfortable with it, it will get easier for them. With the typing program and programs such as word Q (word prediction software), it really makes learning accessible to more kinds of learners that we service. I only hope to learn more with this technology as it is changing every day. I know how the kids feel when they have to learn something new. I try and remember that as I learn each day.
I wanted to provide students with a means of individualized instruction where I could be a facilitator to each student, but all at the same time. By making my instruction more accessible through the use of the Office Mix add-on in Power Point, I feel I can meet the needs of all students and by engaging them in the instructional process.
The students began this lesson with an exploration activity about acceleration and velocity. As they completed the assignment, students were asked to combine their conceptual knowledge with mathematical modeling, so they watched and listened to the Office Mix (narrated with screen shots) Power Point to review these concepts. Students who needed more help had access to additional resources, and students who understood the ideas could skip on ahead.
Based on the data provided through questions answered by students using Kahoot, I divided students into small groups. One group worked with me while the other students engaged in resources from a list I provided based on their learning needs (Brain Pop w/ questions, Discovery Ed video w/ questions, or BBC interactive w/ questions). For their assessment, students had to apply and explain these concepts in a real world scenario.
Use of these tech resources, especially the Office Mix Power Point, promoted cognitive engagement as all students were getting what they needed, and I wasn’t holding anyone back as they were working at their own pace.
Vocal Music Teacher, MaryBeth Benesch was intrigued when she first heard of teachers using small-group instruction in their classrooms. She knew the strategy targeted students who had misconceptions or gaps in their learning. The conundrum was: how could she bring this into her vocal music classes? Deer Park Elementary Music Teacher, Kirsten Chalk, an enthusiastic adopter of the learning method, happily invited Benesch into her 5th grade classroom to observe the practice in action. Benesch spent a class period studying Chalk’s procedures and asking student’s questions about the process. The very next day, on her drive into work, Benesch had a Eureka! moment and saw a way to incorporate small-group instruction into her class that very day. A handful of students had joined her class a few weeks into the new semester and needed to learn the basics of sight-reading. Benesch pulled the students at the beginning of class to directly target the gaps in their learning, while the remainder of the class worked in collaborative groups. World Language teacher, Mr. Gaul, joined the impromptu lesson and began to plan his own version of small-group instruction into his Spanish I and II classes.
Submitted by Ali Lederer
1st Grade Teacher, Joppa View Elementary
This post originally appeared in Creative Educator
My first grade class has a wide range of ability levels; not all of my students need the same lesson delivered in the same way at exactly the same time. Some emerging readers are still mastering short vowels, while others are reading for blends, digraphs, and vowel teams. Some students already know how to add using a number line, so there’s no need to make them sit through a 20 minute lesson on that skill. To better accommodate and engage the individual learners in my classroom, I use station rotations.
Station rotation is exactly what it sounds like - students rotate through several stations during a lesson block. Instead of teaching a lesson to all students at the same time, I teach the lesson to small groups, customizing the delivery each time to differentiate for the learning strengths of the individuals in each group.
When it is appropriate to address the entire class at once, I use station rotations afterwards to provide practice with the newly introduced skill. This allows me to provide additional support to one group while the remainder of the class remains engaged at their stations.
Stations allow me to group my students according to their needs so I can provide instruction specifically tailored for those learners. Using this technique with small, manageable groups allows me to teach, re-teach, extend, or have students practice based on their immediate needs.
How do I organize the stations?
Generally, I use a four-station rotation: a teacher station, a tech station, an independent practice station, and a group/partner practice station. Time spent at each station may vary depending on how much time is allotted for the lesson block, but each rotation generally lasts for 6-10 minutes.
If I am using stations in place of whole-group instruction, I use the teacher station to deliver the content. This allows me to differentiate the content and delivery for each
Ms. Hahn has eagerly embraced the use of small-group instruction and technology infusion in her 6th grade math classes at Windsor Mill Middle School. Hahn designed her furniture arrangement to house four stations in her classroom: Teacher Station—Hahn provides direct instruction with rigorous questioning to students; Activity Station—students take the skills learned with Hahn and apply them to an activity; Co-op Station—students may choose to work independently or with a partner or group on assignments housed in One Note; and Computer Station—students work on the Ascend Math program, an Intensive Math Intervention Program that begins work at each student's skill level. Hahn uses formative assessment to create groups that are responsive to student learning which affords her the opportunity to quickly and easily revisit the material with students who are struggling. She regularly revisits her classroom instructional model to tweak and fine tune the process and structure.
When I first came to Church Lane, we were in our first year of being a Lighthouse School. I did not know what to expect. Would devices really make learning more meaningful? Would classrooms filled with bean bags, unconventional seating, and student first décor really make an impact on the students’ education? Would providing student choice on almost everything make them more engaged on a daily basis? Would differentiated grouping and tasks be possible and effective? When I first began, I wasn’t so sure. However, after almost a year and a half, I can easily say the answer to all those questions is YES!
What I have come to learn is that S.T.A.T is much more than just 1:1. It is a mindset. A mindset in which teacher and student learn as they go. There are an infinite number of resources, websites, project ideas, etc. available to teachers. I was overwhelmed at first. I did not know where to start. I have come to learn that focusing on implementing one thing at a time is much less of a burden. After some time, I am now familiar with numerous tools, not all technology related, that have made my classroom environment a wonderful one.
Differentiated small groups were new to me as well. Ones that are constantly changing, sometimes within one class period, seemed like it would make my head spin. My clipboard was filled with post-it notes of student names circled, crossed out, and arrows going in every direction. This directly correlates to the S.T.A.T mindset mentioned above. I had to learn as I went. Eventually, it started to become easier. I learned how to create groups. Students learned how to transition between groups. The students and I were aware that groups would be different depending on the day and topic. Once this became routine, it became possible to REALLY differentiate work for my small groups. Students started to become more engaged in their work because it was tailored to their needs. Their choice of how to show their learning started to snowball into ways that I didn’t even know was possible.
“Instead of a Wixie, can I create a Board Builder?”
“After I make my Board Builder, can I add my own voice to describe what is included?”
The list goes on. My greatest challenge, implementing these small groups was that I wanted to be in control of everything. I have learned to take the back seat and let the students drive. When they drive, we all learn.
In my first grade classroom, I have been working hard to meet the needs of all my learners. For our current math unit, first grade students are working on addition and subtraction. I have a small group of students who have exceeded the first grade math standards for this unit, so I looked at the second grade standards and found some ways to enrich their learning. By comparing the standards for both first and second, I am able to see where my students who already mastered the first grade standards need to be for next year. These students watch a video teaching them the standards for second grade while I teach the rest of the first graders the standards for their unit in a whole group setting. After the whole group lesson we move to small group rotations. The group that watched the video meets with me for a short mini lesson and practice with the second grade standards. Following the mini lesson they complete appropriate lessons on Study Ladder. The students are challenged and engaged and they are not sitting through whole group instruction for skills they have already mastered.
Algebra students at Cockeysville Middle School worked to strengthen their skills with Linear Equations as they selected from nine stations. In some cases, 7th and 8th grade classes intermingled and helped one another as they worked through a mix of teacher led stations as well as self assessing stations. Students were assigned to their first station based on formative assessment results. From there, the students were able to choose from a 10-foot floor graph, scavenger hunts, a Jeopardy game on a large kiosk monitor, graphing calculator activities, laminated problem cards, or book work. Scores on a follow up quiz indicated the day was a great success.
Visit the Cockeysville Middle "Shine a Light on Math" website to learn more.
Reflections from teachers, administrators, and students at the Lighthouse Schools.