Saturday, February 18, 2012

Differentiation Divided

During study hall a while ago we had a discussion about differentiation. I know, study hall is that class where students sit around and stare at the wall for 40 minutes (complete stereotypical sarcasm). The teacher said "It's really hard to get used to this differentiation junk. It's all one on one." She's right, math is hard to differentiate because it's all equations and steps. She stressed, "If you don't follow the steps you will not get it." It isn't conceptual like social studies, language arts, or science is. There are steps to take and you won't get the right answer without doing those steps.

She's tried differentiating on the same topic, it is hard to do when we only spend one to two days on a subject. The way she has been doing it is having 1-2 table groups that got their independent practice problems correct and have a secure understanding of the subject, do more challenging problems on the same concept while she reviews with the rest of the class. For example the class may be reviewing linear equations for the second day, while the advanced group gets introduced to linear inequalities a day earlier than the rest of the class.

We also talked about quality versus quantity of work. "I'd rather have them work their way through two homework problems and get them right, not do all 20 assigned problems wrong." she said, "Technology has turned kids into instant learners. If you don't get it right the first time quickly, you give up easily."

How do you differentiate your math room? What were your attempts at differentiation to get you where you are now? Is independent practice mandatory or optional? 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Classroom of the Future or of Today?

Walking into the classroom door students would do a warm-up pre-assessment for the teacher to base stations and help for the day. The class period would be dynamic to the sense that stations would be chosen by the student on where they think they need help and a combination of where the teacher sees a fit. I picture a room with 3-4 stations happening either on different topics and students rotating between them, or where the stations are differentiated to different levels of the same topic, or a little of both. The teacher would float back and forth between stations while being ubiquitous and still monitoring the whole room. Having the station function gives students the freedom to move to a different leveled station if they need more than their current station is offering. It would be a mini version of a "vote with your feet" conference, if a session isn't working for you then find a better one. All of the stations would coincide with a theme for the day or relate to a project based learning activity later on. At the end of the class time students would do a formative assessment of what they learned that day to show what they retained and to let the teacher know where some clarification and instruction may be needed.

Does this look like your room? What do you do differently that works for you? I'm interested to hear how the style of your room works.