Saturday, February 06, 2016

On pre-assessment and innovative differentiation strategies

I have developed a unit for 8th grade social studies, addressing the New York Social Studies standard 8.1f, “Muckrakers and Progressive Era reformers sought to address political and social issues at the local, state, and federal levels of government between 1890 and 1920. These efforts brought renewed attention to women’s rights and the suffrage movement and spurred the creation of government policies to enact reform.”

In a nutshell, the activity is for students to select any aspect of the era that interests them beyond the material for which they are all responsible, research the topic, and figure out how to present it to the class in an interesting and engaging way that also relates in some way to present times.

What follows is a hypothetical case study.


To get a sense of what the student know, and especially of what gaps exist in the students' knowledge around this topic, and who is ahead on this topic and who knows little about it, I began with a simple pre-assessment, a Quizlet with a number of terms that embody the era and a task to match them up with their definitions. Quizlet is a really neat tool for quick assessment; I could have used a more standard quiz format such as matching, multiple choice, and fill in the blank, but this time I chose to use the scatter function, in which the student must match up terms and their definitions against a timer.

Differentiation strategies

Next, I sought ways to provide innovative differentiation strategies to work with the fact that some students already seemed to have the topic down, and others were discovering it for the first time. The methods are shown in this lucidchart mind map

Top performers

These students will take a closer look at the question of contemporary relevance of the issues being investigated by the whole class, and will provide resources that others can use. They will create a "Then and Now" mapping of parallels issues and events, drawing a strong distinction between issues that seem to have been put to rest, those that haven't, and those that have successor/related issues today.

Some Awareness (the majority)

As these students work through the required concepts in an open classroom setting using varied resources (texts and online, we will have a running competition for those who get there first to speak up and share what they’ve found, provide sources, and generate visual aids for digital display in a group resource of findings.

Those with Limited Knowledge

These students will be paired them up with others who are tracking down the same concepts, to share, explain, and provide peer assessment. For students who would have significant difficulty presenting their topic solo, there will be opportunities for practice sessions with peer feedback, preferably from volunteer 'advanced' students.

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