Let’s start off with the obvious here; ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL! Who came up with that anyway? The ideology that there is any one way of doing anything, let alone teaching, is mind boggling. The classroom is a diverse biome, inclusive of a wide variety of personalities, optimal learning styles, and varied levels of subject acquisition. The task of the educator becomes to create an adaptive environment utilizing a blended learning model.
But what does that mean? At its core, the idea of a blended learning model means you are accommodating multiple student needs within your teaching. How do you successfully achieve this? For that, we’ve compiled advice from three presenters who attended the Exploring Different Blended Instructional Models Using ASSISTments webinar: Kareem Farah, Executive Director of the Modern Classrooms Project; Yameka Bullock, a middle school math teacher with 21 years of experience; and Sarah Irish, a technology integration specialist and math teacher with 15 years of experience.
Try eliminating lectures and start creating instructional videos
This will help you to “unlearn teaching to the middle,” a practice that is easy to fall into, but leaves out your high and low level learners and leads to the commonly heard phrases, “I’m lost” and “This is too easy”/”I’m bored.” Not to mention if a student is absent, the arduous task of helping them catch up, while not detracting from your lesson.
Mr. Farah recommends eliminating lectures and creating your own instructional videos to which Ms. Bullock adds that this practice is very useful in reaching her students who do not have consistent internet access and may not be able to make it to her online class sessions. Doing this also circumvents having a lack of textbooks and also means that students who need more help can rewatch the videos/get individualized attention and students who find it too easy can advance to the next video.
It is imperative that these videos be your own as they cement your role to your students, Mr. Farah continues, by seeing you on their screen students are more likely to put in more effort as they follow in your example.
Keep control of your instruction by segmenting student learning.
Instead of self-pacing the whole curriculum, Sarah and Irish recommend keeping students self-paced only within each unit of study to avoid having everyone at a different place and resulting in you feeling extremely frustrated and burned out. To facilitate this segmentation and help in meeting students where they are:
- prompt students to take notes as they watch your instructional videos and
- have students create ‘buckets’ to help them understand what their options are: Must Do, the work that is on grade level and necessary for them to progress, Should Do, which provides foundational support, and Aspire To Do, a more advanced version of the subject matter.
- promote autonomy by placing pacing trackers in the class so that students can see where they should be and who they can partner with.
The ASSISTments Assignment Report can assist in this by giving you, your students, and their parents an in-depth snapshot on whether students are on track, where they need to progress, and/or what skills they need in order to progress. This is also useful with written responses in that you can see images of student work, read their typed explanation and respond on the same page. At the end of each term, or as needed, you can also download the scores into a .csv file to use to facilitate with report cards, if you are not implementing a gradeless classroom.
You’ll know it’s time to move on when students have demonstrated mastery. Skill Builders as exit tickets are a great way to check for mastery of a topic. Allow students to revise math problems as needed.
Normalize mistakes as a learning tool
Foster an environment that allows for mistakes to be okay as long as you continue to try. Ms. Bullock recommends pairing the students, either in class or via breakout rooms based off of their mastery level: students who have achieved 100% mastery can be partnered with those at 50% to help them in their learning, students at 80% mastery are paired with those at 60% as they are ‘almost there’ and are likely to figure out the solutions with a bit more time; students with 0% are paired with the teacher in order to understand where the disconnect is.
For Ms. Irish, when each student in her class reaches at or above 80% mastery she moves on to the next section; this number was decided in the beginning of the year with her class in an exercise that created ‘buy-in’ from her students. For her, ASSISTments took away the burden of grading away so that she could focus on teaching.