This week I had the opportunity to team teach with a colleague. It is so rare in the middle school world to be able to teach with another adult in your classroom. Sure, people come and observe, you may be able to catch a lesson or two on your prep period, but it isn't the same as collaborating all day with someone.
This past week over half our students went to sixth grade camp. Holly French and I decided to put our classes together and experiment with a new program using the iPods called Storykit. Our students created Haiku poems, downloaded images to match their work, and then created a 6 page book highlighting themselves as authors, and the poetry they had written. I would put a sample here but I haven't quite figured out how to download and share it yet. That will happen later in the week and I will post some student work.
The project itself is pretty great. Next week students will read their work, building an oral component into the lesson and we will once again use our fluency scoring guide to monitor our progress as performance readers.
But I think the greatest lesson of all this week, was that using technology as a tool levels the playing field. I had my intervention class and my honors class working together on this project. I would defy anyone observing the students working together to declare who was honors, and who needed extra help. In fact, it would have been impossible. All the students were engaged, coaching each other on what they learned about the program as they produced their books, and no one waited for someone to do it for them. By the end of the day, one of my students wrote a ten step list on how to use Storykit so when our classes return they too will be able to use the application quickly.
I read an article this weekend that I have attached to this post. It is called
"Are You Making These Four Differentiation Mistakes?" by Robyn Jackson at ACSD.
Here is a quote describing one of these mistakes:
"Differentiating by achievement level rather than by students' current learning level. Some will tell you that there are three kinds of students - high, medium, and low. But this distinction is not very useful. There are times when a student you consider to be in your high group will struggle with the content. Other time, students in your low group will sail through an activity, outperforming the students in your high group. Because students bring a variety of skills and experiences to the classroom, classifying them as high, medium, and low doesn't really help you adjust your instruction effectively to meet their complex needs. These static groupings also limit students. Once you start thinking about students in these ways, it is difficult to see them any other way. Differentiating by achievement level often results in lowered expectations for struggling students and extra work for advanced students. Lowering the target for some students while raising the learning target for others is not differentiation - it's tracking. Real differentiation takes into account where students are at a particular point in time. It doesn't label kids "low", "average," and "advanced"; it groups students by their current understanding of the content and processes involved in a particular learning activity and then provides students with the targeted supports they need to successfully master that activity."
Are You Making these Four Differentiated Instruction Mistakes? - Washington, DC, United States, ASCD EDge Blog post
This is something that I have always believed, and in grouping our students randomly this week, this was action research proving that exact point. As we look to using technology in our classes, it shouldn't be about replacing core learning, it should be about offering a variety of options for students to use to display what they have learned, and more importantly, how they learn it.
Something interesting to consider til we post next week.
P.S. Check out some of the blogs I am following, and please feel free to suggest some other sites out there that would be helpful as we move forward.