This is a guest blog from Alison Doubet, a first grade teacher at Joppa View Elementary. In 2015, Tech4Learning presented Alison with a Tech4Learning Innovative Educator award. You can find out more about her teaching journey on her blog and through her articles on Creative Educator.
Teaching first grade, I have a very wide range of ability levels in my class. If an upcoming math lesson focuses on adding/subtracting 10 from a given number, I know many of my students can already do this without assistance. Similarly, in phonics, a handful of my students can already spell and decode long vowel words, but others need more basic instruction.
So whenever, I am planning a lesson, the first thought that comes to mind is, “Do all of my students need a lesson for this skill, or are there some students who can already do it?”
To better differentiate and personalize my instruction, I set up my lesson blocks using a pre-assessment, enrichment practice in Wixie, small group instruction, and post-assessment model.
I begin by designing a pre-assessment that allows me to determine which students already understand the skill and are ready to practice and which students need small group instruction to support their mastery. A pre-assessment should be quick and easy, and I often use a 3-5 question quiz that takes students 5-10 minutes to complete.
I teach in a 1:1 learning environment, so I generally take advantage of online assessment tools like Socrative, Plickers, and Kahoot that provide immediate data. If you don’t have access to 1:1 technology, you can use another formative assessment option like questioning, pinch cards, or observations to identify which students know the skill and which do not.
After giving the pre-assessment, I form two groups. My Practice group already understands the skill and is ready for enrichment activities connected to the standard. My Intervention group receives additional small group instruction to support their learning.
The group that does well on the pre-assessment goes right into a practice activity in Wixie. Wixie lets me create my own interactive activity, record audio instructions for each page, and assign it directly to specific students in my classroom.
The audio instructions combined with the individual delivery in Wixie means that students in this group can complete the activity independently. Sometimes I also support their learning independently by creating screencasts to explain the process.
If the Wixie activity won't take long to complete, I create additional task cards, center work, or enrichment activities students can choose from after finishing their practice work.
Small Group Instruction
While the practice group is working independently, I provide small group instruction to the group needing additional support. After the direct instruction, these students get started on the Wixie activity while I can be there to provide extra assistance as they work.
I also use this time to give additional interventions to students who still need help.
After the lesson is complete, I log into my Wixie account to review their completed activities, checking in on the practice group to evaluate their work and offer comments on their progress, and reviewing the Wixie work done by students with me in the small instructional group to ensure that I have a clear picture of their understanding.
Following this model for all my lessons helps me provide my students with instruction and learning activities that better fit their needs and abilities. My Practice group does not waste time sitting through a lesson on something they have already mastered. My Intervention group gets the instruction they need and still has a chance to practice with my nearby support. And best of all I feel like I have the time to facilitate a useful practice activity and also provide extra interventions as needed.
Editor's Note: See a specific lesson from Alison using this model.