Differentiating learning for all students is hard enough—now we are asked to think about giving students a choice and voice in their own learning. Seems like more work for the teacher. And, on the front end, it is.
But here are some ways to make it easier.
1) Give students choice in a JIGSAW. Usually, jigsaws are used by teachers looking to differentiate learning for their students. The teacher chooses 3 or more materials related to the topic of discussion. The materials may differ according to reading level or interest or, sometimes, are simply a number of related resources that are valuable, but there are just too many to have each student read each one, so using a jigsaw allows students to get summaries from their peers.
You can also do this with a flipped Jigsaw—in which the students read or view (in the case of a video, etc) their chosen piece at home, take notes and prepare a summary to share with their peers the next day.
2) Then, allow students some choice in how they create a product to share with their peers. Usually, after a jigsaw, I’ve provided a choice board— a menu of activities the group can do to make synthesize their learning. This is great. It gives the group a choice and, done well, teaches students how to make group decisions and then work together. (See examples of choice boards here and here)
But you could do this differently. You could do the meaning making part of the jigsaw in class. Students either read and create summaries in their home group in class or they’ve done some of this work at home in the flipped scenario, and then come together briefly to create a group summary to bring to their rainbow groups. Then, have the rainbow groups come together for discussion of all the readings/resources and make sense of them tougher, engaging in dialogue and debate (structured or unstructured based on their familiarity with the process, age, your preference, etc). After that, instead of working on group projects for the final piece, students might choose to work individually—or some might work in pairs, or you might have a sign up sheet (physical or on a shared document) where students sign up for the type of final product they want to create. So, you might end up with 3 groups of 4 students who want to create a game based on the readings and 2 students working individually to write a poem and others doing any number of appropriate learning tasks. (Note that the options in the choice board should have accompanying rubrics whenever possible in order to ensure rigor).
Finally, I would recommend bringing the class together for presentations (OR having the students make videos of their presentations for their peers to watch at home) and including some sort of feedback sheet from peers. (More on that to come).
One last thing—I don’t think it’s possible to overuse the Jigsaw. If you are new to differentiation, ad/or if you find it incredibly time-consuming, why not return again and again to something that works. You can mix up HOW you assign pieces or give choice, you can mix up the activities or questions in the home group and the rainbow group, you can have students do the final product in groups or individually. The final products can take hours or weeks or days. I would love to see examples from others.Read More
“May I give you some feedback?”
I heard this question recently during a middle school visit. This classroom had a markedly different feel than others I’d visited that day–and it was during the last period of the day. (During the last period of a busy middle school day, when you might expect 13 and 14 year olds to be antsy for the day’s end…) This teacher was using lots of great instructional strategies–greeting kids at the door with a handshake, bringing everyone’s attention to the posted agenda, clear objectives and outcomes, (written as “How I Know I’ve Learned It” and the expectation of a self assessment exit ticket).
What really struck me, however, was the tone of the room–respectful and warm throughout the class and exemplified by that one question.
A student had just taken a turn leading the group–literally conducting a performance–and the end result was not as sharp as it could have been. The student first acknowledged that with a shy smile and the teacher asked the group if anyone could give him pointers. A few did, respectfully, but none of them quite gave him enough for meaningful improvement.
That’s when the teacher asked, “May I give you some feedback?”
Clearly, it was time for the teacher to step in to make sure the student had a full understanding of how to perform this activity. And, of course, she had to give him that feedback–so one might wonder why she phrased it that way. But she communicated was, “You own your learning. I’d like to help you deepen it. Would you like to hear my feedback so that you can do that?”
Of course the student nodded yes, tried again, and got it right. Similar versions of the same ensued as other students made attempts, mistakes and more attempts. Students get feedback it all the time–via assessments, via comments, non-verbal communication, etc. But getting isn’t receiving—it doesn’t always stick or help them grow.
Perhaps the simple trick is asking them if they are ready and willing to receive it. When they do, they can own their own learning and truly take off as learners.Read More