When you think about what to teach in a course, there are always certain components that come to mind like standards, learning intentions, objectives, essential questions, big ideas, success criteria, assessments, etc.
In the self-paced classroom all these factors are still there but there are added questions to consider since there will be students working far ahead, far behind, and somewhere in the middle.
In this situation, a few decisions have to be made when it comes to curriculum and it can change depending on your content. Here are the two big questions to consider:
Social Studies viewpoint
In my World Geography course this comes down to looking at my standards and deciding which of these are the most important. Many factors are at play in this. I have to consider how to help my teachers that are tested (American Government) and meet the hard to decipher and slightly nonexistent Missouri geography standards. If you have looked at them, you have seen how they are mixed in with other social students content. It is nice to have some freedom I would say not being tested, but I of course feel very passionate about my subject and want students to gain as much as possible. This makes it difficult to narrow down content sometimes.
I start by planning out what I would do for the middle of the road student. What would I plan out if I were to run my class like I had before and expect everyone to get through? That is where I start creating and planning out activities and resources for those students. I layout all of that out to see what I have.
Once that is done I turn my attention to planning for the students that move really slowly. This is when it really just comes down to deciding what you really want students to come away with in your class. In this scenario, it basically the same as when you modify for a special education student. Your school’s special education department would be a great resource for helping to come up with some handy ways to modify material. I have turned to mine so many times for ideas. With these students it usually comes down to making an assignment smaller and skipping some activities all together so that they can learn the essential material. It might mean making modified or smaller more concise assessments as well.
Then I turn my attention to the students that work faster than all of the others. This is more difficult for me. Basically I have two options:
Right now my philosophy is to have a bunch of projects for students as options to complete if they discover their grades are not where they want them and they want to complete one or more of them to boost their grade. It is enrichment for the content and potential for student choice in which projects are chosen for completion. There is also one project that is required for students to complete as well and right now I am hoping that will be enough for my fast students. I really won’t know until we get through this semester on how I feel about the process and what I want to change.
I honestly feel that if I am successful in creating an environment in my classroom that is really focused on learning and exploring our content, then students won’t be as concerned with the amount of assignments or projects they do in relation to someone else.
If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, please comment and let me know. I will keep you updated on my progress.
All but one of my classes are co-taught with a high percentage of students with IEP’s that include math disabilities, extended testing time, and/or major ADD/ADHD/Anxiety issues that can take kids off focus easily or sometimes out of school for an extended period of time. But as many of you know, I still need to teach all of the kids in my class the same thing they would learn if they were in any of the other Geometry or Algebra classes.
I have the same standards/objectives to teach and all of the grades for any of our Algebra or Geometry students in our building come from assessments. Before becoming a self-paced classroom, test/quiz days were a wasted day. We would get started and either I would wait until everyone was finished to move on to the next lesson, wasting a ton of time for my students who breezed through tests, OR I would move on with the class and have my co-teacher finish testing those who needed more time in a separate area. Those kids would end up coming in during the lesson/activity with no clue what was happening and I would have to spend time catching each one of them up individually. It was a nightmare.
With all of this wasted time, I had to completely cut content out in previous years in order to make time to teach the “more important” objectives. I felt like a terrible teacher that was cheating my students. I had some kids that were lost and others that seemed bored. My self-paced classroom has completely changed this for me!
Again, the essential content for my classes are clearly defined in our objectives by course and each objective is broken down by target. It looks like this:
There are a lot of different resources I need to have ready for each target (another shout out for flippedmath.com for having most of these resources already made and available for free!). I am continuing to expand on the resources I offer for each lesson and I have some ideas for the future, but this is what I am currently working with:
Like Danielle said, you need to be prepared for students who need enrichment or accommodations.
When I have a student who is getting really far ahead of everyone else, I have two options:
For students falling behind, I offer tutoring outside of class time or I have them come see me during our intervention time at school. I still want all students to learn and earn a passing grade for each target.
Having all of the resources available to them means that they can get some help no matter where they are (at home, out of town, in school detention, etc.). After surveying our students, we found that they really loved the new method but they also communicated that the hardest part of it for them was that they were responsible for their learning. If they did their work and asked questions and used the resources, they could pass the quizzes. If they didn’t use their resources and wasted class time, they saw their grade plummet. As I was reading the responses I just kept thinking, “exactly!”
Another positive thing I’ve noticed is that students can communicate where they are in the content and what they’ve learned a lot better. They don’t want to waste time that they may have in a small group or one-on-one with you so they tell you exactly what they know or don’t understand and are eager to be able to show they can do it without any assistance. They are motivated to move on to the next lesson so it is in their best interest to actually learn and understand the material!