Teachers have always been talking about differentiating in the classroom, but it seems only recently that teachers have started talking about the pace. We either slow down or speed up based on the middle of the pack in our class. If the majority needs it to be slower, we slow down, if the majority want us to speed up, we speed up. In an attempt to differentiate we try to identify those students at each end of the spectrum and modify to fit their needs.
In my 9 years of teaching I have experimented with different ways to differentiate my teaching, so I could meet more students’ needs but nothing had really seemed to work. I had students that were getting left behind and students that were bored out of their minds. In my new setting with high school freshmen trying to teach them geography, a subject that I am really passionate about but can be hard to get students interested in, I felt like I was drowning.
I knew I was looking for a change, but I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for. One day I was expressing my frustrations to Becca and she told me about what she was doing in her class. She described the self-paced atmosphere and as I listened to her I got more and more excited. This was it! This was what I was looking for! She was seeing positive results in her class and I wanted to immediately switch up my class to do the same type of thing.
I loved the idea of students moving at their own pace and taking time to learn the material! It seemed like the perfect way to reach all of my students.
That day I sat down to figure out how I could make changes to my class. Luckily we had just started our last unit of the semester. I already knew what we were going to cover and many of the materials to cover it. I just needed to restructure the content and the way we did class.
I started by splitting the class in half. One half worked on notes and the other half worked on an small group assignment and then they flip flopped. This allowed me to get the students started on material and be there to work with students. It also helped stagger the students progress. It was easier to manage when not everyone was working on the same thing. Then I wasn’t needed everywhere at once. Here is a quick breakdown of the what I did in my first trial.
What I saw in the class:
This was enough for me to get really excited! I knew though that I going to face some challenges if I was going to make a change for my classroom. I was really pleased with how the students did during this experiment. I knew that there were some changes that I was going to need to make in the next semester, but I have a higher level of excitement and drive going into this semester.
Check our future posts on how we make this work in more detail!