Feedback….

IF

 

Feedback can be one of the most powerful ways that we as teachers impact our students’ learning…if the feedback is specific. This is also where we get into public commentary on exemplar work to hang in our classrooms so that our students know what it looks like to meet or not meet a given standard. After all, what good does it do them if they don’t know what they are working to achieve? I remember in year’s past (not in any of our teaching careers, of course!) when it was a great mystery to determine how one would get a given grade on an assignment. No more are those days. Now, by setting mock models of work with the commentary on them, our students know exactly what our expectations are of them as they are learning. And just think how much more they will learn with the expectation in front of them –in black and white!

After all, what good does it do them if they don’t know what they are supposed to learn?

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Helping Students Understand Differentiation

Years ago, courtesy of my team-teaching friend, Nicole, at the start of each year I would tell my students a story. The story went something like this: one child goes to the doctor with a stomachache while his sister goes to the doctor with a headache. What is the treatment for each? Is the the same? Is it equal? Is it fair? And thus would be my conversation into differentiation throughout the year. We would discuss how not everything would be the same (homework, reading groups, activities, etc.); not everything would be equal, but everything would be fair.

Enter a few years later when I had the amazing experience of attending a Rick Womeli workshop. He taught his students this same lesson through a different activity which I think is even more visual and easier to understand. He talked about taping a dollar bill (or a five dollar bill) high up on the classroom wall and calling on the tallest student in the room to get it down and keep it. He tapes another one and then calls on the shortest students who usually either asks another student for help or pulls a chair up for assistance, at which time he would stop the student and say that it was not okay to use assistance. Usually, the students come to the rescue saying that it’s not fair. Again, this leads into a wonderful conversation about fair and equal and differentiation in the classroom. Effective for most ages!

If you have never had the opportunity to hear Rick Wormeli speak, I highly recommend reading his book Fair Isn’t Always Equal. He explains standards, differentiation, recovery policies, and practical applications of all of the above. A timely book!

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