Learning Specialist, Franklin Academy
Sara went to Syracuse University to get her undergraduate degree in secondary science education. While teaching, she realized how many students with disabilities were flying under the radar and not receiving the air that they needed from teachers. She decided to attend Southern Connecticut State University to get her Master's in special education with a concentration in assistive technology.
Differentiation: the word that makes teachers quake in their shoes thinking about all the extra work they’ll have to do.
Meeting all student needs has been a task for teachers for a very long time, but never ceases to make even the most experienced teacher anxious. In some schools, students are placed in homogenous classes based on their current skill level. But in each of my classes, though I only have about 6 students, each and every student is at a different level. This becomes even more complicated when you don’t want students to see how different their work may be from other students’.
Our skills-based program differs from most schools — instead of focusing on content, we have a list of skills that students need to learn, such as pulling out main ideas from a reading or how to design a scientific experiment, and use different content to teach those skills. In class, I will often model a skill for them, like going through a reading myself and talking through the steps I take out loud so the students can hear. It doesn’t matter if the reading is above or below the levels of some students, as they aren’t reading it; they just need to see the process I used to practice the skill. But then comes the independent or small group practice time and I’m stuck with the dilemma: what to do with all the different levels?
Handing out papers that don’t appear the same openly tells the class who needs a different assignment. Imagine the reactions of students who already struggle to keep their emotions in check on a daily basis or who have low self esteems from their experiences in past schools. Yikes!
Finding a way to assign students work that is on their level without pointing out their differences is key. Using Kiddom, I can virtually hand out a different assignment for each student, and they won’t have to see it. All they will see is that they were given an assignment, and then get straight to work. I can either choose the students that I would like to be sent a certain assignment or I can go to a specific student in the class and start an assignment from there. Emotions spared and skills practiced — check and check.
Students can independently complete their given assignment and submit them all online. I then go in, grade the assignment, and send messages to individual students if needed. Individual assignments, private grades and conversations all support my students in building skills and confidence. Kiddom allows me to provide students with practice on the skills that theyneed to work on and get feedback from me without fear of their peers overhearing.
Once assignments are graded and different students are grouped by their mastery of all the different skills assigned, I also have the option to assign work via mastery groups. I don’t have to go searching through the other grades to see who needs what; Kiddom saves time by calculating and organizing it all for me.
A lot of new teachers struggle trying to not only plan for their whole class, but then planning for individual students who may learn differently. You can have extra assignments made, but how do you assign them without making students upset? With Kiddom helping me operate my classroom, I can level my extremely unleveled classroom and keep my students engaged, focused, and happy.
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