How do you make content accessible and engaging for students of all achievement levels?

Team Extreme: Clifton, Tom, Matt, Beth, Cati, Lizzie... multidisciplinary staff development made fun

Our Initial deas for Differentiated Unit design

CT Feedback

For this project, we developed a multidisciplinary approach to differentiating instruction in order to engage students at all levels. We have observed the difficulty of challenging some students while providing the appropriate amount of scaffolding for others. At the most basic level, we have designed this project to reflect the fact that students will enter a unit with varying amounts of background knowledge. Differentiated instruction that begins with pre-assessment to determine students' background knowledge has been shown to be a sound pedagogical approach to compacting the curriculum for students who already grasp the essential knowledge and can move on to enrichment and/or extension activities. Thus, we have expanded a basic social studies lesson, incorporating primary sources, scientific modes of inquiry, and cultural perspectives to broaden the scope of students' knowledge. By linking to knowledge from other disciplines, doing independent research, and teaching their content to the rest of the class, students collaboratively construct a richer context for the essential social studies knowledge.

This model differentiates for both different levels of previous knowledge and student interest, and we have incorporated individual tasks as well as cooperative group work. First, an online pre-assessment tool (Dr. Hofer--if you want to try our quiz here is your user name: teacherCRINS07 and your password is TestStudent which will give you one try at the quiz) also functions to assess students' previous knowledge and interests in order to best pair them with one of several web-based inquiry projects. Based on their grasp of the essential knowledge of the unit and their individual interests, students will explore different aspects of the Triangle Trade and ultimately present their knowledge to their peers as groups, co-teaching in order to enrich everyone's understanding. Technology adds inherent value by facilitating independent student inquiry into historical sources in order to answer research questions. Because students are embarking on independent projects online that are suited to their pre-assessment scores and interests, this model engages all students.

If you walked into a ninth grade World History classroom where students were beginning a mini-unit on the Triangle Trade, the students would all be on individual laptops borrowed from the media center in order to independently complete an online pre-assessment. Students will answer questions about the Triangle Trade, products that were traded, historical time period, important players, and the impact on indigenous peoples in the Americas.

Students will be asked to record their pre-assessment scores and then visit this website which will recommend a project option to students based on their level of previous knowledge and interests. If students do not know what is essential for this unit (outlined above), they will be directed into the more basic web-inquiry task that addresses these important questions. This basic historical scene investigation project will be the most scaffolded by directing students to specific websites and providing a graphic organizer for them to organize their findings.

Students who already have a grasp of the essential knowledge will have a choice between three web-based inquiry projects; they will choose their project based on their interest in either science, individual historical perspectives, or culture and art. Students who indicate an interest in science will be asked to explore the design of slave ships, how ocean temperatures and currents effect buoyancy, and other ocean and weather related impacts on the slave trade. Students who indicate an interest in individual historical perspectives will examine how the various individuals involved in the triangle trade represented and communicated their experiences and desires as well as portrayed the various positive and negative impacts of the trade on their own lives. Finally, students who indicate an interest in the cultural and artistic aspects of the triangle trade would examine and analyze how cultural and artistic artifacts portray the triangle trade.

In all cases, students will have the opportunity to talk with their teacher about switching to another option if they feel like the pre-assessment did not direct them to a project that they would like to pursue. Our argument is that students will be more motivated to do a better job on a project that reflects their level of previous knowledge as well as their interests.

At all levels, students will answer research questions as they work independently to complete a web-based inquiry project. Students will demonstrate individual accountability by providing the answers to the research questions for their particular project. The students who are reviewing the essential knowledge for the unit will have the further support of a teacher-created graphic organizer for this individual task. Students working on the same topic will not sit next to each other in order to ensure that students' individual effort is measured at this point. Afterward, students who investigated the same topic will work together to combine their knowledge and present the outcome of their investigations to their classmates in a group presentation. This is a demo powerpoint of the group presentation for the initial inquiry level. Students will receive a rubric to guide their preparation for the group task. Student-created group presentations wrap up the model, acting as a class-wide jigsaw so that all students learn about the different topics all engaging the theme of the Triangle Trade.

The lesson we have outlined above on the Triangle Trade meets Virginia Standard of Learning objectives WHII.4.E, WHII.4.F, WHII.1.A and National Council for the Social Studies Standard VII.