Today was one of those days that gives you hope. Where you feel like maybe we have been doing something all of these weeks together. That perhaps the students are on their path to personalize, to take ownership of their learning. To do all of those things I get a chance to tell others to try. And it was not because I did anything revolutionary, but instead because I relied on an old method of differentiating, a method that I have not yet perfected, yet it gives us all greater insight every time. This is best used with something the students have already tried.
It is simple; with whatever task you want students to do ask them to divide themselves into three groups; those that would like to work with support of a teacher, those that would like to work with the support of a peer, and those that would like to support a peer. Then let them go into those groups, even if you think it may not be the right choice for someone. Pair students up in the two peer groups and have them do the learning task while you work with the other kids. That’s it for this time.
Here comes the best bit of this; once they have done the task and you have looked at it (I quickly glanced at their work today and assigned them a score according to the criteria we set), then the following day you regroup them based on their scores. Why? Because some kids inevitably need support that they did not get the day before. Some kids are ready to support their peers and do not know it. And others just need one more time with the same type of assignment but in a new way.
So why bother with the self grouping in the first place? Because it gives you invaluable insight to the confidence (and ability) of the students. This way you get a chance to see how they view themselves and it allows you to have some deeper conversations as to their skills. Yes, I had to bite my tongue as a few kids made choices I was not sure of, but it turned out that some of them knew themselves and their needs a lot better than I did.
And there you have it, an easy way to gauge students’ skills, confidence, and needs.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) just came out!