Who doesn’t love a great review game? Search for Gold, Trasketball, Eggspert, Group Fai-Tao — share your game ideas, and make my list grow. Kids are engaged. Excitement is high. Academic content swirls through the air. If my role in the game is low key, these are the days I leave with a light step. Game Day = Beautiful Day.
Yet sadly, review games rarely get prime time in my class anymore.
In spite of my review game adoration, I finally had to admit my students’** test scores in the last couple of semesters failed to be positively impacted by a full period, day-before-the-test, review game. Perhaps the application-level test content is to blame. Maybe it’s the batch of students. Perhaps students get a false sense of being prepared and then fail to study at home. Perhaps on the day before a test critical time is lost on the game elements or on questions students may not need to practice. Maybe I just stink at game administration. I wish I knew. (Send me your tips or action research.)
In the mean time, if boosted assessment scores are the goal, a day of pure skill-based differentiation has proven effective with my students**. Differentiation is such a broad topic, taking a million forms in the classroom. This particular recipe for
disaster results calls for three to four main groups completing tasks tailored to their deficits/strengths.
Differentiated Review Day was yesterday; the skill set: Solving quadratic equations using multiple methods. A formative assessment provided the baseline data to create the tasks and assign a portion of the groups. The rest assigned themselves by matching academic needs to the options given. The highest tier self-paced through a SAS Curriculum Pathways interactive applet (great resource for tons of subject areas). The feeder group worked autonomously on a Quadratic Equations Practice Guide. Group 3 started with a Quadratic Formula remedial worksheet and eventually joined the feeder group. Others joined a pull-out session at the board working on student-identified problems. As these students became more proficient, they bailed and advanced to the practice guide.
Now,let’s be clear. Differentiated Day = My Headache Day. Talk about earning your money!
Here are a few standards of operation for survival:
Demand student buy-in before ever starting. Differentiation is by nature difficult; without student cooperation it hits the level of nightmare.
Pull-out groups have to be a student’s choice. Remove student choice and waste time convincing students of the placement and need to embrace the help. When I remove the stigma of being designated low, most students I would have chosen for the teacher tutorial group place themselves there.
Set a priority. The pull-out group always gets my priority. Already confused and frustrated, they deserve my time and full attention. If I try to meet everyone’s needs while differentiating, I start hopping from student to student. It’s the pull-out group that gets disjointed explanations and completely shafted. Other students can find alternate sources of help or pick up the next worksheet on their own, because I …
Set-up a system that removes some of the teacher roles. Why not let technology or a well-designed worksheet with a built-in answer system give students the immediate feedback that they need? Depend on (and trust) student cooperation for classroom management. Set boundaries that promote a successful learning experience for all. Redefine the boundaries mid-stream if the water seems a little turbulent. Two minutes of solo work for all but the tutorial group works wonders. (This is normally followed by a request for 90% solo work.)
The end result: Test results that don’t give me a second headache. May the day of effective review games return to my classroom soon. Until then, the Differentiated Review Day will get some stage time.
**in my subject area, in my current school, for my classes