Saturday, March 31, 2012

How Flipping Helps... to differentiate for my struggling learners

As I've mentioned in previous posts, my Algebra 1 classes are separated into two sides, basically the kids who come prepared and do their work and can work with others in positive ways, and those who don't come prepared, don't watch the videos (even in class sometimes), and can't work even with a partner and stay focused on a task very well.

These are obviously my "very low" students - they failed first semester and are missing very basic math skills such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.  They pretty much gave up on my class back in September.

I want them to leave my class at least learning something, so I have started to differentiate with them and hope that they at least take something from each chapter that we cover.

This last week, I had put together several different "activities" (mainly card-sort games) covering factor trees, factoring, zero product property, perfect squares, parts of quadratics, etc - all things we are covering in Chapter 9.  Instead of having them BS their way through the assigned problems that they don't have the basic knowledge for, I partnered them up and gave them one of the card sort activities to work on for the period.

I saw some very positive things from this:

1. Those students actually learned something, even if they didn't master the mainstream content.  One student who literally has about a 10% in my class worked on factor trees all week and actually got those problems right on the test!  She has literally not gotten anything right all year, and to see little successes I just hope that encourages her to keep working.

2.  These students had a task that they could focus on because it was "game-like" and had a goal.  Even if they were not 100% focused like the other side of the class and their discussions were far from being "high-level", they were much more focused and learning than if they were just working on the problem sets and quizzes like the rest of the students.

What this makes me think for the future:

1. Will ideas like this help to lead to a more mastery-based classroom for next year?  Is it better for those low students to still "fail" (receive an F on their report card) but actually MASTER Chapters 1-3 instead of just skimming over Chapters 1-6 and not understanding any of it for the first semester?  And, if that is the case, where would those students begin the 2nd semester at?  (With schedule changes at semester/different teachers, this could be an issue)

2.  I need to have activities/games like those (card sorts are so easy to make) for all chapters and concepts.  It is the same type of practice, but more hands on and doesn't feel as much like "work".