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Who are my learners?

January 28, 2013

The essential question for this week is:

What tools might provide me insight into the learners in my classroom and how might I use this information?

I have tools such as AIMSWeb, Lexia, MobyMath and MAP test scores that identify student’s strengths and weaknesses in academic areas. I am very glad to have a variety of testing tools so that I can compare the data and zero in on the academic needs. In sharing the data with students and their parents we can set goals for learning, and monitor progress over time.

Once we have determined the areas of academic strengths and weaknesses, there are some additional factors that we should consider. The emotions of our students sometimes get in the way of learning. You can find a great post on this subject at Azhar’s blog.   Reading Azhar’s reflections reminded me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is hard to focus on learning if our basic needs are not met or if we do not feel safe.

At this point in the year, I feel I have learned much about my students. However, it never hurts to learn more. A list of suggested resources was posted on our class website. I have read through these and am in the process of trying to create a survey that 1st graders might be able to do. I want to try creating something on survey monkey, just to see if I can make it work. My school has a computer lab and a projector, so I could in theory walk my students through it. An easier and more practical way for me, that would probably yield more accurate results would be to use my Promethean board with the activotes.

Knowing a student’s interests can help increase motivation. Sometimes I can tie the learning to the area of interest. Sometimes I use the area of interest as a reward. For example, if you work hard at this (teacher chosen) activity, then you can read the dinosaur book (student chosen) for the last 5 min. Choice can be a powerful tool in differentiating instruction.

I found a template for incorporating multiple intelligences in our task choices in a packet about choice boards that I  download. I can not seem to make a link to it, but you can find it too by simply typing “choice boards” into your search bar. You will see one of the search results is “(PDF) Choice Boards). There are several nice examples there including this one.

Choice board

The sources sited for this graphic were:

Heacox, Diane. “Promoting Student Independence and Responsibility in Academically Diverse Classrooms. 2005 ASCD         Annual Conference. Orlando, FL. April 2005

Wormeli, Rick. Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom. Portland, ME: Stenhouse, 2006. P. 65-66.

I found a site that offered differentiated math activities in the format of a choice board.

I also watched the video below. It describes how different colors can be used to show different levels of difficulty or different learning style. Sometimes different boards are created for different groups of learners.  I like the idea of a tic-tac-toe board. I think students would like the challenge of completing three activities that would get them three in a row. I plan to try this in my classroom.

Someone put the link to this video Twitter. I found it very helpful.

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6 Comments
  1. Sharon permalink

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post because I am teaching first grade also. What I struggle with is the hierarchy of important things to do. In my mind, I battle with what activity, lesson etc. is going to reach the most students or all of them. I have to weigh if the time I take out of the day to show them something new will be worth it in the long run. So far, there is very little, technology-wise, that I am willing teach them because I do not see the pay off in first grade. We have other important foundations to lay first so that they are successful in subsequent grades. It is always a struggle and will continue to be one as class sizes get higher and we must try and reach everyone.

    • Yes, there are always many things we struggle with as teachers. Just when I am congratulating myself at doing a good job in one area, I notice another that needs work. I am very lucky to teach at a school that has a computer lab. I also have a Promethean board in my room. This makes it a little easier to integrate technology I think. I agree that we must stay focused on our learning goals because there is so little time and so much to accomplish. I find the computer to be very motivating for my group of 1st graders.

  2. I agree giving students choices related to their interested is a powerful motivator and possible reward. I get bogged down with the Middle School environment and often times do not give my students enough choices. I use my Promethean board everyday and use the Activotes weekly, it is a huge asset.

  3. Dear Lori,
    Always amaze me. I enjoyed reading your post so much. You shared a lot of tools that can help me understand my students well. Your way to tie learning to something students like is a great source of extrinsic motivation. Actually, I start with such rewards when teaching my EFL students. Once they are involved, step by step they move towards intrinsic motivation. A problem may arise when they stick to such extrinsic rewards and learn for testing, getting high marks or showing off. I think we have to take care of our students’ emotions as well.

    Thank so much for sharing!
    If you have time, please visit my week 2 reflections and leave a comment to me.
    http://azharreflections.blogspot.com/2013/01/know-your-students-before.html

  4. Hi Lori,

    I enjoyed reading your post. It sounds like there are many academic assessments you use to gain information on your students. I agree that choice is such an important factor in learning and it allows students to take charge of their own learning, which we are also doing! Are there any interest surveys that you do at the beginning of the year to learn what kinds of things your students are interested in? I taught Kindergarten for the last 2 years and do mini conferences with my students during the first week of school. I ask them questions such as what do you like to read, what do you like to do outside, at home, etc. This provides me with a great deal of information about my students. It also makes the students feel important as I take the time to sit down and learn more about them. I use this information throughout the year to find books for students, plan units, and to motivate learners. I feel it is such an important part of establishing relationships at the beginning of the year so that we can then dive into the academics.

  5. Lori,

    Sorry for such a delayed response, but I wanted to make sure I mentioned how much I enjoyed your post! With just this reading I can tell that you have your students in mind first and foremost in your teaching. It was refreshing to read about how you get to know your students before moving forward with assessments. Then from there you still kept them first by reflecting and referring back to them and how the tools were not only beneficial to you, but to your students as well!

    I also enjoyed the part in your post about being aware of student needs as well as student engagement. Often times we forget about the wonderful works of Maslow and how they are still applicable to our teaching today. The needs of our students ties into their engagement and this is important to remember for any teacher. Increased engagement means increased learning and I’m glad you touched on this. Once again, another refreshing piece to your post to read.

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