Elementary Science

Different levels of understanding

I teach a small classroom of 5 students and sometimes there is a really fast learner and someone either not engaged or really behind in the material (or both!). How do I account for different levels of understanding in a classroom? Who do I gear my lesson towards? What if there were more than a couple students really not grasping the material...but still less than a majority? Thanks for any advice!

Tammy Vu
Tammy Vu
30 Activity Points

Tammy, this is just my experience but I always teach to the higher learners in my classroom, especially when it comes to science. In fact I invite the resource teachers to bring their students when we are conducting a lab. It is very hard to distinguish between which students are in resource and which ones are in "regular" classes. Just because students are strong in one area doesn't mean they will do well in all areas. Students also love to be assistant teachers and help other students. When we teach others something, it increases our understanding. You can even take a lesson or experiment and use it on level with your whole group, then allow those who struggle with the concept to remain with you to explore further while those who understand it, move on with the same content but work on creating a model or drawing of it to present it in a different context.

Pamela Dupre
Pamela Dupre
90494 Activity Points

Tammy, I am currently in my final days at the University of Northern Iowa before I begin my student teaching.  I have never actually had a class of my own but through my field experiences and education, I have a couple of suggestions that I believe would work well in your classroom.  The first strategy that could be really effective is using peer groups.  I know the numbers are small, but if students are really understanding the material well, then you can pair them with students who might be struggling to see if they can assit that child understand the material.  I have seen this work very well in a group setting in my field experiences.  Another thing you could to keep everyone engaged is tier the lesson or questions that are being used in the lesson.  The sheets or activities don't have to look different, but maybe one sheet might have a lot harder numbers than the others.  This is a great way to ensure everyone is engaged in the lesson and still learning at the same time. Also, I don't believe you should every dumb down your lessons or standards for your students.  Every student is capable of understanding material, it just might look different that how others understood it.  Understanding is crucial for students, and I thnk that if students aren't understanding things it's important to try new methods or strategies to ensure everyone understands the material before moving on.

Dakota Dix
Dakota Dix
2500 Activity Points

Hello,

What I've earned in several education classes and a couple of experiences in teaching students, making accommodations for your students is important. If you have students not engaged, have a student volunteer for the classroom or play games involving the material you are teaching. If a student is learning material slower than others, try to spend a little more time with them and find strategies that help them. If more than a couple of students are not grasping the material, try approaching the material in a different manner where students may understand better. Breaking the material down into parts could be beneficial. Use Bloom's Taxonomy to help asses the students. Think about the pace of your lesson and if you are asking students that they understand during the lesson. Allow the students to have student interaction as well like Think, Pair, and Share which is where the students gather their thoughts and then share with a partner or group. This will help with student engagement and learning.

Alicia Salazar
Alicia Salazar
769 Activity Points

One thing I have done is leveled puzzles...not hand outs but actual puzzles. If a student finishes their work, they can go to a side table and work on a puzzle of their choice. I started with simple puzzles but over the course of the year, I increased their difficulty. I used jigsaw puzzles or tangrams...I found one kind of puzzle where all the pieces were square with four different pictures on each side and the pieces fit together in only one way--these were extremely challenging and students took many days/weeks to complete (sorry I don't remember what they were called). Puzzles are quiet, independent activities. With only five students, they could collaborate on more difficult puzzles. If they are old enough, you could have them design a puzzle for their peers and let them actually print/cut the puzzle to give to the other students. Great way to engage them in  and teach about the design process.

Lisa Mitchell
Lisa Mitchell
955 Activity Points

Lisa -- This sounds like an interesting idea, using actual puzzles rather than "handouts." Puzzles and three-dimensional challenges would address a variety of thinking and motor skills. It would also be interesting to debrief with the students as they work--What strategies have you tried? What do you do when something doesn't work out? How would you explain the puzzle to someone else? How could you make the puzzle easier or more challenging? What patterns do you notice? This thinking could help them focus on the puzzle as a learning event, in addition to being a fun thing to do!

Mary B. 

Mary Bigelow
Mary Bigelow
9570 Activity Points

Lisa, what  a great idea. I have to do hands on, blind learning every week next year and your idea will allow me to incorporate an alternative to computer time. I used paper puzzles and or word searches but now this would help me to move closer to paperless learning.

Shontell Davis
Shontell Davis
2162 Activity Points

Lisa, 

I really like this idea! I have never seen leveled puzzles in a classroom. I like the idea of using the leveled puzzles for their quiet work after they've finished their initial task to futher their understanding about the design process. 

Danielle Hanning
Danielle Hanning
610 Activity Points

Mary...I LOVE the idea of debriefing students to learn what strategies worked/did not work. That is something that can be done at any grade level! Thank you for sharing that idea!

Lisa

Lisa Mitchell
Lisa Mitchell
955 Activity Points

I think with a classroom of 5 students, it is possible to teach to each student's needs. It can be tough considering it creates extra work for each lesson, but it will be worth it for the students' sake. Another thing I have had success with (and this may be hard to do for every lesson) is finding something that gets each student excited and differentiating your lesson to revolve around that subject. Maybe some students are more interested in plants and some are more interested in animals. You could create lessons based off of student interests if they are having trouble engaging with your regular lessons. 

Blake Miller
Blake Miller
1795 Activity Points

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