Posted in teaching

Things that work: Tiered assignments

No matter the subject area, no matter the school, no matter the class or the individuals in it, as teachers we realize that students have different goals for their learning, and we have different goals for their learning too.

Don’t get me wrong: The standards are the same. I just mean, that maybe we know a kid needs to work on a certain skill, or maybe we know where he wants to go in life, or how he is motivated, so we cater to that in our instruction.

One way to do this is though differentiated assignments. For instance, assignment “menus” where students pick various tasks within the menu to complete to demonstrate their competence.

One neat idea I’ve toyed with in the past, but actually go to use for the first time this school year is the idea of tiered assignments. The fact is: students learn language at different paces. Sure, we can aid that pace, but we can’t completely control it. This year, I had to come to grips that I had to provide (with 22 kids in the room) the same, somewhat modified, instruction to all of my kids (sure, i could supplement in small groups, etc.) knowing that half where native speakers of Spanish, and half were not. …and knowing that the content of the instruction was vital knowledge for their learning.

I had to come to grips with the fact that after a reading selection, the summaries of the native speaking 2nd graders would be full, developed, grammatically “ok”….while my non-native speakers at different proficiencies could do, well, various things. Some of them could tell me, some could draw it, some could write it…but not well, some could give me a better paragraph than a native Spanish speaker could.

In order to facilitate learning and gradable assignments, I started using this idea of different levels of assignments that targeted the same skill but required different levels of language proficiency to complete.

Taking this from a content based 2nd grade Dual Language classroom… back to secondary next year… here’s what I’d like to do:

Teach AP Spanish in the same classroom with my Spanish 3’s. I’d like to give them the same/ similar content…but, give them tiered assignments. You see, what happens a lot in smaller AP Spanish programs is this: the AP kids get stuck in the back of a room and do “independent study” aka: automatic “A” & probably not gonna pass…….

Instead, I’d rather teach them all–but then modify the assignments to meet them where they are in their proficiency and assess their progress that way.

It worked with 2nd graders… ask me next summer if it works with AP 🙂

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Spanish Teacher, in love with life, and dancing til its over. I like giraffes and chocolate. If we aren't living for God, then what are we living for?

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