I noticed that students both needed and wanted a quick and engaging introduction to content. Instead of simply asking what do you know about this topic students prior knowledge is activated through a often funny yet very informative video segment on a topic. These videos are great for introduciing Social Studies content because they take often large and abstract topics and make them accessible for students.
Students rarely have the opportunity to show in an authentic what way what they have learned and what they can do with the knowledge they have obtained. To this end, it has been my philosophy to provide students with a task that requires a deeper depth of knowledge rather than traditional paper-pencil assessment. Performance task data that reflects a deeper understanding of content and tasks students to transfer their knowledge to novel situations matters most. As a school community, the transition to a competency based learning model has signaled a change in the way teachers deliver content and the way students are assessed. Independent Performance Tasks measure student learning when they are ready to assess. Similarly, leveraging the power of technology has been instrumental to making the assessment process a positive experience for students.
Like It-Love It-Gotta Have It is a strategy I use to differentiate assignments within my micro-groups in a Live Investigation. The three names are, in my opinion, a better way of saying high, medium and low. The kids really love the names. In a Live Investigation, there is usually varying levels of abillity or knowledge in that particular skill. By making a high, medium, and low activity, students have the ability to challenge themselves at their own level. I assign different parts of the room for each activity so I can physically see where the students are. Most of the time, I let the students self-assess and they move throughout the room according to which level they are. They are free to move (up or down) from one section to the next. Most of the activites I assign here are digital. I really like using Khan Academy here, as I can track students physically as well as digitally. With this strategy, I can also target the students at the Like It level and allow the Gotta Have it students to fly a bit on their own.
My colleagues and I have students write a Synopsis of their learning after every Independent Learning Zone period as well as after Live Investigations. The Synopsis acts as a reflective tool for both large and small concepts. I often tell my students to write what they actually learned or improved upon, not what they THINK I want them to write. I train my students to make a space for the Synopsis in their notebook headings. Occasionally, I will have my students read their Synopses out loud, but most often I walk around and do a quick check, as they are mostly a personal reflection for my students.