By Hilary Pietz
The “I Wonder”
In the first few months of school, most educators evaluate the needs of their learners. I tend to focus on needs of my learners and how to make growth. In the past, I have had a heavy focus on the students who are struggling with expected skills in 5th grade. This year, I took a step back and wondered how I could challenge my learners who were showing prior knowledge of 5th grade skills. I wondered, how could I make this year a challenge for them? I wondered, could I host a before school program to offer enrichment for these students? I wondered, would my principal be willing to let me jump in? I figured you never know until you ask.
My wonders were met with excitement and approval. Students were selected based on academic criteria and 6 out of 6 returned permission forms with notes from parents expressing excitement over the new program. Active engagement was key for this project to work. The first day, the students arrived eager to jump in. We sat down and I expressed my overall goal. The students then created a plan of action (voice and choice) to achieve that goal: challenge math skills and create tutorials for the other learners in our classroom, while keeping to the pacing set by the district math coaches.
Students Taking Charge
After we set our plan and goals, the students jumped in. The Enrichment group knew they needed to cover certain materials before they could start their project. The focus I saw from this group was incredible. Once we covered our learning goal, I allowed the students to create tutorials. During regular class time, students worked in small groups to create “Khan Academy” style videos to teach their peers the focus skill and act as “Student Teachers” during our math rotation block. They felt video formats such as Khan Academy and Learnzillion were good, but they wanted videos that were made by kids, for kids, and so our project was born.
A challenge I found was the balance between teacher driven and student driven instructional time. I feel that since we focused on created a plan before they started, student were on task and used their time well. Students in my class loved the mixture of teacher driven instruction and the opportunity to learn from classmates and provide feedback.
Student Teaching Videos and Feedback
The Enrichment group created three videos in their small groups focusing on different ways to solve division problems. The groups selected how they wanted to solve problems, as well as had to develop a division problem that had an answer that fit our 5th grade standard.
The Enrichment group used Seesaw to post their videos for the class to access. They asked if they could get feedback from the class as they watched the videos, so I adjusted the settings to allow class comments. After watching the videos, students were able to give feedback by either written or voice recording. The Enrichment group then took notes in their math journals as to how to improve their future videos.
Reflection and Moving Forward
Reflecting on our time frame, and goal, the students decided they would like to continue working in this direction. They really enjoyed getting classmate feedback, as well as knowing videos could be watched at home by both students and parents. They enjoyed the idea that they might “teach” the parents at home who are not familiar with the Common Core methods.
Hilary Pietz is a Grade 5 Teacher and a Digital Learning Coach at Colt Andrews Elementary School.