The moment has arrived and many MS science teachers in TUSD are about to embark on Unit 1 as we have designed for the NGSS. The pilot of Unit 1 will be very telling as to where the supports are needed. At this point, I am trying to predict where teachers may need additional support. I will begin with this first resource post to hopefully help fulfill the need of supporting struggling students.
Since the assessment tasks were written using a tiered and differentiated approach, there will be times when students will need additional support to reach mastery. I want to begin by explaining that the tiered approach is only one way to differentiate. In an article found in Education Week by an instructional coach, Lisa Westman, differentiation can be classified into four categories.
Our tiered assessments mainly fall into the Process category through scaffolding and flexible pacing. However, all of these instructional strategies can be fit into our daily practices as we become aware of individual student needs.
Pulling Small Groups
In order to meet the needs of the struggling students, they will need to be pulled from the larger group into smaller groups to offer the supports that are needed. These will be flexible groups that will change often and will be determined by EL levels, formative data, and where students are within the assessments. The infographic below helps to explain the teacher and student workflow through each part of the assessment tasks. The blue arrows represent teacher work flow and the black arrows represent students who are able to continue to move forward on their own without support. It is important that we let students struggle on their own before coming to their rescue with guidance and direction. This builds resiliency and problem-solving skills that many of our students need to aquire.
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Tool Kit for Struggling Students
Using this instructional model, you may ask yourself what you are going to do to help the struggling students? There is not going to be a one size fits all answer, but I have put together this Tool Kit for Struggling Students that may help you come up with a few strategies to help build academic vocabulary or improve literacy skills to help them continue on with the assessment task. I will continue to add to and revise this tool kit as we work through this year together. However, I wanted to make sure you had a few tools to begin this process of differentiating to support students in reaching mastery.
Cari Williams is a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for the Tustin Unified School District in Southern California. She holds a MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Cal State Fullerton and works on the side as a consultant writing science and STEAM curriculum and training teachers. After working for 12 years in the classroom as a middle school science and STEAM teacher, she transitioned into the role of Digital Learning Coach in 2013. In this role, Cari helped teachers innovate curriculum and shift pedagogies through the integration of educational technologies. Her most current work as a TOSA is focused on engineering design in robotics, computer science, and Makerspaces. She is an official VEX Robotics event partner hosting tournaments for teams from around Southern California as well as leading 28 robotics programs servicing over 100 teams in the Tustin Unified School District. Although her expertise has taken her deep into STEAM education, she remains passionate and engaged in helping teachers transition to the NGSS through participating as a Science Peer Review Panelist for Achieve and as a Professional Learning Facilitator for NSTA.