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Instructional Practice

5 Strategies to Increase Rigor and Maximize Time at the End of the School Year

Written By Paul Needham, TE Instructional Coach and Professional Learning Specialist

What do I do now?

You may find yourself asking this question as the school year draws to a close. As a fifth grade science teacher, I had several weeks between when my students took their standardized test and when the year was over. Below are some of the strategies I used in that setting to drive learning and help my students make a smooth transition to the next grade. These methods can be widely applied to other subject areas and classrooms. Feel free to steal these outright or amend them to fit your own situation!

1) Project-Based Remediation

Projects are a great way to increase the investment that students feel towards classroom content. Students will be held accountable for all information from your class, regardless of how well they did on the standardized test, so use this structure as a way to remediate individually for each student. Projects can be experimental or research based and can be assigned to students based on their areas of weakness. For example, I would give my students who struggled with Earth Science a project on fossils and continental drift while my students who struggled with Physical Science received a project on force and motion.

2) Give Them a Head Start

Every class has that one unit that captivates the students. For me it was often the idea of evolution and adaptations, but it could just as easily be Shakespeare, the events leading up to World War II, or calculating interest on a loan. A great way to give your students a head start as they leave your class is to preview a unit or topic that they will be responsible for next year. I taught a 6th grade life-science unit that focused on adaptations that both engaged my students and put them at the head of the class as they headed to middle school.

3) Improve Problem-Solving Skills

If the previous example is scaffolding content, you can also scaffold the level at which your students interact with the material from your own class. If adaptations was what my class was really interested in, rather than finding similar objectives in later grades, I could increase the level on Bloom’s Taxonomy on which I taught the lesson. Instead of explaining how a particular animal is suited to its environment (which was the standard), I would have my students create new animals to fill an environmental niche that one of their peers suggested.

4) Cross-Curricular Applications

If you partner with another teacher (if secondary) or incorporate other subjects (if self-contained) you can not only build more robust projects for your students, but also show them how the content from multiple subjects applies to each another. For example, a strong science experiment is made even stronger with scholarly sources (reading), a college-level write-up (writing), and a presentation that incorporates visual aids (math and technology).

5) Incorporate Families

This is one of those things that all teachers struggle to find the time to do. This is the perfect time of year to strengthen parental relationships. Hold a parent meeting at the onset of your project, call home often to update parents on the progress of their student, and hold a community unveiling of any products that your class make. This will not only provide additional motivation for your students during the project but build stronger ties between your school and the community!

This list is by no means perfect or complete. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments! And as you begin to incorporate these ideas into your own class and improve them, please pass along any suggestions so that others can benefit from your experimentation! Have a great end of your year and Teach ‘em up!

Discussion

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  1. Pingback: TEam Member Spotlight: Paul Needham « The Teaching Excellence Program - June 7, 2012

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