This technique is especially important for differentiating instruction. Wes: Cubic units. Armstrong: (writing on the overhead] So the amount of cubic units that an object takes up. .and, Donte, I know you know the other word. What’s the other word for takes up? This technique yields two primary benefits. First, by using Stretch It to check for replicable understanding, you avoid falsely concluding that reliable Teacher: How’d you know to use two hundred miles for each inch? Student: I looked at the scale in the map key. â€¢ Ask for another way to answer. Often there are multiple ways to answer a question. When a student solves it one way, it’s a great opportunity to make sure they can use all available methods. mastery of material has been achieved without eliminating the possibility that luck, coincidence, or partial mastery led to a right answer to the question asked. Second, when students have indeed mastered parts of an idea, using Stretch It lets you give them exciting ways to push ahead, applying their knowledge in new settings, thinking on their feet, and tackling harder questions. This keeps them engaged and sends the message that the reward for achievement is more knowledge. Incidentally, this also helps you solve one of the thorniest classroom Asking frequent, targeted, challenges: differentiating instruction to rigorous questions of students students of different skill levels. We’re as they demonstrate mastery sometimes socialized to think we have to is a powerful and much break students up into different instruc- simpler tool for differentiating. tional groups to differentiate, giving them different activities and simultane- ously forcing ourselves to manage an overwhelming amount of complexity. Students are rewarded with a degree of freedom that’s as likely to yield discussions of last night’s episode of Ameri- can Idol as it is higher-order discussions of content. Asking frequent, targeted, rigorous questions of students as they demonstrate mastery is a powerful and much simpler tool for differentiating, By tailoring questions to individual stu- dents, you can meet students where they are and push them in a way that’s directly responsive to what they’ve shown they can already do. There are several specific types of Stretch It questions that are especially effective: Teacher: How far is it from Durango to Pueblo? Student: Six hundred miles Teacher: How’d you get that? Student: By measuring three inches on the map and adding two hundred plus two hundred plus two hundred. Teacher: Is here a simpler way than adding three times? Student I could have multiplied 200 times 3. Teacher: And when you do that you’d get what? Student: Six hundred Teacher: Very nice. That’s a better way. â€¢ Ask for a better word. Students often begin framing concepts in the simplest possible language. Offering them opportunities to use more specific words, as well as new words with which they are gaining familiarity, reinforces the crucial literacy goal of developing vocabulary. â€¢ Ask how or why. The best test of whether students can get answers right consistently is whether they can explain how they got the answer. Increasingly, state assessments ask these questions explicitly-one more reason for you to ask students to practice narrating their thinking process. Teacher: How far is it from Durango to Pueblo? Student: Six hundred miles Teacher: How’d you get that? Student: By measuring three inches on the map and adding two hundred plus two hundred plus two hundred. Teacher: Why did Sophie gasp, Janice? Student: She gasped because the water was cold when she jumped in. Teacher: Can you answer with a word different from cold, one that shows how cold it was?
Student: Sophie gasped because the water was freezing. Teacher: Okay, how about using one of our vocabulary words? Student: Sophie gasped because the water was frigid. Teacher: Very nice. â€¢ Ask for evidence. As students mature, they are increasingly asked to build and defend their conclusions and support opinions from among multiple possible answers. This is especially the case in the humanities. Who’s to say what the theme of the novel is, or what the author intended to show in a given scene? By asking students to describe evidence that supports their conclusion, you stress the process of building and supporting sound arguments in the larger world, where right answers are not so clear. You also give yourself grounds to avoid reinforcing poor but subjective interpretations, a task that is often challenging for teachers. You don’t have to say you don’t agrec, just ask for the proof. Teacher: And can you put that in the past tense? Student: “My brother and I strode down the wide street buy some candy at the store.” Teacher: Those were very challenging questions Charles, and look how well you handled them! Ask students to apply the same skill in a new setting. Once students have mastered a skill, consider asking them to apply it in a new or more chal- lenging setting Teacher: So what’s the setting of our story? Student: Teacher: How would you describe Dr. Jones’s personality? What traits is he showing? Student: He’s spiteful. Teacher: And spiteful means? Student: Spiteful means that he’s bitter and wants to make other people unhappy Teacher: Okay, so read me two sentences from the story that show us that Dr. Jones is spiteful. The setting is in a town called Sangerville in the recent past. Teacher: Good. I notice that you remembered both parts of setting.
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