A response to the question:
My question is two fold. How do I provide challenging work for a gifted student? How can I scaffold learning experiences for the others during test time and help them relax while still learning?
I have been thinking about this ever since I first read it, and I am still not sure what my full answer is, but I did want to let you know we received your question.
As for providing scaffolding for the students who are still becoming proficient, I think it is important to test the way you teach. If students are using models or other tools to practice, then they might be given the option to use them during the testing situation.
You might also consider structuring the test so that a third of the problems are easy, a third mid-level, and a third challenging. That will give you an idea of how much of the knowledge they can apply, since most of the challenging problems will probably be beyond the scope of just simple responses.
I give my fifth grade students the opportunity to take the tests home (in all the core subject areas) and correct them for a better grade on the test. I give half credit for each corrected answer, and require that the test be signed by a parent. This gives my students the chance to learn a bit more, keeps the parents involved in what we are learning in the classroom, and helps my students realize that they have control of what they learn, and are ultimately responsible for their learning.
As for challenging the gifted students, I try to begin each lesson with a very short assessment of what we will be covering. I always try something quick and easy to grade. If a student gets 100% on this assessment, I have an alternate assignment for him/her to work on in the back of the room, usually with a partner. These alternative activities often involve applying the basic skill being learned, looking for patterns, suing a calculator, etc.
For example, when we were exploring area of triangles, the group that demonstrated that they could already find the area of right triangles was given a large geoboard (25 X 25) with four scalene triangles. Their job was to think about how we had used the geoboards to find the areas of the right triangles (creating a rectangle, and then halving that area), and then work together to find a way to determine the area of these triangles. They were able to make a rough estimate of the areas because they could count the squares on the geoboard, but they could not find the rectangle the way they had been because the angles were not going to be corners for the rectangle.
So, they talked and debated, and darned if they did not come up with a strategy that worked. Then dropped a line from the "top" of each triangle, then made two rectangles, one for each side, then halve the areas of the two. They told me all they had to do was add them together to get the area.
The rest of the group was still struggling to see how the right triangles related to the rectangles. They were not ready to step into this exploration but would not it have been shameful to keep that advanced group from exploring?
-Gail, for the T2T service
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