Q&A #1577

Teaching techniques

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From: Gail (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: May 28, 1999 at 18:33:31
Subject: Re: Teaching techniques

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 recieved
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

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 aften 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

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

 -Gail, for the Teacher2Teacher service

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