By Sarah Kasprowicz, WATG Board
“I’m not talking about pushing. We’re only talking about giving students what they’re ready for.”
These wise words were spoken by Dr. Susan Assouline, the Myron and Jacqueline N. Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education at the University of Iowa during her appearance in Jonathan Plucker’s Bright Now podcast, “Types of Acceleration.”
I teach sixth grade language arts and science in the Merton Community School District in Wisconsin. It is important for me to think in similar terms when planning for my students so they don’t get stuck in a spin-cycle of repetitive tasks that they already know how to do. “What are they ready for?” I asked myself. I decided to ask my students. I started out with a question they’ve never heard before. “What do you want language arts to look like this year, and what is a waste of your time?”
I didn’t have to wait long for a response. Three faces lit up and three pairs of eyebrows shot to the ceiling.Then they all started talking at once as I raced to keep up; scribbling notes as they went.
“Worksheets and practice are a waste of my time.”
“Going over everything a bunch of times when I’ve got it.”
“I want to write more stories.”
In our school district, we use local norms and data to match programming options with our students. All three of the students who responded above are in our accelerated math program, a single subject acceleration, but they also need acceleration in order to learn something new each day in language arts. Our MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) data report indicates that not only are these three students scoring the highest in sixth grade, they also compare to the top two to ten percent of our current eighth graders.
In our district, we also use EOs (Essential Outcomes). I believe spending time working with our sixth grade EOs for reading would be a waste of their time. Our EOs are what we expect at each grade level and are based on our Teachers’ College Units of Study for Reading Workshop and Common Core Standards. I can easily use local MAP reports to match each individual’s goals with what we expect in seventh and eighth grade, and these students have already mastered many of our sixth grade EOs. Why should I put them through the sixth grade EOs again? They don’t need it. So I don’t. Each time we have a new EO for reading, I do a quick exit slip to see what my students are ready for. Once I verify that my trio of gifted students don’t need more work in a sixth grade EO, I meet with my them to plan. I look at what our 7th and 8th grade language arts teachers have for EOs in the same category, and then I use the MAP reports that show what each reader is ready to learn. They do not need the mini-lessons that go with the unit, so I don’t make them attend. I meet with them as a small group instead.
Here is an example of what we did for our EO for Character and EO for Theme during our first Unit of Study, Deep Study of Character.
If you are an educator, I encourage you to find ways to accelerate within your classroom. It’s okay for some students to do something different in your class if that’s what they need. If you don’t think they need a lesson, you don’t have to have them attend it. It all comes back to those wise words, “We’re only talking about giving students what they’re ready for.”
If you have questions or comments, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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