Monday, January 18, 2016

What's the Deal With Tiered Activities in Social Studies?

Meeting the needs of all learners in a classroom can be enough to rattle the brain of any teacher. It gets a LOT easier using tiered activities. Each group of students comes at an assignment from a different direction, offering more learning for everyone! It's a differentiated instruction strategy that really works!

What is Tiered Instruction?

Tiered activities are parallel tasks that vary in difficulty, and abstractness and use different levels of support and direction. Basically, it allows students of different levels of readiness to work towards the same goal (understanding) in a way that is most useful for them. Below is a quick and easy way to understand how to construct a tiered activity for your classroom.

Why use Tiered Instruction?

It's the Goldilocks idea: Students work on assignments that are neither too hard, nor too easy, but instead are just right.

Keep in mind:

1. When dividing students into tier groups, students are NOT put into ability groups. Students are clustered according to their readiness and comprehension of the particular material being presented. They may be in a group that needs more support for one activity, and a group that needs less support for another area that interests them more.

2.  Tier groups do different assignments as teachers using Bloom's Taxonomy as a guide to building the assignments.  One group who needs reinforcement will do an activity that builds understanding, another group that understands the material will do an activity to extend what they already know. All groups use different assignments to achieve understanding of the same material.

3. If you know your group's multiple intelligences, you can also use that information to form groups. One group would use bodily/kinesthetic to make a short skit, another visual group might make a poster.

4.  Make sure to make each tier activity interesting and engaging. The more flexible you are in grouping students each time, the more students will accept a variety of assignments as the norm. In other words, if students see the grouping as "the smart kids" and "the dumb kids" they will not take kindly to tiered grouping.

5. Start with key concepts, skills and ideas you want all students to know. Make sure each activity meets those goals.

5. Students share what they have learned or done with the class.

Let's take a look at a tiered activity for government:

Group one: Ask students to use the text book to make a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the executive branch to the legislative branch of government. Include a sketch that would represent each branch with the diagram.

Group two: Ask student to use at least two resources to compare and contrast the judcial branch of government to the legislative branch. Students will construct a poster to show what they have learned.

Group three: Students will choose another country in the world and research its governmental structure. Ask students to construct a short skit that shows the similarities and differences between our country and the one they have chosen.

Group four: Ask students to use what they have learned about the United States governmental structure to create their own country. They must include a governmental structure, a constitution and symbols of the country.

You can tell from reading each tier, that it goes from easiers to more challenging. In sharing with the class what they have learned, all students benefit from the activities of the other.

Have you used tiered activities in your classroom? If so, tell about them below!

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