Early this year in grade 7 humanities, I worked in a team of four teachers to created a levelled explorer’s task to personalize and meet the needs of our varying learners. To begin the task, we opened the barn doors of our classrooms and explained to students we would be dividing classes into three groups according to how each person self-assessed where they were currently working in regards to their wiring ability. To engage students in this process, we used the connection to a ski hill:
- Green – working on perfecting our sentence structure.
- Blue – working on creating a well-strutured paragraph with a topic sentence and supporting details
- Double Black Diamond – working on writing multi-paragraph responses that connect and flow together
We explained to students they had to provide a rationale as to why they were selecting the level they did, and provide a work example – from any class – to support their choice.
After sorting students, classes were then inter-mixed and students were directed to one particular teacher/location. The vast majority of our learners chose “blue”, so two teachers and one student teacher working with these learners in the learning commons. This resulted in the lower students having a smaller teacher-to-student ratio, with an educational assistant supporting this group. As well, our higher students were able to be challenged.
The task was quite similar for all students, with one significant difference. The following “I can” statements were given to all learners:
- I can identify the social and economic factors of European imperialism.
- I can identify the key figures in the French and British exploration and settlement of North America.
- I can explain three ways in which European imperialism had an impact on Aboriginal societies.
Task criteria was as listed below:
- Choose an explorer (Cartier/Cabot/Champlain)
- Decide which perspective you are presenting:
- Provide a rationale that explains why you support or condemn the actions of this explorer (think imperialistic values)
Where the task differed was in the final product of the work each group was tasked to produce:
- Green – Create a visual representation that supports the perspective you are presenting and the position you have towards that person’s action (wanted poster, advertisement, welcome home sign, party invite, picket sign, trading card). Write a 1-2 sentence caption that encompasses your perspective and position.
- Blue – Write a paragraph using a topic sentence, 2 – 3 concise supporting details and a concluding sentence. This paragraph should explain why you feel that the figure you chose is a hero or villain.
- Double Back Diamond – Write a multi-paragraph response explaining why you feel that the figure you chose is a hero or villain. Each paragraph should include a topic sentence, 2 – 3 concise supporting details and a concluding sentence.
Design of the task was well-received by both students and staff. Because students were grouped – albeit outside of class rosters – teachers perceived it as a good opportunity to connect with learners and work specifically on areas of improvement in writing. Students felt both comfortable and challenged in the task, knowing that the work they were assigned was attainable. As well, teachers clearly outlined from the beginning that depending on the ski run they were working on, there was a maximum attainable score on the 4-point grading level:
- Green – 2, or at grade level
- Blue – 3, or above grade level
- Double Back Diamond – 4, or well above grade level
If your timetable allows, this is definitely worth a try! It is a great way to personalize learning while also getting to know your learners!