It has been a struggle to finalize my unit this week, but with the help of my instructor, I was able to come up with a satisfactory unit on analyzing two quantitative variables. The process of using Understanding by Design has been enlightening. I have only come across this within the last year, but it has been around for about 20 years!
Although UbD is not synonymous with differentiation, I found it difficult to come up with some strategies that work with high school level math. Talk to 5 different high school math teachers and ask them how to differentiate their lessons, you will most likely get 5 different responses! To be honest, I don’t consciously differentiate a unit or particular lessons. I have come to know after years of teaching mathematics in high school where students have difficulty, and have developed some strategies that would help them in certain areas. Is this differentiation, or being proactive? So when I am asked about differentiation, I get a little flustered.
I know that students talk to each other after a lesson, and sometimes during a lesson, about the content we just learned about. Although I don’t call it Partner Talk or Think-Pair-Share, the idea is they are discussing and reflecting on the lesson. Do all the students do this? No, but the ones that need affirmation participate in this strategy. A strategy I encourage my students to engage in is writing “notes” on their assignments. I suppose this is similar to Journaling, but it probably doesn’t have the same connotation. I will try to have students reflect on their learning either every day, or after several days. I will have them write these thoughts down on a separate sheet of paper, or in a Google doc that they can share with me at the end of the unit.
Another strategy I have developed in the last 4 years is giving students the choice to do any problems in a problem set. We do a core number of them together, but during their independent assignment time, they can choose the number and difficulty of the problems they work on. This allows them to be confident in their efforts, and for those that want a challenge, they can try some difficult problems.
Another way that I will differentiate is to allow students to use one of two technologies, the Texas Instruments graphing calculator, or the online graphing calculator Desmos. The reason for this second choice is to allow students who have a smartphone, or their personal laptop to utilize this technology for reasons other than social media or games! The TI graphing calculator has some limitations, but is satisfactory for this unit, but I would prefer them to work with Desmos. I will provide troubleshooting and general operating information on both devices.
Lastly, I will allow the students to choose their medium of preference for their report of the performance assessment task, which means they can hand-write, or type-write, or present in a slide show, or orally present with visuals. This allows the students to utilize their preferred learning style so they can be successful.
It has been a struggle this week to finalize my unit, but I will see how the unit will progress throughout the next few weeks! I am excited to see the results.