This paper outlines the teaching methods used in secondary level social studies. The purpose of this package of methods is to maximize the range of students who can succeed in a content area course. This document has been updated on an annual basis since 2010 and includes important things that I learned from experience while developing this teaching method. Consequently, some parts of this paper read like a log of teaching experiences.
“Differentiated Instruction” (DI) is a teaching method in which the number of students who perform well is increased by offering a variety of equivalent ways to learn and show what they have learned. The main reason to do this is that traditional teaching methods only reach about half of the student population and we now need more than that number to become educated at a higher level.
The strategies outlined here represent a package of services that all fit together. The combined effect is to create an environment in which hopefully at least something around 90% of students, even in years in which there are many struggling learners, will achieve passing marks resulting from combined tiers 1-3 interventions.
A successful differentiated instruction system will smooth out the differences in the performance of whole classes from year to year.
2007 – 81% of 80
2008 – 92% of 77
2009 – 82% of 96
2010 – 92% of 79
2011 – 88% of 72
2012 – 91% of 65
2013 – 87% of 46
2014 – 88% of 49
2015 – 86% of 49
The number of students scoring level 4 on the NYS Intermediate Social Studies Test increased when this method was being developed from 10% to 40% annually, 2007-2010 . The correlation between grades earned on this grading system and earned on the NYS Intermediate Social Studies Test was 0.89 (Jones, Social Studies Class Analysis, 2010) on average from 2008-2010.
The goal is that at least 90% of students will pass this class, even in years where there are many students with weak academic ability, from combined tier 1, 2, and 3 level interventions. The average passing rate since 2007 is 87.4%.
Effective use of time in class will be maximized. Class time is of great importance because the assumption of this program is that little or nothing of importance can or will be accomplished by most students outside of class.
The cycle of activities for the normal topic of study is as follows:
1. Planning Meeting.
Students enter in their planners the important dates for the topic, including the “end of topic” day, the presentations-debates day, and any examinations that occur. Students request their choice of high order tasks for the current topic from a menu.
2. Silent Reading.
Students have textbook readings, available at a variety of reading levels, to process using the Cornell notetaking format.
3. Teacher Presentation Series.
There are three or four consecutive periods of whole-group instruction.
4. Working periods.
During working periods, students work on the task list for their chosen package (basic, standard, or advanced difficulty levels). The number of working periods scheduled will depend on the number of quizzes for a topic. As a general rule, the number of working periods will equal the number of quizzes times 1.5, rounded up. In other words, it is expected that students will need an average of one and a half working periods to prepare, study,
and take each quiz. This is a new feature in 2015-2016 based on my observation that students, even more skilled students, were rushing to finish on time and were not choosing more creative end topic tasks. During working periods, students work at their own pace in the standard inquiry or basic proficiency plan. 50% of working periods are often dedicated silent time, depending on the work habits of the class. Working periods are dedicated to “getting the work done”. Students on standard inquiry research and study their answers to the questions and write their answers from their head without notes (except for the narrative fiction writing task) in the short term memory task.
They may do these tasks “on installment”, meaning a piece at a time depending on what their memory can hold. Students on basic proficiency complete tan outline task, a brief written argument task, study the basic proficiency statements for the quiz, and complete their Cornell style notes. Students work at their own pace, including moving ahead to the next topic before the class. The major role of the teacher is keeping students on-task during this time, assisting with the quality and timely completion of tasks, and assisting with understanding content.
5. Student Presentations and Debates.
There is at least one student presentations and debates period for those students who sign up to do class
presentations or participate in debate.
6. End Topic Day.
One “end of topic” period on which day all tasks for the topic are due and the topic is completed.