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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Differentiate through Whole-Group Pre-Testing

I have to share this fantastic strategy with you.

It involves pre-testing your entire class~ allowing students to earn time to work on enrichment/extension activities.

Its an effective way to motivate students and provide them the opportunity to demonstrate what they know and work on perhaps more interesting activities. This method is also a way to offer enrichment opportunities to all higher performing students~ not only those labeled gifted. This way~ you eliminate any resentment thats created when students see gifted students working on interesting projects and activities. This strategy also breaks down the barrier or perceived threat between general education teachers and gifted teachers~ who visit the classroom to provide support~ since they will be working cohesively to provide differentiation.

First~ the credit for this strategy goes to Susan Winebrenner~ education consultant and author of Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom. If you havent read this book~ its a must for anyone working with gifted children. The way I learned this strategy from her also speaks volumes about her professionalism and dedication to the field. Last week~ I e-mailed her a question about scheduling gifted students~ and within minutes~ she had called me to discuss the answer. Wow~ hows that for service!

Winebrenner suggested going into a general education classroom and demonstrating the strategy of whole-group pre-testing. It works this way. During the first 15-20 minutes of class~ you give the entire class the chance to show mastery of the upcoming lesson or unit. Make it voluntary so students that feel intimated or really unsure about the material can opt out.

For example~ if you were teaching a lesson on weather~ the whole class would complete an end-of-the-chapter assessment. Those scoring 85 percent or higher (the suggested number)~ would have the option of choosing from a menu of extension activities related to the lesson. That menu might include creating a hands-on model~ filming a live weather report~ creating a PowerPoint on extreme weather~ or other activities.

In addition~ you make it clear that students who have pre-tested out have to follow certain rules in order to maintain their privilege of working on enrichment. Those guidelines may include not talking to other students~ getting up from their seat~ bragging about how they passed the test~ etc. A contract is created between the teacher and student.
After selecting students for enrichment activities~ the gifted or resource teacher would work with those children to provide guidance and support. The general education teacher would continue to provide instruction in the lesson that was presented~ using the data from the pre-test to fine-tune the lesson.

Through this approach~ you accomplished several important steps. Namely~ you differentiated instruction~ ensuring that students who need to master the material have additional support and time to do so and providing challenge and enrichment to students that have already mastered the material. Unlike what is so often the case~ higher-level students do not need to wait for their peers to catch up and repeat material simply because it is part of the pacing guide or current lesson plan.

This strategy also breaks down the elitist~ us-versus-them feeling that is created when gifted students are the only ones allowed to participate in enrichment or what students call the fun activities and cool projects. As a teacher~ you have provided all the students in the classroom an equal chance at demonstrating mastery and choosing activities that they find most interesting and fit their learning styles. You have~ as Winebrenner says~ leveled the playing field.

Winebrenners book contains lists of extension activities for various subjects. An Internet search can also net you additional ideas of enrichment you can provide. This is also where your teacher of gifted at your school can provide his or her expertise and help tailor a menu of activities that support your instruction.

This approach is a win-win-win for the general education teacher~ the teacher of gifted~ and the students in that classroom. Id love to hear your thoughts on this method of whole-group testing and enrichment extension. To share comments~ visit http://community.educationworld.comcontent/differentiate-through-whole-group-pre-testing-0?gid=NTEyMQ==
Wishing you success~