A few weeks ago, our administrative team presented ideas on devolved writing and tiered lessons to benefit student learning in our classes. They encouraged us to try one of them out and reflect on the strategy. I decided a tiered lesson would fit really well in my Algebra 1 classes because the these students have such a varying background knowledge and the new material of parameter changes would enable students to build off of their previous knowledge and/or help students start from a baseline understanding to develop the necessary skills.
My lesson began with a pre-assessment I created on Desmos (https://www.desmos.com/calculator/pn26rqzsje) which allowed students to visually see parameter changes of a function (I love Desmos…see this post for more Desmos!) I showed students a parent quadratic function and then used the sliders to manipulate the function with horizontal and vertical changes. Then, I asked a series of questions about the effects h and k had on the function. After answering independently, students self-assessed their answers and based on their accuracy I put them into tiered groups to work on the parameter changes assignment. In the assignment they investigated the h and k effects on both linear and quadratic functions, graphed the parameter changes, and wrote sentences summarizing the effects. The higher level tier gave fewer examples and required students to infer the information more quickly. Furthermore, this tier also asked students to summarize their learning in an open response format rather than with sentence stems and a vocabulary bank that the lower level tiered group had.
Several things went well in this lesson:
- Students felt a sense of ownership with their group. I was worried students might feel that they were put in the lower “dumb” group and feel defeated, but my lower level group was actually the hardest working group and they really bonded together wanting to . improve upon their knowledge.
- Students relied on each other more than normal instead of myself to learn the material. I think this grouping process allowed for more transparency to students and they felt a sense of purpose in why they were with other students.
Revisions I made from class period to class period which helped:
- In the first class I did this lesson with, I was pretty lenient on the specificity of the answers from the pre-assessment, which made more students be in a higher tiered group when they really were not prepared with the language and understanding I wanted them to have. So, in the next classes, I was more particular on if students got their answers correct with vocabulary, language, and detail. For example if a student said the k made the graph move along the y-axis. That wasn’t fully correct for several reasons. I wanted students to verbalize that the graph moves up or down depending on adding or subtracting from the function and not always on the y-axis. When I was more specific with student’s responses and language, it made students be in a more appropriate tier where they could learn and use the higher level vocabulary of parameter changes.
- Finally, with the appropriate grouping, the struggling students were able to use more sentence stems and vocabulary banks to write their summaries. The upper level tiered students then had the background knowledge and were able to write more open ended responses with their more advanced language.