Sunday, April 15, 2012

Student Achievement Best Practices--Going Old School

Student Knowledge Increases with Simple Twists of Old School Practices

by Sara Roesler, Teacher

Student Achievement Best Practices: Students must draw on prior knowledge to draw relationships between old and new information.
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Want a 45% increase in student achievement? The use of similarities and differences is a best practice that surely creates results. Surprised? Me too.  However, the more I thought about the breadth and depth of knowledge with which comparing and contrasting can support, it seems that students need more time with these types of tasks. 

Students must draw on prior knowledge to think about how the topics are the same and different.  Adjacent to that idea is locating, analyzing and evaluating new information to be used in the process of compare and contrast. Thus, they are practicing reading comprehension as well. They must organize their thoughts clearly which can be supported with the application of a graphic organizer. They may also have to justify their reasoning to a small group or as a short presentation to the class. The possibilities seem endless!

Compare and contrast works for every content area on almost every topic. Obviously finding similarities and differences among characters in a story or comparing and contrasting multiplication and division will support clear understanding of basic ideas. But, to take the idea farther, why not use a book, made in to a movie and possibly a graphic novel and have students compare the three mediums. Think of all of the breadth and depth in thinking that would occur! Or, using two completely feasible math solutions from a group-worthy or cooperative learning activity examine the similarities and differences between the answers. In this case, the students will need to draw from what they know about solving the problem and analyze if another solution is possible even before taking on the task of applying the practice of finding similarities and differences. How would you add more complexity to a compare and contrast structure?

No matter how you use the simply complex idea of similarities and difference - as a quick formative or a more in depth examination of a concept – I would say keep it up, and even ramp it up. Be creative about this simple format because a 45% increase is a 45% increase any way you compare it!

Sara Roesler has been teaching for nearly 4 years and holds a Masters from Michigan State University. She is an active reflector focused on how to better teach each child. She strives to build and support positivity and loving-kindness in the students she works with. 

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