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Every student is unique and so is the way they work

This article shares a strategy of planning a unit that helped in creating a fair and equitable process for evaluating student learning.

Differentiation is the instruction that helps students with diverse academic needs and learning styles master the same challenging academic content (Centre for the Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement, 2007). It means providing interrelated activities that are based on student needs for the purpose of ensuring that all students come to a similar grasp of a skill or idea (Good, 2006). It allows learners the ability to demonstrate learning in a variety of ways (Mitchell, 2010).

Learners of grade 5 at Choithram International inquired into the transdisciplinary theme How the world works with the central idea Energy takes many forms and can be used in many ways. Facilitators tried to understand students’ prior knowledge, strengths, weaknesses and level of skills. Activities were designed that were student-centered, using inquiry-based models of instruction. The integration of both Blooms Taxonomy and multiple intelligences have given a wide spectrum of knowledge that can be successfully implemented in the class to develop learners as thinkers and creative individuals.

Gardner’s theory of the multiple intelligences is a departure from the view that intelligence is a single, measurable unit (Gardner, 1999). As facilitators we must try to enrich our classrooms by generating opportunities for all students, through multiple techniques and assessment forms. This helps to bring out strengths of students.

As stated by Tomlinson, a chief objective of differentiated instruction is to take full advantage of every student’s ability. Differentiation is not just an instructional strategy, nor is it a recipe for teaching; rather it is an innovative way of thinking about learning and teaching.

After diagnosing student needs, tasks were designed to create better match between students and their learning needs and/or preferences. Students chose any four tasks from the grid given below as per their interests.

Unit of study: Energy conservation

Intelligence Knowing Understanding Applying Analyzing Creating Evaluating
(I enjoy reading, writing & speaking)
List all the energy words you can think of and find out their meanings. Write a poem about sources of energy. Make an alphabet book to record energy words for every letter of the alphabet. Create a profile about a famous scientist (past or present). Write an entertaining narrative about a trip to an energy efficient city. Design a travel brochure for a travel agency promoting a great place to holiday in an energy efficient place.
(I enjoy working with numbers & science)
Draw a pie graph to illustrate facts representing energy consumption. Find out energy consumption in your house per day. Make number problems related to energy. Compare the benefits of using renewable resources over non-renewable resources. Create a crossword puzzle on energy. Research and explain the stages of generating electricity from water. Present this information in the form of a Prezi, Power Point presentation or poster.
(I enjoy painting,  drawing & visualizing)
Using oil pastels create an amazing scene of a city that depends only on alternative sources of energy. Draw your favourite energy source and explain its meaning. Use a Venn diagram to explain renewable and non-renewable resources. Make a poster, collage, jigsaw puzzle or diorama related to energy. Design and create a collage landscape of an energy efficient city. Design  a picture book on energy.
(I enjoy doing hands-on activities, sports & dance)
Act out your favourite scientist or inventor. Play charades with forms of energy. Develop an invention using manipulative  that can be a great help to conserve energy. Write and present a skit on energy conservation. Create a board game or card game based on energy theme. Create a variety of   energy conservation techniques to help  people prepare for future.
(I enjoy making & listening to music)
Learn and present a song on energy. Use natural sounds to illustrate forms of energy. Rewrite a nursery poem using energy vocabulary. Write a radio jingle using energy words. Make  a TV ad using the radio jingle. Perform a rap on energy.
(I enjoy working by myself)
Create an energy themed word search with at least 15 words. Research and write five interesting facts about any three sources of energy. Set our personal goals to conserve energy. What will you need to make your country energy efficient. Make some predictions about what might happen in the future if people do not conserve energy. Design an energy efficient city.
(I enjoy caring for plants, animals and the world)
Describe the natural settings that can be there in an energy efficient city. Find pictures or photographs of places with abundance of energy resources. Under each picture write a   description. Could the information about such places help with the study of ways to make our country energy efficient? What are the positive and negative effects of human actions on the environment? Make a display of things associated with the big idea energy conservation. Make comparisons between places that use alternative sources of energy and places that depend on non- renewable resources of energy.

Flexible, varied and inclusive methods of assessment give all students an equitable opportunity to demonstrate their learning. The learning outcomes were clearly stated and students were aware of the criteria used for assessing their work. The strategy provided students with opportunities to demonstrate the full extent of their learning. Students were encouraged to reflect on their understanding through relevant, challenging and engaging tasks outlined in the grid. The outcome of the assessment was evaluated by students themselves using the given rubric:

Transdisciplinary theme: How the world works
Big idea: Energy

I am beginning to understand the concepts but I still need more practice. I am developing an understanding of the concepts, I am almost there! I am confident in my understanding of the concepts. I have got it! I know what is expected and I am pushing myself to go beyond!
What are the different forms of energy?
How does energy transformation take place?
In what ways can energy be conserved?
Communication skills
Share the gathered information and understanding about the big idea – energy.
Thinking skills
Gain specific facts/ideas related to the big idea.

This strategy was planned before beginning the unit and has helped in creating a fair and equitable process for evaluating student learning.

Anjali Nair is a post graduate in English literature with a bachelor’s degree in education and in science and has got 5 years of experience teaching the IB PYP. Teaching is her passion and a calling because she believes this profession helps an individual to remain a lifelong learner. Anjali believes in the teacher as researcher, embracing curiosity and uncertainty to push forward beyond the comfort zone; the child as competent communicator and constructor of theories; involving children, as primary stake-holders and instigators, in decisions about their learning. You can find her on Twitter @anjali_nair08.

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