K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

About this video

Daniel Lunk
Date created
August 2010
Flash Video
This video copyright ©2010. Terms of use

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In the classroom

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In this video, teacher interviews and classroom footage explore the practice of creating tiered assignments.

This video is one in a four-part series about tiering. The other videos include:

For more on tiering, see the article “Tiering to Avoid Tears.”


Anne Hawkins [in classroom, to student] (00:11)
Excellent, you have used your time well today. Tell me what you think is a reasonable expectation to be finished with by the end of our work time today. Okay, I think that would be ideal, absolutely.
Anne Hawkins (00:23)
When handling children with different levels in the same classroom, one of the things we spend a great deal of time doing is at the first of the year we use the first two to two and a half weeks of school to pre-assess everyone in the class. We use that information, plus information that we have from the other teachers that they had in previous years and some test score information and what we do is to use that to help us drive our instruction. That way we know which children need which things, which ways we need to go with instruction so that everybody is being taught at their particular level.
Mary-Elizabeth Robinson (01:05)
Sometimes at the beginning of the year when we roll out our tiered assignments and things start to go home, there are parents who have questions, and they wonder about it, but as soon as they understand our logic behind it, and when they hear us say, "This is your child’s level, we’re going to work on your child’s level, if your child doesn’t need to work on this skill, we’re going to push them to the next area that they need to work on." I think the parents are very accepting of it because they realize their children are almost getting a tailored education, they’re getting what they need to push forward, and to make their growth, versus sitting in the room and hearing something they learned last year or they know and being bored. Sometimes there’s questions, but the parents are very accepting of it.
Melodie Hunsberger (01:49)
After assessing children at the beginning of the school year, we continuously assess throughout the school year, so we don’t take information that we got at the beginning of the school year and just stick with that information. We are consistently giving them common assessments to see what they’ve done, we’ve given them reading fluency tests, and we’re constantly assessing their needs to make sure that they’re at the level they need to be at.
Melodie Hunsberger [in classroom, to student] (02:13)
Then what you’re going to do on a sheet of notebook paper is write the article about Gloria Estefan.
Student (02:17)
Melodie Hunsberger (02:22)
So you’re going to be a newspaper — you’re going to write the newspaper article.
Student (02:24)
So according to these facts I make an article about her?
Melodie Hunsberger (02:27)
You got it.
Melodie Hunsberger (02:27)
We as fourth grade teachers, as a team, have built a really good relationship with the children. So they are very comfortable with us, and they understand that they are working at different levels within the classroom. It’s almost a relief that they are working at their level, whether it’s a lower level or a higher level, they feel relief because they’re confident with us that we know what’s best for them. The children that are grouped of the same tier, they help each other throughout the classroom. If I’m working with a small group at the back table, they are able to question each other, and ask each other questions about what’s going on. We have not felt that anyone felt bad that they were in a different level than their friend, they understand that the levels change, they’re fluid. So once they gain the confidence and they understand a skill, the next time they could be at a higher tier. So they feel very comfortable with the way that it is approached, and we have not had trouble in the classroom of children teasing each other for being on a different tier, they just know that they’re working on what’s best for them, and they go with it.
Anne Hawkins (03:39)
We firmly believe that when children are being taught at their need level, then there will be minimal discipline problems.