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


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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, classroom footage and teacher interviews emphasize important points in adopting 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 (00:12)
If I were beginning with tiered instruction, then I would say to start small. Choose one area that you can be comfortable with, that you’re already comfortable with as a teacher, and do this in small increments. Trying to do every subject and everything all at one time is too overwhelming. Beginning small, being aware that sometimes it is not successful. We’ve tried a couple of different ones, and we were so excited, and thought this is going to be absolutely the greatest, and it just bombed. So that gave us an opportunity to go back, to re-look at our instruction, to re-look at what we had planned in the tiered assignments and say, "Maybe we need to take this in another direction, because this is not working quite the way we thought it was going to work." So that would be my main, I guess, my main suggestion for people just beginning is you need to really focus on only one area and try not to do all of them at once.
Mary-Elizabeth Robinson (01:19)
I think in the beginning, when you’re implementing tiering assignments, it takes a little bit longer, because you do have to have that time to set up, instead of one lesson, you’ve got to tier it to your not-readys, to your just-readys, and tier it to the ones who are ready to go beyond. The initial implementation can be a little time consuming, but once you’re familiar with it, and once you have the set-up going, it becomes easier in my mind. It can be overwhelming when you look at a class and if you lay your class out on paper and go, I have students who are reading at the end-of-first-grade level, and I have students who are reading in a middle school level. And I found that my low-level students, those kids who are reading on a first- and second-grade level, those students have really benefited this year, because they’re getting the basics they need without having to sit through a whole-group lesson that makes no sense to them because they don’t have those skills yet. So they’ve really flourished, and feel this ownership and part of a group because their work has the same format as everyone else, but it’s what they need versus them struggling to keep their heads above water the entire year. They’re actually functioning where they need to be.
Anne Hawkins (02:20)
This child is an AG student, and at the beginning of the unit, she checked everything, "I have no idea." She thought she knew nothing about dividing whole numbers, nothing about being able to use rounding and estimating, and that gave us a clear picture that we might need to perk up here and pay attention. This is a child who should know all of these things, but somewhere along the line of learning, she doesn’t feel confident, or comfortable with that. And as a result of that, having someone affirm what she already feels gives her the ability to make mistakes, to feel like she can kind of guide her own learning, and not feel like, "Because I’m an AG student, I have to be at the tip top even though I don’t understand what’s going on in the class.
Anne Hawkins [in classroom, to student] (03:18)
Let’s set a goal for our time frame, what do you think would be reasonable for you to finish by the end of our work time today? Okay, then I’m going to give you time to work on that, and I’ll check back in with you, and we’ll see if your expectations and mine are very close. Okay? Excellent.