Does this scenario ever happen in your classroom?
I work with small groups of students every day during ZONES rotations. The students come to me with white boards and their resource journals. I come prepared with example problems for them. When I work with students in small groups and using white boards they are nailing it. Few errors, proving mastery, no confusion. So I leave that class feeling completely successful. The next day, I start with an entrance ticket to catch any student that I may have missed during my small group time. I give them a short paper pencil quiz and the whole class completely bombs it. What?!?! So I continue with my whole group instruction, since the whole class got the problem incorrect and my data yesterday was obviously wrong, giving another example problem to the whole class that they complete at their desk, this time with whiteboards. This time they are all getting it right again. GRRRRR! I do not understand!
This situation puzzles me greatly. I do not understand why students feel more at ease with white boards instead of with a paper and pencil. I do not understand how they can master a concept using a dry erase board but not with a pencil. I am so perplexed. However this is not the first standard or concept or school year that I have seen this happen. I am so glad that I can accommodate this using ZONES.
I have noticed that students are able to have a greater mastery of a concept using whiteboards as an option. Therefore, I have always allowed this to be a choice for my students. During whole group time, I can work the room to star correct problems on the worksheet that were done on a white board. This gives me immediate feedback on who needs help and also saves me time grading after class. If you are fortunate enough to have a second pair of hands in your classroom during ZONES time, that second pair of hands can circulate the room starring correct problems during On Your Own or Notebook as well. This is also an option for the teacher to do during conferencing time.
This year I have also noticed that students have greater mastery while working in a small group setting rather than a whole group setting. ZONES has allowed me to accommodate for that as well. I will often give the final mastery checkpoint of a concept in a small group setting. This does not mean that I correct the students or help them. The work is still done completely independently. However, when students know their work is being monitored, for some reason mistakes are greatly reduced and precision is increased. I have also taken this to the next level and allowed student the choice to "sit by the teacher" while they are working on another zone. Their zone work is still done independently, but again, for some perplexing reason, proximity to the teacher does help some student perform with greater accuracy.
ZONES allows me several things that whole class instruction never would:
1. Confidence of mastery. If I have any discrepancy in student work I have small group informal data that I can use to feel confident of mastery. I have now watched a particular student work several problems right in front of me. I know what they have mastered. I know what they are struggling with. Even if they do have an "off" day and fail to master a particular quiz or checkpoint.
5. Ability to assess or work with students in small groups. The small group setting continues to amaze me. Students do need that one on one time, the thought that the teacher does care enough that he/she does individually understand. This allows me time to help students one on one, remediate, or reteach. I never had that individualized instruction teaching math before using ZONES.
So I am here to proclaim, "Let them use white boards!" If that is the tool they feel most comfortable with, then let them use it. If they are most comfortable having a teacher "watch" them do the work. Great! With ZONES I have the flexibility to allow students to have that choice. We are not assessing how the student learns best, we are assessing that the student has mastered the concept. If those tools help and they are fairly easy for me to allow and implement, then I say "No Problem!"
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