Perfect Your Levels of Instruction with Achievable Challenge

Thursday, August 23, 2018
Welcome to Chapter 2 of Learning to Love Math: Teaching Strategies That Change Student Attitudes and Get Results!

 This is really where the rubber starts to meet the road. Willis explains her key concept of Achievable Challenge as a task that is just difficult enough to engage students but at a level where they won't get frustrated. Think of it in a Goldilocks style: If a task is too easy, even if you are successful, you do not feel fulfillment, but if the task is too difficult, you give up in frustration. Using achievable challenge, when a task is completed, you feel satisfaction in having pushed yourself while being successful.
Obviously, this sounds just like differentiated instruction, but I like this term much better. There are of course a lot of logistics involved but Willis tries to break it down for us. She says to split the kids into two groups based on learning styles: Map Readers and Explorers. You can probably guess what each of these groups characteristics are. Map readers are more by the book and willing to show work, while the explorers are likely to try to just get to the answer. By determining which groups your students fall in, you can focus on learning characteristics to guide instruction. Try to have a map reading activity and an explorer activity and see which students are drawn to and more successful.

The strategies in this chapter are:

1. Using multi-sensory input: use music, videos, movement, and manipulatives in your lessons.

 2. Using flexible grouping: support students and group them with peers with similar abilities. I am not so sure about this one as I have personally seen my special education students challenged by being with peers who are at a much higher level and my special learners can make huge gains.

 3. Scaffolding: break down a task so that students can build confidence and be comfortable before moving on to the next level.

 4. Avoiding boredom: be prepared with higher (and lower) level questions for students who finish quickly or who struggle. Ask students to write how much time they spend on homework to get a feel for the effort involved. Gifted students, when faced with a difficult problem, are more likely to show work and talk through the steps than with questions they can easily solve in their head.

 How do you tackle achievable challenge in your classroom? For me, every year, I prepare more levels of materials and different activities so I can change the level of difficulty when needed. Trying to do it all at once would be so difficult. Remember to comment to be entered in the giveaway!


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