Here is an example of an activity that engages all students.
We are finishing up our fraction unit in the fifth grade. This year the curriculum extends their knowledge of addition and subtraction of fractions, as well as exploring and practicing strategies for both multiplication and division of fractions. In about two months we covered a lot of ground, building understanding both conceptually and abstractly.
Today, we did a sort where students had to determine the proper equation and model that would work with a particular story problem. Problems would include all operations. Students worked through seven problems, in partnerships, using appropriate strategies, and mathematical reasoning.
One group, however, were set off with a different task. In order to challenge them, they were put on a quest to write 7 story problems that would be appropriate for each equation. I was pleased to see the enthusiasm the two boys had when presented with the task. The story problems were unique and creative. They added models and solved each appropriately. At the end of class, they had the opportunity to share their work; they presented a problem they created to the rest of the class then the class needed to determine what would be an appropriate equation for solving their problem.
Allowing the students to create the problems engaged the students even more than having them do the sort. It also met the objective for the lesson. A simple alternative really made a difference and didn’t require alternative materials or extra work for the students. This is an example of how more of the same work, doesn’t really challenge or enrich the highest of learners. Fluid, and creative thinking when lesson planning or deciding on tasks is imperative. It allows educators to truly differentiate and enrich all students at all levels.