There are a number of things that the average classroom teacher must deal with regardless of location and circumstance. We have our state or national government telling us what students in our class must master to graduate, we have mandates from our districts for what is going on in our classroom, and we have (for the most part) increased student populations creating and overwhelming amount of children per classroom. With the vast number of things that are increasing the pressure on teachers as well as trying to work with struggling kids, providing for children with learning disabilities, and entertain students in ways we never thought we would have to how to we find time for everything? Is it possible that compacting curriculum could ease the pressure on the classroom teacher by allowing the gifted learners the opportunity to achieve higher while allowing the struggling learner the opportunity to have more time and attention from the teacher?
Compacting is the idea that we pretest the students in our classrooms before each unit to see what they know and do not know about the upcoming material. If a student struggles with the material (as most should since you haven’t taught this yet) they move at the same pace you would normally teach. If a student can show aptitude that meets your definition of mastery you would compact their curriculum. All this means is that the student would not need to be retaught all the things they already know, but would be given an individual enrichment project based on their individual interests that they would work on while the rest of the class learns the material they have already mastered. If a child masters certain topics but not others you would have them work on their project only during the concepts they have not yet mastered.
I can almost hear complaints from where I sit typing this out right now. This seems like a logistical nightmare. Kids wandering everywhere doing something or another while you are trying to hold class for the kids that need to learn. The bottom line is that there will not be a significant amount of children being compacted at a given time. If more than a handful of kids have mastered concepts you are about to teach them, you might think about upping the rigor of your class rather than compact them all. Some classes may have a few kids while some may have zero children being compacted. If a child who has had their curriculum compacted decides to distract the class instead of working on their individual project, they can come on back and work on the stuff they have already mastered for the day. You can then talk with them about the choice they made and they can decide to choose to work on a project that works them in a way that will not distract the class or they can be bored out of their minds while they relearn old material.
Putting it into practice
I’ll be honest when I say that I have not tried this out in my classroom…yet. I’m going to try it out with one student this upcoming school year and really try and keep great records on how things go. I want to prove to myself that this can work and that it’s what’s best for the students in my classroom. I’m excited by the opportunity and I’ll try and report back on what is going on with the lucky child.