Imagine being 12 years old and being told that you’re made up of tiny bits, that are made up of tiny bits, that are made up of tiny bits; and all those bits are going to interact in different ways and have AWESOME names that sound more like spells from Harry Potter than English. For me, teaching cell transportation at the middle school level has been a challenge.
When students walk into our classrooms many of them have no concept of cells other than the ones they’re carrying in their pockets. We, as science teachers, have long relied on analogies to demonstrate concepts; although this method has worked, I find there’s always a student who is confused by the “endoplasmic reticu-what” and cannot work their way up Bloom’s or grasp the Depth of Knowledge (DOK) I’m seeking for mastery,
This fall, I decided to change my approach when teaching the topic of cells. Instead of having my students dance out the process of endocytosis (think the hokey pokey: “things move into the cell, things move out of the cell… and they move all about”), I would try to align more to NGSS using an approach rooted in phenomena.
As a teacher, I’m always reflecting on my practice and working to learn and improve. This year, as a Teaching Channel Laureate, my Getting Better Together focus is all about meeting the needs of the diverse learners in my classes. There are a million ways to support students in our classrooms and my colleagues and I have tried a variety of strategies this year to help all of our kids grow. With these new videos, you’ll get a chance to see us in action, try out one of our strategies (should you choose!), and even give us direct feedback on our teaching.
This is part of Geneviève DeBose’s Getting Better Together work. Geneviève and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.
What happens when a group of educators collaborate to meet the diverse needs of their students? A lot of reflection, dialogue, sharing, and learning!
In November I kicked off my Getting Better Together focus of meeting the needs of diverse learners. My team and I made a number of shifts to our process and practice and I’ve shared ten of them below. As I thought through everything we’ve done, I found that our work seems to fall into three main categories — Data and Information, People Power, and Curriculum and Assignments.
One of the things I love most about being a teacher is how intellectually stimulating my job is. What makes it so stimulating — and challenging! — is the range of diverse students I have in each of my classes every day.
How do I support A. to meet seventh grade standards when she’s reading at a second grade level? How do I ensure that O., who has scored far above grade level on numerous assessments, is challenged and engaged at his level? What will help B. orally share her ideas in class more often? How do I ensure that J. has the language supports he needs to grow as a writer in English, his second language? How do I best meet students where they are?
This is the first in Geneviève DeBose’s Getting Better Together series, Meeting Students Where They Are. Geneviève and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.
Do you provide unique seating for students who may need something other than that hard chair in which to learn? Do you gather around the table with colleagues to look closely at every student’s IEP, ask questions, and share strategies so you can best meet each student’s needs? Do you differentiate worksheets so that some have sentence starters and word banks for the students who may need them? Read more
As a teacher, you are the deliverer of information. You have a curriculum, know the content, and are charged with the responsibility of getting that information into the minds of your students. Instruction “positions the teacher as a metaphorical ‘bridge,’ helping students connect the knowledge and skills they already know (or are currently learning) to the essential outcomes they need in order to continue developing as learners and human beings” (Tomlinson, C. A. and Imbeau, M., 2010, p.22). Being an educator means you have accepted the challenge of figuring out how to be that bridge. How you deliver your instruction matters and will determine whether or not that content is accessible to all of the diverse learners in your class.
In education, we talk a lot about differentiation. We realize that a “one size fits all” curriculum won’t meet the needs of the wide range of unique learners in our classrooms and so we differentiate our instruction in order to meet their needs. In one of Carol Ann Tomlinson’s books on differentiation, John Stroup says, “differentiated instruction recognizes that students are not the same and that access to equal education necessarily means that, given a certain goal, each student should be provided resources, instruction, and support to help them meet that objective.”
We filmed Sherwanda Chism and Debora Gaten over a year ago, and I’ve been talking about their lessons ever since. As teachers of Gifted ELA classes in Memphis, Tennessee, Sherwanda and Debora worked together to plan, teach, and reflect on an amazing unit about the Harlem Renaissance. When I watched their lessons, I was in awe. Though their students are only in fourth and fifth grade, they are poised, articulate, and engaged in making connections and collaborating with each other.
In Sherwanda’s lesson, students prepare for learning about the Harlem Renaissance by analyzing the points of view of stakeholders involved in the Great Migration. Sherwanda encourages her students to talk about stakeholders by having them use “accountable talk stems” like, “Let me see if I understand what you meant…” and “I agree/disagree because…” Her students had lots of experience using the prompts and were able to seamlessly build off of each other’s ideas, ask questions, and participate in collaborative discussions.
As a new teacher, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the wide range of abilities in my classroom. How was I supposed to meet all of my students’ needs while simultaneously covering grade level content? As I learned more about differentiation, this became easier, but it still remained one of the most challenging aspects of teaching.
Now that I coach teachers in their first and second years, I can safely say that differentiation remains a huge challenge. I went out and asked the members of Teaching Channel’s Coaching Think Tank to share their top differentiation strategies for new teachers. Check out these six tips for meeting the needs of diverse learners.
Autumn Bell, a math coach for Fresno Unified School District, recommends using equity sticks to randomly call on students during direct instruction. Autumn suggests that teachers plan a variety of different questions to ask. When calling on specific students, teachers can then ask them a question at their level. Autumn stresses that it’s important to have high expectations for all students, but starting with leveled questions can help to build students’ confidence in sharing their thoughts.
If you’re like me, one of the biggest challenges you face in the classroom is careful differentiation. As soon as school starts, I’m already trying to discover how each of my students processes information in their own unique way — and I try to investigate all the ways I can make learning work for them.
Carol Ann Tomlinson, a well-known differentiation guru, has given us three ways to differentiate that I like to keep in mind whenever planning: content, process, and product. Here are five Tch videos to help you think about differentiating instruction this year:
1) Differentiating Using Computer Games
See how Mr. Pronovost uses technology to differentiate for content. In this case, the computer games automatically meet students where they are with content knowledge, freeing Mr. Provonost up to work with other students in one-on-one ways.
Want to spend class time wisely? Formative assessments can help. The trick: taking the time to analyze the data and put it to use. You can do this in any subject area, but we’ll start with an example from teaching math.
Let’s say my class is working on quadratic equations and we’re just beginning to learn how to find x-intercepts (remember it’s where a line crosses the x-axis).
In the past, I might have taught the lesson, worked sample problems on the board in class, and then assigned 3-5 problems for students to work on that evening.
Formative assessments change that model.