Helping All Students Learn

An idea that has remained constant regardless of the different types of learners in our classroom is the need for assessment. Teachers must continually assess students’ learning to gage where they are in their understanding and how to move them forward. We must first assess students at the beginning of the year to learn which students are performing at various levels, if they understood what was taught in their previous class, their background knowledge in content areas, interests, and what types of learners they are. Then, as we move through lessons, we must assess students along the way through formative assessments such as exit cards. Formative assessments are crucial in allowing teachers to be aware of where students are with understanding and how to then scaffold learning according to their varied levels.

Another idea to help students at all levels learn is to provide them with activities that allow them to interact with their peers as well as the class as a whole. Activities such as think-pair-share gives students the opportunity to think critically and share those ideas with other students. High performing students can choose to work with other students with high abilities and challenge one another. Teachers can also assign groups and pairings based on the information received from formative assessments to ensure that students are working with others at appropriate levels. Chapter 5 noted that it’s important for high potential students to work with high performing students sometimes to encourage them to perform well.

Graphic organizers are another way to encourage students at all levels to learn. Setting up a hook and guided questions will help students stay engaged in the lecture and pay attention to the important components of what they are learning. This chapter discussed how high performing students can also struggle with note-taking and graphic organizers can be useful for all students.

Dividing students into small groups gives teachers an opportunity to meet with these various groups and discuss their needs and interests with them on a personal level. As students will have a wide range of readiness levels, groups will allow the teacher to visit with all students and address these issues. When students are in groups, one group can stay assigned to working on a task while the teacher is meeting with another group, as to make sure everyone stays productive.

A new strategy introduced was compacting, which is particularly useful for gifted students. Teachers should provide students with the opportunity to study ahead and compact out of assignments in order to work on alternate assignments that interest and challenge them. Compacting students allows scaffolded learning for these students who require harder assignments different from the regular lesson.

As always, students need to see teachers’ genuine interest in them and their success. It’s very important teachers get to know their students in order to make the best judgments with what assignments, groupings, and activities will be best for their learners.

Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners

This article discussed a few key strategies that are useful in helping English language learners be successful in the general education classroom. The first strategy is scaffolding understanding. Providing ELLs with visual aids, graphic organizers, peer interactions, and then adjusting according to the students’ developments is a great way to scaffold these students’ learning.

Another strategy is purposeful grouping. The article noted that ELLs work best in groups with students varying in all levels of English speaking. Allowing students to work in groups helps ELLs learn from their peers. Getting to do jig-saw activities and work with peers to provide a wide arrangement of feedback helps ELLs in their learning and communication skills.

Lastly, the article discussed providing ELLs with background knowledge about a topic that is going to be discussed in class; this gives them an idea of what is going on or it can retrieve their prior knowledge on the subject. It allows the students to focus on what they need to be learning, instead of trying to process a great amount of information all at once.Providing background knowledge also allows students to make connections between what they already know and what they are learning, as well as transfer this knowledge to make contextual connections.

Why is a flexible classroom necessary for student success?

Differentiation is key for having a successful classroom because students come into the classroom with all different kinds of needs, levels of understanding, and learning styles. It is important for classrooms to be student-centered so that the needs of these diverse students can be met. The article on differentiation talked about how most classrooms are more ethnically diverse today than in the past, and there is an increasing percentage of students on the autism spectrum, with learning disabilities, mental health issues, and from low-income families. Having differentiated classrooms will adapt to students’ needs and provide a meaningful learning experience for the students.

An important thing to keep in mind in differentiated classrooms in continual performance assessments. It’s very important to keep track of where students are at in their learning and what progress has been made or what areas need to be worked on. Formative assessments will also promote a community-centered classroom in which the students get the support they need in a challenging environment.

Classroom Instruction That Works discussed the importance of cooperating learning model in differentiated classrooms. Teachers should differentiate instruction in order to promote positive interdependence to ensure the students are supporting each other’s learning within group activities. Teachers should encourage discussion among group members in order to help them help each other learn. Establish groups carefully and ensure that the individuals and group members are accountable for learning everything they need to know as well as holding each other responsible for individual learning. This chapter also discussed how group reflection was important for maintaining a differentiated classroom.

I watched a video on teaching channel that showed a second grade teacher using technology in his classroom to practice math skills through games. The students on the computers would play games at a certain level before moving on to the next station of iPods. Once students were at the iPod level, the games were more suited to individual students’ needs. While the students worked with technology, the teacher was able to work with the students he felt needed more help with learning and grasping the concepts. The teacher said having students divided up into different activities gave him time to focus on the students who needed extra attention without making it seem like a big deal to the other students. This teacher also gave benchmark assessments every 6-8 weeks and reported that the learning in his classroom has significantly increased since incorporating technology.

Potential Performance Task

Goal: Students will create their own poems or other forms of creative writing (short stories, songs, etc.) incorporating metaphors, similes, hyperboles, and different uses of connotative and denotative meanings. This will demonstrate their understanding of the literary terms we’ve defined and analyzed in other texts.

Role: Students will be the authors of creative writing that includes figurative language.

Audience: Students will bring in their writing to share with each other during visiting author. Students will sit in a seminar style classroom where each student has the opportunity to share their writing. Students will lead discussion and provide feedback and constructive criticism. The teacher will be sitting in seminar, only interjecting when necessary as a mediator.

Situation: Students will have an opportunity to begin brain storming during class after discussions and analyses of poems and stories. Students will polish writing at home to bring to class. The environment will be low-pressure and welcoming for students to share their poems. Students will have the freedom to be creative and can make their writing as serious or light-hearted as they want.

Performance/Product: Students will create a short poem or other form of creative writing that allows them to demonstrate their knowledge of figurative language and the effect it has on the meaning their audience will get.

Asking the Right Questions

Common mistakes made when teachers ask questions are asking questions that don’t require students to think and reflect on the question before answering. These types of questions are memory or recall questions that simply require students to remember something they’ve already learned. Another common mistake is not allowing students enough think time before calling on someone or stepping in and providing an answer themselves. In order to avoid making these mistakes, teachers can ask complex questions that require deeper thought. By asking more challenging questions, the teacher should also increase the amount of time they wait before expecting an answer. The article discussed how most teachers wait 3 seconds before calling on someone. This doesn’t allow internal processors enough time to gather everything they want to say and it encourages external processors to be the only ones to contribute. When teachers don’t allow enough wait time, or think time, they teach students that only the same couple of kids will be called on, so nobody else needs to think or learn.

Teachers can solve this issue by calling on everyone in the class and requiring everyone to participate. Waiting longer after asking questions allows time not only for the students to think, but also time for the teacher to think before moving on. Teachers can ask students to reflect on their own and then pair up and share answers or share with the class as a whole to get participation from everyone.

Ideas for lesson plan:

  • Memory Question: What is figurative language? Use examples from Othello.
  • Convergent Question: In what ways are Iago and Othello similar? In what ways are they different?
  • Divergent Question: Imagine you are Roderigo. Would you intervene in Othello’s relationship? Would you be friends with Iago? Why or why not? How would this play have gone differently if it happened today with all the forms of rapid communication and social media?
  • Evaluative: How do you feel about social status influencing who should or shouldn’t be married?

Formative Assessment’s Influence on Instructional Decisions

In my lesson plan, I will be teaching students about the functions of figurative language and how to derive meaning in various writings that use figurative language. During the first day, we will go over definitions and examples of metaphors, similes, connotations, etc. As an exit ticket, I will ask students to jot down what they think the key terms discussed mean and to provide examples of each. This will allow me to see which students understood the lesson and where there are gaps that need to be filled in before we move on with reading and analyzing figurative language in poems the next day.

How Does Assessment Promote Student Learning?

Teachers have an opportunity to help students become better learners and make positive progress through assessment and feedback. It’s important to keep in mind that although assessments are helpful to the teachers in letting them know where students are with their understanding, assessments and feedback are also very helpful to the student in allowing them to see what areas they can improve on. When teachers and students work as a team, more learning takes place. By addressing what is correct and explaining how students can improve their work, teachers tell students what they need to do in order to get to the next level of understanding.

Timing is crucial in providing feedback. Teachers should provide feedback in a timely manner in order to help students complete tasks and encourage them to keep working hard. Another aspect to keep in mind is to make sure feedback is related to the criteria of the assignment. An excellent resource to guide feedback to content is a rubric. Rubrics are beneficial to both teachers and students because teachers can provide useful feedback on exactly what the students need to do to improve and students can explicitly see the areas they are struggling with and why. Allowing students the opportunity to critique themselves as well as their peers’ work helps them keep track of their performances and encourages them to try harder.

Teachers should also remember that assessments aren’t all about grades. Rather than having students fail assignments, it is more beneficial to provide feedback and constructive criticism to help students grow and do better. Checking for understanding throughout the lesson plans will be more effective in judging if students are understanding the material. While tests do assess knowledge, not all students express what they’ve learned in the same way. Providing a differentiated classroom is essential to allowing all students a platform to show what they’ve learned in different ways. This article “N.Y.C. High School Strives for Authentic Assessment,” reports on a high school in New York that offers projects as alternatives to standardized testing in order to graduate. Students who opt to create projects must demonstrate their mastery of subject content by presenting to at least two teachers in assigned subject areas. Research shows that the students who chose this method instead of the standardized testing, were more likely to enroll in post-secondary classes. This is a cool alternative to test-taking and provides students with a little more variety to demonstrate their knowledge.