All People have different learning styles, students are no exception. Some students need little direction and follow up explanation to complete a task while others require additional differentiation to make learning more accessible for them. Effective Educators are ones that are able to use various tools to anticipate student needs and provide prompt lesson modification and differentiated instruction to maximize student engagement and understanding in their lessons.
One group of students where this is the case are the English Language Learners (ELL). With ELL students there are a variety of strategies in which you can differentiate instruction. Based on the type of Formative Assessment (F.A.) you used to assess the students, you could incorporate different components into your differentiated instruction. One strategy would be to add more visual material to your classroom and lesson(s). This will provide ELLs another vehicle is which they can learn the lesson content and provide another process for them to manipulate and understand that content. In addition, you could look ahead to terms and concepts in the lesson that would be difficult to understand and have ready a couple of different explanations at various levels ready to go. That way differentiated instruction can be done on the fly during the lesson without too much loss of time synthesizing those explanations during the lesson. Finding content and resources in simplified English and/or the native language is another great strategy to provide differentiated instruction for ELLs.
Some students come into a class with a lower understanding of the topic that other students. These students have a low readiness level compared to the rest of the class. On the flip side there are also students that fall on the other side of that spectrum and have a high readiness and are able to meet your objectives quickly. These students need differentiated instruction to extend the lesson and allow them to deepen their understanding of the concepts.
To accommodate students of varying readiness levels the lesson could be structured so that there would be an Activity Menu. An Activity Menu is a set of a few activities that vary in length and difficulty. They can also differ in they way students will have to interact with that lesson to allow for the students different learning styles. With the menu, students get to choose which activity they will do to engage with the content and develop a greater understanding. It allows the students to reflect on their own readiness and decide for themselves which activity will be appropriate and not overly challenging. Depending on what sort of learners are in the class changes the sort of activities are offered to students. If the class is mostly of one or two learning styles it would make more sense to have the activities vary more in difficulty. If the class is very diverse in learning styles then it would be more appropriate to offer activities that cater to the different learning styles rather that difficulty. The more likely scenario is that the class is mixed for both so a mix in activity difficulty and style would be most appropriate.
To determine which differentiated instruction and modification to implement you could make and follow a flowchart such as the one Here.
In summary, educators can anticipate students needs through regular formative assessments. Following those assessments educators should be able to identify learner challenges and needs. After those needs are identified then the educator can proceed in using different instructional strategies to provide Differentiated Instruction and Lesson Modification to accommodate the learners needs and enable them to engage with the lesson. These Strategies should also be kept in mind and implemented when conducting future Formative Assessments, Summative Assessments, and Lesson Planning.
Assessments are an essential and valuable tool for evaluating students achievement and understanding of a lesson or units objectives. There are two main forms of assessment that an educator can use to have students demonstrate understanding and fulfilled the objectives. They are Formative and Summative assessments.
Formative assessments are to monitor students learning. As educators we use them to regularly assess student comprehension and target both strengths and weaknesses in a targeted area (the unit/standard/lesson). Formative assessments also provide instant feedback of comprehension to both the students and educators, in a low to no stakes format. That is that their grade is not greatly affected by the assessment however the information it provides is valuable to both parties. Examples of formative assessment can be as simple as a thumbs up/ thumbs down check for understanding to more complicated assessments such as a rough draft of a essay related to the unit topic.
Summative assessments are designed to evaluate student learning instead of monitor it. Educators use this to compare student comprehension to the objectives to see if those objectives are met. Summative assessments usually have a high point value and are more “high stakes than formative assessments. Examples of these include exams, projects, essays, speeches, presentations, ext.
Based on the objectives set for the unit on ecology and energy (Objectives for Example Standard) here are the appropriate formative and summative assessments.
One formative assessment that can be used to check if the objectives are being met by students it have a Know – Want to Learn – Will Have Learned sessions as a class or in partners before the lesson as a starter. This assessment is good because it engages them to reflect on previous knowledge to apply and predict what they will learn for the coming lesson(s). It is a quick and flexible task that can be done orally or written for a formal formative assessment.
Another formative assessment that is helpful for this unit because there are a lot of terms and profound ideas is to have students create an idea/mind map and update it each lesson with new information form that lesson. This is good because it allows for many learning styles to participate and engage with the formative assessment.
In addition, I always like to have some sort of exit ticket where students write down one term or concept that they understand as well as, one that they have trouble grasping. They they would turn it into me before exiting class. I like this method because it allows shy quiet students to get their concerns addressed and also allow me to differentiate and extend lessons.
When it comes to summative assessments this unit is particularly suited for a project. The project that would allow students to demonstrate completion of the objectives would be to have them research an ecosystem of their interest, construct a food web, identify organisms based on their position and behavior in that ecosystem, and summarize how energy flows through the ecosystem. This project allows for a lot of student ownership and diversity in how they show their understanding of the objectives.
Overall I found this unit on unpacking standards very helpful and insightful. Before this unit, I was at a loss as to how to go about mapping out the standards set about in the curriculum. Now I know how to effectively map standards by starting from the end and working backwards to the original standard is the best way to break about the standard into various aspects. It is also easy to see how you get different lesson plan topics through this method. The standard by itself is one or two sentences that does not paint
a clear picture as to how you should structure your lessons. Only by breaking it down can you see the different skills, content, themes, and ideas that you need to plan and develop your lessons around.
When you break the standard you see the proficiencies that students will have to master in order to achieve the said standard. These most often skills and ways of thinking that you as the teacher will need to teach or reinforce to the students. They have less to do with content and more to do with cognition and meta-cognition of the students. When I think of proficiencies I think of the skills between the lines of the standard that are necessary or highly useful for the students to learn the standard. Identifying and devising ways to teach these profeciencies around the content of the standard is the
hardest skill I trouble with in this unit.
Assessments can be derived by breaking down the standard as well. By looking at the verbiage of the standard you can get some ideas as to how you can assess the acquisition of the standard by the students. If the standard says “explain” then you can assess by having the students write a short paragraph or explain orally what they know after you teach the lessons. If the standard says “demonstrate” you could have the students create a model showing their understanding. If it says “Analyze”, you could have the students
conduct a lab experiment and write about their findings. The verbage of the standard should guide youas to how you will go about assessing the students.
I feel that developing the Learning Activities are the most straight forward part of unpacking standards. By looking at the content and the various aspects of the content it is easy to come up with many activities that you can give to students. However, the challenge is how can you create activities that effectively teach the content and incorporate the proficiencies that students need. I think this is one area where
practice and research into best teaching practices will enable me to better develop effective learning activities.
With that said, I think the area where I can improve the most is identifying profeciencies that my students will learn while working towards mastery of the standard. If I can correctly ID these profeciencies then I can better develop lessons around them and create engaging and differentiated learning activities.