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- The Importance of Feedback in Distance Learning - October 9, 2020
- What a Teacher Wants: One Teacher's View - March 25, 2018
- Artist is Not a Dirty Word - March 18, 2018
- The Death of Reflection in English/Language Arts Classrooms - March 9, 2018
- More Than A Teacher - March 4, 2018
- Real Teaching Resolutions - January 5, 2017
- 23 Times I have Questioned My Sanity While Teaching - September 7, 2016
- Part 3: Adventures in Real Word English/Language Arts - Let Them Be Great - August 23, 2016
- Part 2: Adventures in Real World English/Language Arts: Making Them Care - August 4, 2016
Students have choices. Choice is of the key elements on our new evaluation system, but sometimes I do not have time to offer students a choice. We all are busy, and thinking of new and creative projects is sometimes exhausting and frankly many do not meet the new common core standards. But incorporating choice makes differentiated instruction all the more easy to plan. So here are a few ideas I love that give students choices and challenge them.
1. The Multiparagraph Composition. I don’t know about you, but if I have no desire to read seventy essays on Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy. If you are just testing writing skills, why not let the student choose what they want to write about? Too many choices can be a bit overwhelming, but offering three to five prompts makes the student feel a little more confident because they picked which topic they really know about. I LOVE these AP essay questions and I even use them in my regular classes. (Of course with a little rewording.)
2. Tic, Tac, Toe. We all need a break from writing. (Gasp! An English teacher/writer said that!) I discovered Tic, Tac, Toe when I first started teaching. The kids like it and I love watching them try to figure out the “easiest” row to do. (There is no easy row, if you do it right) The kids must choose three in a row. What is great about these is that you can include ANYTHING: essays, art, performances, even essays. Here is a great example. This activity can be used for any subject area share it with math, social studies, and science teachers.
3. Menus. This is very similar to Tic, Tac, Toe, but you place a point value on each project. Students can choose as many projects as they would like, but they must meet a set amount of points. I use rubistar.com for making rubrics.
4. Group activities. Groups only work if you have a “role” or assignment for every kid in that group otherwise it ends up being one person does the work and we all copy it kind of thing and everyone is irritated. When we study the “Devil and Tom Walker,” for example, there are four different assignments. I try to offer a range from easy to hard. The students usually pick out what assignment was made for them. A higher range student wants to be challenged and will usually not pick out the identifying smiles and metaphors assignment. Within the groups, students decide who will do what. It is differentiated instruction. Students choose what they are best at and how the assignments get done. Some work in pairs to find the textual evidence. Some students work alone. You are accommodating ALL of them.
I am blessed to have a mobile lab, so the kids ask to use it frequently. I let them. I keep an abundance of construction paper, markers, and posters in the class. If the kids ask to use it, I let them. I know that it is the “quality of work” over the “beauty” of the assignment, but if a student can illustrate the overall mood of the “Devil and Tom Walker” and point to evidence in the text, why not? Differentiated instruction is not necessarily making sure each student has a different assignment every single day. It is about allowing the students to demonstrate their understanding in a way that they feel confident. I let them adjust assignments or even offer their own ideas. Students need an opportunity to take control of their own learning. And in the end, you as the teacher can enjoy the variety of their gifts and skills!