Differentiated Instruction for the Inclusive Middle and Secondary Classroom
William N. Bender, Ph.D., University of Georgia
I. Strategies for Higher Grades (to replace Lectures)
A. The Thinking Web
B. The Forum
C. The Gallery Walk renowned
II. Strategies to Support Lectures
A. Text Lookback Procedure
B. Verbal Retelling
C. RTC Procedure
E. Graphic Organizer
F. KWL Procedure
G. Performance Tasks
H. Importance Charts
III. Teaching Idea Lists
A. Ten Tactics for Brain Compatible Instruction
B. Ten Tactics for Improving Attention and Behavior
C. Ten Tactics for Structuring The Lesson
A Thinking Web
I. Identify--Getting down what we know and what we think we know. First write the topic--the general construct to be learned--on the board in the center in a circle. Your task during this step is to generate ideas, and at this point all ideas are welcome.
--get all ideas down on paper (sticky notes work well)
--mark each with a level of certainty; !!! = real sure; ! = somewhat sure; ? = not sure; ??? = I think I heard that!
--don't criticize any ideas at this point
--get everyone involved
--keep it fast and fluid, aiming for 15 to 35 ideas
--let everyone state their idea, write it and put it up
II. Classify This step involves construction of the general concepts related to the overall construct. For example, if a number of the notes deal with "definition of" you may want to make that a side-arm on the web.
--generate 4 to 6 constructs within the larger concept
--read each idea and discuss it, particularly uncertain ones;
--let others ask questions, remove ideas only when group reaches consensus (Keep some not sure ideas, if necessary
--identify ideas on the sticky notes that go together, and ask how they go together; put the sticky notes on the web in the appropriate spot.
--Get everyone involved
--Stop only when all ideas are re-located within the web
III. Clarify This step involves re-discussion of every idea. Solicit opinions of the group on the accuracy, particularly of the items marked as "not sure."
--Begin by recopying the major construct and concepts on the board; ask are the concepts in the right place for final writing?
--Next, read each item and solicit opinions on accuracy
--When group reaches consensus, write that item on the board
IV. Verify This step involves checking the accuracy of the Web given other sources. In most cases, the textbook may be used, but any source (internet, library, films or video) may be used.
--divide the group up, and have each group verify an "Arm"
--check each fact in the web
--report back to group & remove certainty marks.
This is the marketplace for ideas found in almost every ancient Roman City. Lively debate, disagreements, and public discussion which was comprehensive and quite entertaining was to be found there. You can create a "Forum" in your classroom. As in Ancient Rome, when the Forum is taking place, this should become the center of business for the classroom. It is best to visualize the Forum as...
...a public meeting place for lively, open discussion;
...a medium of discussion, debate, and learning;
...a public mini-lecture from a knowledgeable person;
...an interactive presentation from knowledgeable authorities.
Does Learning Take Place? Learning from exciting and challenging debate is quite fun, and students are generally much more involved in Forum activities than in more traditional types of presentations or group reports. A number of advantages have been noted by teachers who used forums as one component of their study units. By creating a Forum in your classroom, you...
- invite the sharing of individual expertise,
- disseminate a multi-layered view of a topic,
- cross disciplinary lines,
- increase the depth of understanding,
- provide an audience for individual work,
- stimulate the work of teams.
Steps in Creating a Forum
1. Assign topics and days for the forum. Let various presenters know when they will lead debate.
2. Provide time for students to prepare themselves for points and counterpoints in a debate or open discussion. Students may wish to prepare visual aides, etc. to help them make their points.
3. On the day of the Forum, set up room for everyone to see each other, and see the presenters as those presenters move around the room.
4. Challenge qualifications of presenter/participants (i.e. not every member in the class presents at once, though all may participate as audience discussion grows). Have the featured speakers done their homework on the topic?
5. Have students established or reviewed rule for "Appropriate" debate during the forum?
6. Have topic guidelines been established--what will and what will not be covered?
Facilitating The Forum
1. Give each presenter a "Location" in the room from which to present.
2. Give each presenter a few minutes (2 to 5) to present prior to the discussion.
3. Discussion opens with presenters agreeing or disagreeing, after the initial presentations. That discussion is open to audience members.
4. After some discussion, students are encouraged to reflect on what they learned.
5. Establish a mechanism whereby students may be evaluated by both students and the teacher.
The Gallery Walk
The gallery walk concept is a movement oriented strategy which comes from the instructional practices associated with "Multiple Intelligences." It is an effective method to initiate discussion in a class or workshop; It is a very good way to begin an afternoon session, or to begin a discussion class on a particular topic. Also, it allows the facilitator to explore local policy on the topic of discussion, and glean several local examples for subsequent discussion. Instructions are simple and straightforward.
(1) From recent local or national headlines, create 5 to 12 posters which make a statement about those issues. Hang these around the room. If several posters can be "sequenced" in some meaningful order, place these in sequence.
(2) Encourage each participant to walk the gallery, read each statement, and "Take a stand" by the statement which he or she feels most strongly about (either pro or con). Note that only a certain number of participants can stand by each poster (in order to assure "coverage" of the various posters).
(3) As groups form around various statements, present a question sheet to facilitate discussion of that issue among the small group. The facilitator should visit each group during this 10 to 20 minute discussion period, to assure that the groups are on-task, discussing the issue statements, and getting some written notes to share with the whole group later on.
(4) After groups conclude their work, each group should summarize their discussions, in turn, for the entire class, while inviting the class to either agree with or take exception to the small group's thoughts.
Discussion Questions for the Small Group
(1) Which of us feels most strongly about this statement? Do we agree or disagree with it as a group?
(2) For any of us, has a particular situation or example resulted in our strong feelings? Can we share that example here?
(3) What three key points do we want the whole group to hear as the result of our discussions?
Discussion Questions for the Whole Group
(1) Has anyone had an experience along these lines that you would like to share?
(2) What actions could you recommend to alleviate this problem or address this issue?
Ideas To Facilitate Learning through Lecture/Discussions
I. A Text Lookback Tactic
In using a text lookback tactic, teachers should directly teach the skills involved in looking back over a text chapter or assigned reading, in order to find specific information. When partnered with a set of specific comprehension questions, the ability to lookback in the text to find answers to the questions will greatly assist students in comprehension of the assigned reading material.
Some teachers may assume that telling students with learning disabilities to "look back over the chapter and find the answer," is sufficient for those students. However, the fact is that there are a number of different skills involved in looking back through a chapter for specific information, and many students in the middle and upper grades do not know how to search for answers to questions in the textbook. Teachers should directly teach these text lookback skills, by placing a chart in the front of the room, and reviewing the following steps. At a minimum these text lookback skills would involve:
(1) remembering when certain information was covered?early or late in the chapter,
(2) using headings to find the right section of text;
(3) reading topic sentences under the appropriate heading,
(4) identifying a specific paragraph where the answer might be, and
(5) finding the answer in that chapter or continuing the search.
II. Verbal Retelling
Verbally retelling the information from a reading passage or even a lecture in a subject content area has been shown to increase comprehension. Verbally retelling the main information helps a student focus on the important aspects of the information presented, and thus represents one method by which a student may summarize the information in the text. For this reason, middle and upper grade teachers in the general education classroom should frequently require students to retell information which has just been read or otherwise presented in class. When a selection is read, either silently or orally, the teacher may invite students to retell the important aspects of the reading selection by saying something like;
"Now we?re going to work together to retell the information we just read.
You may refer to your books as you need to. I?d like for someone to tell me the
names of the persons we just read about, and then I?ll call on someone else to tell me the first thing that happened."
III. RTC Procedure
RTC stands for "Recorder, Talker, and Checker." Prior to beginning a 10 to 15 minute segment of a lecture, I appoint students for the following jobs:
R -- a recorder who records the critical infomation on a poster, and I lecture;
T --a talker who will present that critical information to the class, at the end of my 20 minute presentation, and
C --a checker who checks to assure that the critical information is all covered by the recorder and the talker.
After I present information for a while, I then have students in the class present the critical aspects of the information I just covered. This assures participation of the students who are serving in these roles, and breaks up the lecture/discussion format. Also, sometimes teachers do not say exactly what they wish to say, and/or students hear something different, so this procedure gives the teacher the opportunity to hear what the students heard, and to correct, clarify, or add to that information. This is a fairly simple retelling procedure that teachers from grades 4 through secondary school can easily implement in inclusive classes.
Cubing is a technique which will assist students to consider a concept from six points of view, by giving students suggestions on how to conceptualize a particular concept. While envisioning the six sides of a cube, the student is told that each side represents a different way of looking at the idea.
Cube Sides Function - Use terms like
Side one - Describe it recall, name, locate, list
Side two - Compare it contrast, example, explain, write
Side three - Associate it connect, make design
Side four - Analyze it review, discuss, diagram
Side five - Apply it propose, suggest, prescribe
Side six - Argue for/against it debate, formulate, support.
Using this idea of cubing, the same concept is looked at from six different perspectives, and the various levels of knowledge of different students may be addressed in this context (e.g. some students considering initial descriptions of the concept while others are involved in analysis of it). In the differentiated classroom, the teacher will intentionally construct his or her lessons based on this cubing concept, and that will emphasize to the students that concepts covered in this fashion are multidimensional and must be considered in a more complex fashion.
In studies of the President Kennedy?s and President Johnson?s response to China?s growing influence in the nation of South Vietnam, the various sides of the cube would suggest that students should:
Describe that response buildup of US troops in Vietnam.
Compare the response to French buildup of troops 15 years earlier
Associate the response to other Presidents? attempts to limit power of
Other nations (e.g. President Wilson?s response
To Germany in 1916).
Analyze the response Discuss the reasoning of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson
Apply alternatives Suggest how other Presidents chose to limit influence
At other times (e.g. the Jefferson administration?s
Response to Pirates around the African coast).
Argue the response Debate the wisdom of Kennedy?s and Johnson?s response.
V. Graphic Organizers and Study Guides
Graphic organizers and study guides represent adapted advance organizers that can focus students with learning disabilities on the task at hand both prior to and during the task. Study guides and graphic organizers differ only slightly from advance organizers in that the work on a study guide is to be completed during the study of the material rather than prior to it. Study guides may also be referred to as "participatory organizers" with the emphasis on student?s participation in completing the study guide during the study itself. A sample study guide is predsented below.
One tactic for general education teachers involves development of a study guide, and then utilizing that guide as both an advance organizer, and subsequently as a participatory organizer. For example, in using the mountain chart described above as an advance organizer, the teacher would show the chart to the students prior to beginning the unit, and ask questions about what the different shaded areas meant. In using the same chart as a participatory organizer, the teacher would reproduce the chart on a worksheet with the shaded areas unlabeled, and the students would be expected to add descriptions to those areas until their worksheets included much more information than the original visual display.
VI. KWL Procedure
Know --What you Know Already About the Topic
Want to Know ?What you Want to Know About the Topic
Learned ?What you Have Learned About the Topic
The KWL procedure involves forming a chart with three columns (Know; Want to Know; and Learned). This activity is both a prediction activity (i.e. the first two columns) and a post learning activity (the last column). Many teachers begin a new unit of instruction with some version of this chart in the class, and complete it throughout the class. Many other teachers use the KWL procedure as a daily activity, completing the first two columns as the interest activity at the first of the lesson, and completing the final column as the final review.
VII. Performance Tasks
Performance assessment--which may also be referred to as authentic assessment--is based on the concept that students should produce actual products that are similar to products which would be produced in the real world, and that evaluation of the student?s understanding should be based on those products or their performance in producing those products. Authentic tasks require that the student perform tasks in as realistic a fashion as possible, based on the context of the real world. Here are several examples that have been used in various schools.
Knowledge of Late Middle Ages
Students may be required to plan, conduct, develop costumes for, and then perform a "King?s Dinner." They must develop and dress in period costume, eat with the utensils used at that point (i.e. only a knife), speak some approximation of "Olde English," serve the school administrators the dinner, with appropriate wait-persons, and so on.
Students may be required to develop a campus newspaper including news stories, various weekly columns, etc., and produce an edition each week for the semester.
Studies of Ecosystems
Students may be required to sample water from several local creeks and rivers, testing for turbidity, microscopic life, etc.
Clearly, these projects involve sophisticated understanding of the concepts which are typically taught in history, English, or science, but these concepts are applied in a "real world" context. This aspect of performance assessment tends to make this instructional innovation into a rich teaching/learning experience, during which students actually experience the application of their growing knowledge in these fields. For this reason, many teacher become quite loyal to this teaching/assessment paradigm and consider it much more "fun" than traditional instruction.
Of course, not all performance assessment projects involve extensive class wide projects such as those described above. Less involved projects for individual students may be used for daily or weekly tasks. These may include:
Write a song or poem of a particular period
Draw a picture of a historical scene
Develop a model from toothpicks & glue
Illustrate a story
Teach a 15 minute period of class
Develop a multimedia report
VIII. Importance Charts
Students may use Importance Charts to determine the relative importance of facts from their history lesson. You may initiate this activity with a challenge to "design a history text" for lower grade level learners. The "authors" (i.e. your students) may use an importance chart to determine the relative importance of the facts and events in the history unit. A sample importance chart is presented for your use. Use the following questions as guidelines:
While events, persons, and ideas, are most important?
In viewing these 3 as "sources" of history, which is most important in this unit?
(Do persons make history, or does history make the person?)
Which of the six categories of human endeavor is most important for this period?
(Arts, Economics, Military, Politics, Social, Science/Technology?)
Teaching Tips: Ten Brain Compatible Instruction Tactics
1. A safe, comfortable environment. Research on learning has demonstrated that the brain serves as a filter on several levels. First, the brain selectively focuses on sounds, sights, and other stimuli that threaten our safety, often to the exclusion of other stimuli. A second priority is information resulting in emotional responses, and only as a last priority does the brain process information for new learning tasks.
2. Comfortable furniture. As a part of structuring a comfortable learning environment, many teachers bring "house furniture" into the classroom, by setting up readings areas with a sofa, and perhaps several comfortable chairs. Lamps are also used in brain compatible classrooms for more "home-like" lighting. A moments reflection on the hardness of the wooden desks in most of our nation?s classrooms (In which students must sit in for up to 5 hours each day) makes this a critical concern for many teachers. How would any adult like to sit in those wooden desks for 5 or 6 hours each day for an entire year?
3. Water and fruits. Research has shown that the brain requires certain fuels (oxygen, glucose, and water), to be performing at peak efficiency. Up to 1/4 of the blood pumped in our bodies with each heartbeat is headed for the brain and central nervous system, and fluids are critical this even blood flow. Further, water is essential for the movement of neuron signals through the brain (Sousa, 2001; pp. 23). Finally, we now know that fruits are an excellent source of glucose for the brain, and research has shown that eating a moderate amount of fruit can boost performance and accuracy of word memory. Thus, in brain compatible classrooms, individual water bottles are usually present on the desks for students to take a sip whenever they need too (i.e. water is not a once an hour privilege in the brain compatible class), and many teachers offer light fruits as snacks.
4. Frequent Student Responses. Students will learn much more when work output is regularly expected from them. Students must be required to do assignments, either in the form of class work or homework on material that is presented. The frequency of work expected from the students will be a major determinant of how much information students retain. Also the required work output doesn?t have to be an entire page of problems?more frequent output of only a few problems each time will be much more useful in the learning process for students with learning disabilities. More frequent, and shorter assignments also gives the teacher additional opportunities to check the students? understanding of the concepts covered.
5. Learning With Bodily Movements. Have you ever wondered why motor skills such as swimming or riding a bike are usually remembered forever, whereas the skills involved in speaking a foreign language are quickly forgotten if not constantly practiced? The emerging research on the human brain has addressed this question concerning motor learning vs. higher order cognitive learning, and two findings have emerged. First, learning of motor skills takes place in a different area within the brain-- a more fundamental level?than learning of languages. Second, the brain considers motor skills more essential to survival. This suggests that, whenever possible, teachers should pair factual memory tasks with physical movements. For example, various spelling works may be taught by moving the arms and legs to the shape of the letters in the word (you may recall the recent popular music example of this in the song "YMCA!"). Most memory tasks can, in some fashion be represented by physical movement and this will greatly enhance retention for students with learning disabilities, as well as most other students, even in the upper grades and secondary school.
6. Learning with Visual Stimuli. Teachers should use color enhancements, size, and shape enhancements in development of work sheets or material posted in the classroom, because the human brain and central nervous system are specifically attuned to seek out novelty and differences in stimuli. Thus, highlighting the topic sentence of the paragraph in a different color for students with learning disabilities can be of benefit for them in describing the topic of the paragraph. However, in order to make this an effective learning tool, the teacher and the student (or the class) should specifically discuss why certain aspects of the material are colored differently, and the importance of those colored items.
7. Using chanting, rhymes, and music. Because music and rhythms are processed in a different area of the brain from language, pairing facts to be learned to a musical melody, or a rhythmic chant can enhance learning. Most adults, upon reflection, can remember the song that we used to memorize the ABCs --the tune to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star--and many of us used that same song for other memory tasks?the periodic table, or mathfacts.
8. Wait Time. Students have learned that teachers will often call on the first one or two students who raise their hand after the teacher has asked a question in class. Thus, all students with learning disabilities have to do is remain "invisible" for a few seconds (i.e. not raise their hand, and not look towards the teacher), and the teacher will usually call on someone else! On average, teachers will wait only 1 or 2 seconds before calling on someone for an answer, and this period of time between the question and when an answer is called for is defined as "wait time." However, students process information at different rates, and the brain research has demonstrated the importance of waiting for a few seconds (perhaps 7 to 10 seconds) after asking a question, prior to calling on someone for the answer. This increased wait time gives students who process information more slowly and deliberately, a period of time to consider their answer.
9. Student Choices. Robert Sylwester, a leader in brain based instruction, emphasized the use of choices for students. In short, if we want our students to make reasonable, and informed choices when they are not in the context of the school, we must offer choices, and coach students in making informed choices, within the context of the classroom. Such choices may involve the options for demonstrating competence or understanding of a set of facts, or other choices among assignments on a particular topic.
10. Using students to teach others. Teachers should get in the habit of presenting some information (the brain research suggests presenting new information at the beginning of the period for between 10 and 20 minutes, and frequently pausing during that presentation and have students reflect on the new information together. You should present information for 2 to 3 minutes, get to a stopping point, and then say something like:
"Turn to your learning buddy beside you, and take turns explaining the 4 points I just made. Let me know if you uncover any disagreements in what each of you heard."
The teacher should then move around the room for one to two minutes, listening to the discussions between the students, and checking that the students do have a correct understanding of the information just presented. This instructional procedure will result in much higher retention than merely presenting new information for 10 to 20 minutes.
Teaching Tips: Ten Tactics to Foster Attention Skills and Improved Behavior
1. Use a highly structured class. In talking with students and giving instructions in your class, you should clearly differentiate between the "Floor groupwork area" and the study carrel area. This will help students with learning disabilities understand your vision of the types of work to be done in each area, and higher structure will assist students with learning disabilities in their work overall.
2. Display classroom rules. Having a set of 3 to 5 positively stated class rules on display can alleviate many behavior problems. Rules that state what a child should do (i.e. Quietly complete your work), are usually best, and by referring to the rules when a student is misbehaving, the teacher can, in effect differentiate himself/herself from the discipline process, and make the misbehavior an infraction against the class (i.e. against the rules of the class.
3. Post a daily class schedule. Even for teachers in departmentalized schools with 45 minute periods, a posted schedule of the day?s activities can greatly assist students with learning disabilities in understanding what they should be doing.
4. Train on Class Cues: Teachers should train students to recognize certain cues in the context of the classroom. Depending upon the age level, some teachers have a small bell which they ring to get the attention of the class. Others use cue cards which are mounted in front of the class about how to begin a lesson (get out the book; get out your notebook; get out your pencil; etc.. As the cue, the teacher may merely need to point to the chart.
5. Use two desks: Hyperactive students frequently get out of their seat without knowing why. For some students, assigning a second desk across the room gives them the ability to move from one to the other periodically (not every 5 seconds, of course!) without the teaching having to attend to an "out-of-seat" misbehavior.
6. Use intentional distractions. For some students with learning disabilities, movement is not only necessary, it is essential. For many of these kids, providing them something to do with their hand may alleviate more disruptive movements in the class. This is the concept of "intentional distractions." In short, providing a child with a pen from which he/she can constantly remove and replace the cap provides something to stay busy with during a class discussion (and is usually much quieter than loud pencil tapping on the desk). For pencil tappers, demonstrated "quiet tapping" which is tapping on the back of one?s own hand?it provides more sensation/stimulation and is quieter than tapping on the desk!
7. Keep Desks Clear. Remind students to keep their desks clear and uncluttered, except for materials and texts used at the moment.
8. Visually Monitor Students. The teacher should arrange the class to allow for visually monitoring the students at all times.
Provide verbal reminders to return to task, as needed.
9. Provide Color Organizers. Colored organizers can assist many students in organizing their assignments, and notebooks. The teacher should work out a color coded organization system appropriate for the students.
10. Use Peer Buddies. Setting up a peer buddy system in which pairs of students check each other?s readiness to begin the next lesson can greatly assist students with learning disabilities in getting through transitions between lessons.
Teaching Tips: Ten Tactics for Structuring the Lesson
1. Provide Clear Directions: Providing clear, simple, instructions, particularly during transitions, can assist students with learning disabilities to focus on the learning task.
2. Provide Lesson Outline: A lesson outline will help students focus on what will come next in the small group or whole class discussion. From the basis of this outline, you should teach outlining and note-taking skills.
3. Develop alternative activities: When a teacher develops a lesson for a general education classroom today, he or she should develop a minimum of two worksheets, activities at different levels. The use of alternative assignments which cover the same material is one cornerstone of differentiated instruction.
4. Plan for frequent breaks. Students who are hyperactive (including many students with learning disabilities) will need frequent opportunities to stand up and move around the classroom. Building 30 second "stretch-breaks" every 15 minutes or so, into your class period can help alleviate many problems.
5. Use physical activities. For all students in public schools, learning is facilitated by movement. Even the learning of the highest achievers in senior high can be enhanced by movement. The emerging research on "brain compatible education" has documented that learning is enhanced by movement, and if teachers can tie particular facts to a physical movement and have the class practice that movement, the students with learning disabilities will be much more likely to remember that fact.
6. Use Clear Worksheets. Teachers should make certain that they do not build distractors into the lesson, by using cluttered worksheets or instructional materials. For students with learning disabilities who may be visually distracted, such worksheets can result in failure on the assignment.
7. Decrease Task Length: For some students, a worksheet activity which involves 50 math problems will always appear to be an insurmountable assignment. However, if the teacher prints only 15 math problems on the worksheet, the student will immediately attempt that assignment. The teacher may then give another worksheet with another 15 problems on it.
8. Check Assignment Notebook. All teachers should require that students write assignments in a notebook, and while many do this, some teachers never check the notebooks. For students with learning disabilities, checking that they have written down the correct assignment can be critical, and the process of checking emphasizes the importance of noting the assignment due dates.
9. Develop Alternative Assessments. Students with learning disabilities, on some occasions, know more about a topic than an paper and pencil test can allow them to demonstrate. Teachers must develop and use alternative assessment practices, such as grading open-book homework or classwork, or using daily data-based performance measures. These will be covered in a later section of this text.
10. Turn To Your Partner and Explain: The idea behind "turn to your partner and explain this concept" is rooted in the truth that what one can explain, one understands. When conducting a lesson, at various points (perhaps every 5 minutes or so, when you finish a certain amount of material), have the students pair up and explain those several points to each other, as a comprehension check. Building this into your lesson routinely can greatly enhance comprehension of these students.
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