Educational Standard 3- Differentiation

Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.

Using differentiation, teachers can provide a more equitable learning environment for their students. In the classroom where I am a student intern there is a wide spectrum of learners represented. A few students in my classroom are excelling above grade level, some of my students are meeting grade level benchmarks and too many are below grade level. In addition to academic differences, I also have an exceedingly large population of students who are English Language Learners (ELL). Therefore, it is essential for me, as an instructor, to include differentiation for my students in order to provide the most effective instruction possible.

One example of differentiation that occurs in my internship classroom is the use of a math word wall (Figure 1). This math word wall provides essential support and differentiation in instruction for my students who are ELL as well as students with math, reading and writing IEPs. Through the use of a math word wall, I am providing pre-instruction of essential math vocabulary words and a visual aid. Multi-sensory input such as a math word wall is a critical aspect of supporting students who are ELL. This is supported by research done by Stephen Krashen, who’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition states that those who are leaning a new language must have multiple sensory inputs to become proficient speakers (Krashen, 2009).

Other ways I incorporate differentiation in my classroom include the use of kinesthetic activities to support my students who learn best using manipulative. From the beginning of my internship it was clear most of my students learn best through discovery and they love art. By providing students an opportunity to utilize these strengths in every academic discipline, I provide differentiation for my unique classroom demographic. One such example of this is the use of Cheeze-its to find the area of a rectangle. Not only does this activity support learning related to the 2nd grade level math standards, but also is fun and engaging because it is tailored specifically for my students. Another opportunity I took to utilize differentiation was with an activity I call “Pattern Block Art”. By manipulating pattern blocks to create a piece of art, students practiced another 2nd grade math standard of combing shapes.

When implementing differentiation in a classroom, a teacher must consider the strengths and cultural knowledge of their students in order for it to be an effective instructional aid.  Using a math word wall and manipulatives have been both engaging and helpful to students during math instruction because of my student’s background knowledge and interests.

Math Word Wall(Figure 1)

References:

Krashen, S. (2009). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition (Internet Addition). doi:http//www.sdkrashen.com/content/books/principles_and_practice.pdf

Educational Standard 5- Environment

Learning Environment The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

In a classroom, a teacher should endeavor to create the best learning environment possible for his or her students, modifying aspects of the classroom to support learning and providing supports in the way of schedule, and clear expectations.

While student teaching, my mentor teacher and I use a daily schedule (see Material 1.1), placing it a clear and visible location so every student can see and utilize the resource. Not only does this schedule support the learning of students, it also supports the teacher in their planning and time management. The daily schedule supports a variety of learners and is especially helpful to four students in particular who require advanced emotional preparation for transitions as well as a concrete understanding of the daily events. Utilizing the daily schedule provides an opportunity for teachers to set clear expectations for each event and reminds students of what those expectations are. According to Harry Wong, students must be introduced to expectations early on and reminded regularly of those expectations. The daily schedule has been in use daily since the first day of school and students know what is expected of them throughout the day

Utilizing a daily schedule supports student’s physical, emotional and intellectual well-being. By allowing students the opportunity to know what is happening in advanced, particularly for young students who require a significant amount of structure to feel safe and secure. Additionally, displaying clearly what the expectation is for the day helps support students who have emotional, intellectual and behavioral difficulties with transitions, of which I have several in my classroom (Lewis and Doorlag, 2003).

By using a daily schedule, my understanding of the importance of structure for students who require extra support, and even for young students has been clarified and reinforced. Without a schedule, the tenuous continuity and organization of my class would fall apart.

By introducing and following a daily schedule, teachers and students equally benefit. In each grade level, students are expected to attend to and learn many skills. Without time management, teachers would not be able to cover all standards, and students would not have the opportunity to learn the content. In addition, using the schedule as a reference at the beginning of the day primes students minds for what they are expected to learn for the day.

Some ideas I have about changing how the schedule is used would be to make the schedule larger or move its location. Not every student can see it easily, nor can the teacher see it from every angle of the class. In my classroom, I would place the daily schedule in the same location morning meetings occur. This way, the schedule is in front of every student at the most critical moment; when the schedule is reviewed in its entirety.

Secondly, I would refer to the schedule multiple times throughout the day. Currently the only time we refer to the schedule is at the beginning of the day, during morning meeting. Although I currently will refer to the schedule if a student specifically asks me what is happening next, I do not intentionally refer to the schedule in front of the whole class. Although there are specific students that would benefit from explicit references to the daily schedule due to learning needs, all students would be given more piece of mind, and it would encourage their time management skill development.

References

Lewis, R. B., & Doorlag, D.H. (2003). Teaching Special Students in General Education (6th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Wong, H., & Wong, R. (2009). The first days of school: How to be an effective teacher. Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications.

schedule
Material 1.1