Tag Archives: differentiation

Pathways to the Standards #CECACASL18

201820cecacasl20logo

On Monday, October 22nd I attended and presented the CECA/CASL 2018 Annual Conference. There were more than 50 presentation from educators, authors, and administrators addressing topics that intersect literacy and technology.

One of the key strands of the conference was differentiation and ways to differentiate in a student centered classroom. By differentiation I mean including EVERY learner in the classroom (not just the ones who are struggling). The key is that there are multiple ways for students to demonstrate understanding and instruction needs to change when evidence of learning has not occurred.

Steven W. Anderson of web20classroom.org shared 10 great tools to help differentiate content, product, process, and assessment.

  1. Poll Everywhere is an online polling platform that does more than just have students respond to a survey or multiple choice question. With Poll Everywhere students can respond to an open ended question and even formative assessments where students can pin a location on a map or diagram.
  2. Padlet – Yes, the online sticky notes where students can respond to a question or post a response. Padlet let’s users respond in text, drawing and images, and even audio. I recently had students share book reviews on Padlet of nonfiction independent reading books.
  3. Quizizz is so much better than Kahoot because it is not a competition but an assessment tool similar to Kahoot that let’s students work at their own pace to show their understanding.
  4. Nearpod is an interactive slideshow creator with a quiz feature. Nearpod does so much more and the paid version even offers AR & VR components.
  5. Edpuzzle is great for sharing videos in class and then students can answer questions before, during, and after viewing of their learning.

Teaching is an art more than a mechanical exercise. Students vary as learners and not everyone’s road map is identical for learning. When we know our students we are able to better create learning opportunities that honor their strengths, abilities, and cultures.

6. When thinking about differentiating the process and student’s understanding Anderson spoke about Gamification (Oh, Yeah!!). He shared Breakoutedu, Classcraft, Class Badge, Mincraftedu, and Duolingo – many gamification tools that I blog about regularly.

7. Flipgrid is now free since Microsoft has acquired it and it can be used in so many ways for the classroom from students reflecting on their own learning and thinking to posting a book review or explaining how they solved a math problem.

8. Book Creator is one that I am going to invest more time and attention to this year. Book Creator allows users to create their own interactive ebooks.

9. Microsoft’s Sway lets you create visually appealing and multitiered presentations. You can record audio on the slides and it will even grab resources for you when creating a presentation about specific topics. This is one to check out if you are looking for more interesting Google Slide Decks or Prezis.

10. TextHelp is the makers of Fluency Tutor and Read Write, these two Chrome extensions offers assistive technology that supports literacy in different ways. Fluency Tutor allows students to record text passages to help build their reading fluency and comprehension whereas Read Write has a dozen different tools on its toolbar to support readers and writers.

The key is choice when thinking about differentiating in your classroom. Choose technology platforms that allow students the opportunity to create new products and new knowledge. Remember, it is not technology for technology’s sake, but about creating a learning environment where there is “equity of access to excellence.”

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Guest Blog Post: Differentiated Instruction by Livia Bran

Students (like all people actually) have this paradoxical characteristic: they’re all the same; except when they’re not.

They function the same from a physical point of view, they dress annoyingly the same (even when — or especially when — there’s no compulsory school uniform) they all have to learn almost the same things in school and they all use their brains to do that. But when you take a closer look, you notice how different they are. No two students are actually the same.

Students come to school from different cultures, they may speak different languages, they have different academic backgrounds and have been shaped by different learning experiences. They come with different learning needs, learning preferences, and different expectations of what learning at school should be like. All these aspects, and even more, make up the individuality in each of them.

While it’s definitely easier to treat students the same in the classroom — after all, there is but one teacher to 30 students (more or less) — the best teachers are those who understand that students are not the same. And act accordingly, by differentiating instruction to better meet their learning needs.

The concept of differentiated instruction is nothing new. Great teachers have been doing it since teaching has been a profession. The problem with it is that it doesn’t fit perfectly in the standardized one-size-fits all education system we’re all too familiar with. Differentiated instruction is anything but one-size-fits-all.

Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products or the learning environment, the use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to instruction.

— Carol Ann Tomlinson

Carol Ann Tomlinson is a leader in the area of differentiated learning and Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Foundations, and Policy at University of Virginia. Her research on the effectiveness of differentiation shows this method benefits a wide range of students, from those who are considered to be struggling to those who are considered high ability.

4 Classroom aspects to differentiate

The above definition of differentiated instruction offers enough clues on how to actually do it. There are four main aspects of a classroom that can be differentiated so that students receive a more personalized learning experience. Let’s explore them a little:

  1. Content — Or what is to be learned. Teachers should work within grade-level standards to provide students with different levels of complexity of a certain subject or lesson that match their different levels of readiness to learn it. For example, if you’re a Maths teacher and have to teach fractions, compile a series of fraction related problems for students to solve, from the most basic ones to the most advanced. Your goal is to move the students through to the advanced ones, but the grade-level standards should be met somewhere in the middle. That way, struggling students will have time to reach the medium-difficulty problems (thus checking the standard) while the more gifted students will not get bored during class as they continue to solve the more advanced ones.
  2. Process — Or how students acquire information. Teachers should adjust the strategies used to deliver the information students have to learn. Considering that every piece of information students might need is just a click or a tap away, holding lectures is not enough. Opt instead for a repertoire of teaching strategies; besides direct instruction, try inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning, flipping the classroom or information processing models. The point is to give students options in how they access information, how they learn it and respect their choices.
  3. Products — Or how students demonstrate learning. In a differentiated instruction setting student choice and student agency are a given. Based on their learning preferences and interests they should be able to choose how to prove their learning advancements. Some will thrive at creating a presentation on the subject, others will present it with flair, others will make a model, others will prefer to work alone and write a paper. As long as they meet the predefined success criteria, it shouldn’t matter in what way they choose to demonstrate learning.
  4. Learning environment — Or where and with whom students learn. The traditional classroom setting is starting to lose ground. An increasing number of schools seek and get funding to design flexible learning environments. Being able to arrange student desks in rows for a lecture but also to group them in two, four, five or more so students can work on collaborative projects, is the first step towards an active flexible classroom. Also, there needs to be smaller and quieter zones for those engaged in individual work. The classroom can and must provide a flexible learning environment that accommodates the needs of all students.

Yes, differentiated instruction means more work from the part of teachers, which we all know already have their plates full.

No, differentiated instruction is not a fad, a whim, or just another thing to be done. It affects student learning and student academic outcomes in a positive way. Take Carol Ann Tomlinson’s word for it.

Practical steps to differentiated instruction

Just as with any theoretical concept, the theory seems nice, but putting it into practice is a horse of a totally different color. So here are some practical steps on how to do it. They may come numbered but their order is not fixed.

Step 0: Understand the theoretical part. Read all you can about how the human brain learns, learning styles and multiple intelligences, and also about all types of assessment. If you are to differentiate instruction, you must first know how your students learn and how to best assess their learning.

Step 1: Assess your students. Assess them formally and keep in mind the grade-level standards. You also need to assess them so you can determine their ability level, learning preferences and their interests. Assessment is the basis of differentiated instruction.

Step 2: Develop a plan. Consider everything you know about your students and think about all the ways you can differentiate content, processes, products and the learning environment. Don’t forget to be realistic in your plan; if you can’t replace fixed desks with mobile ones, there’s only so much you can do in terms of differentiating the learning environment for example.

Step 3: Define the success criteria for learning in your differentiated instruction. Corroborate with state standards and seek support from fellow teachers. Involve your students in this process as well to establish a common goal and make it clear what they have to do to pass the class.

Step 4: Differentiate and monitor. Give a try to tired activities (remember the fraction problems?), learning contracts (find here an example) or choice boards.

Step 5: Assess your students again. A variety of assessment techniques can include digital portfolios, rubrics, performance-based assessment, knowledge mapping, and so on. Pick and choose the most appropriate way to do it for each student. And don’t ignore their feedback.

Step 6: Adjust the instruction. You’ll surely identify things that are not perfect and your students will do too. The same will happen to those that work. So keep what works and change what doesn’t.

Step 7 to 100: Rinse and repeat. You can replace 100 with absolutely any other number you want really. Either you start again from Step 4 or you go all the way back to Step 0, but keep differentiating your instruction. As you probably say to your students, practice makes perfect.

 

Differentiated instruction has no single formula for success. Each classroom is different and each teacher has a lot of choices. Differentiated instruction means that you have to meet the standards while providing students with personalized learning experiences and embrace change and flexibility while knowing when to stop or just turn. The ultimate goal of differentiated instruction is to create and nurture a learning environment that meets the learning needs of students and puts each of them on their own paths to success.

 
Livia Bran is Content Manager at CYPHER LEARNING, a company that specializes in learning management systems. Check out her other posts about EdTech for K-12 and Higher Ed on the NEO Blog or follow her on Twitter.

Tagged , ,

4 Ways to Personalize Reading for All Learners

This post was written for ISTE’s Blog on 4/17/2018.

To be successful learners, students need to be proficient readers. Our classrooms are filled with a broad spectrum of readers: some are advanced, some struggle, some are English language learners and others are reluctant readers. And there may be other types of readers you can identify in your classroom.

As a result, teaching is not “one size fits most.” We need a variety of approaches — and for a variety of mediums. Teachers must not only address functional literacy, which includes reading of visual, print and digital text, but also encourage students to be critical consumers of information and effectively communicate their thinking about these texts.

Technology has allowed teachers to diversify their teaching and provides leverage for all students to succeed. More important than the technology tools you use, however, is that you create meaningful classroom experiences to promote reading, critical thinking and digital literacy.

Here are four strategies and digital tools to curate personalized learning and reading experiences that expand student knowledge and promote critical thinking, digital citizenship and the literacy skills of proficient readers:

HyperDocs and playlists. Similar to a Google Doc, these digital documents allow you to pull together learning resources in one place. The document contains hyperlinks to all aspects of the inquiry unit — videos, slideshows, images and activities for students to complete and gain understanding. Students have multi-modal opportunities for learning, and there is less teacher lecturing at the front of the class.

HyperDocs allow students to work at their own pace and offer a road map for student learning. Depending on the HyperDoc the teacher makes, differentiated activities and technology-rich assignments can help students learn and show their understanding while completing the activities included on the HyperDoc. Teachers might have students complete only a certain number activities on the HyperDoc or require students to do them all.

Differentiated choice boards. These can range from no-tech to high-tech and are another way to provide students with individualized learning by providing choices or options based on their readiness, interests and learning preferences (think multiple intelligences). As education author Carol Ann Tomlinson explains, differentiation is a way of “tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Differentiation can be based on content, process, products or the learning environment.”

Through differentiation and choice, you can provide alternative ways for students to learn and show what they know. Choice menu boards are a great way to do this and, once again, technology can help.

You can create choice activities for before, during and after reading to highlight reading strategies, content understanding and multiple intelligences. Whether in the form of a Bingo board or a Think-Tac-Toe, choice in the classroom empowers students, while at the same time adheres to learning goals. When students are able to select choices that most appeal to them and that they’re comfortable completing, they can master the activity and move on to more challenging activities.

Quest-based learning adventures (and gamification). This approach to learning connects game mechanics with content objectives to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Through gamification, you can transform literacy instruction into a game with creativity, collaboration and play while still meeting Common Core State Standards and ISTE Standards for Students.

Exactly how you bring games and game playing into the classroom is really a matter of thinking creatively and playfully about what you already do. For example, you could tie assignments to point values and badges that students could then use to unlock privileges, such as a homework pass or preferential seating.

As with choice menus, students would choose which assignments to complete and when, but with the aim of collecting as many points as possible or a “literacy champion” selection of badges. Alternately, you could organize an overarching mission in which assignments are like a sequence of game levels. Students would need to successfully complete each assignment in order to “rank up” to the next and eventually complete all the required material.

Digital reading platforms. Actively Learn and Newsela are just two platforms that offer accessible text that you can use to build comprehension and conversations in the classroom. Both are available free for teachers and students, or you can upgrade to the subscription-based pro versions. In both versions, teachers can embed quizzes, annotations and writing prompts with every reading. The pro edition adds such features as the ability to view individual student progress, track student progress against the Common Core State Standards, and for students and teachers to see each other’s article annotations.

Actively Learn allows teachers to upload their own material to the platform. Customizing assignments with a digital platform leads to more effective and independent instruction that targets students’ strengths and weaknesses by giving support to students who need it, while omitting it for those who don’t. You can use Actively Learn, Newsela and other reading platforms in a variety of ways to support diverse readers and build content knowledge with jigsaws, do nows and flipped learning.

The readers in our classrooms are individuals with unique needs and preferences. Technology allows teachers to offer learning experiences to support these diverse student learners. As Alabama Principal Danny Steele commented on Twitter, “It is good to know content. It is great to know pedagogy. It’s imperative to know the kids.”

Once teachers get to know their students, they can incorporate meaningful and thoughtful learning experiences for all learners.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Teaching Up & The Staircase of Learning

We teach among a cacophony of learners. Students with diverse learning styles and abilities. Long gone are the one size fits all mentality of teaching. Teachers are called upon to meet the learning needs of ALL students and to differentiate to help all students succeed. Just as a growth mindset is a term that teachers have been reading, writing, and promoting among students, teachers also need to have a growth mindset when thinking about their students and learning. With the right tools, strategies, and scaffolds our students can all reach excellence.

Differentiation guru, Carol Ann Tomlinson calls it “Teaching Up — educational experiences that stimulate and stretch students” (ACSD, 2012).  Tomlinson identifies seven principles of teaching up in a 2012 article for ACSD I have copied and posted below.

1. Accept that human differences are not only normal but also desirable. Each person has something of value to contribute to the group, and the group is diminished without that contribution. Teachers who teach up create a community of learners in which everyone works together to benefit both individuals and the group.

2. Develop a growth mind-set. Providing equity of access to excellence through teaching up has its roots in a teacher’s mind-set about the capacity of each learner to succeed (Dweck, 2007).

3. Work to understand students’ cultures, interests, needs, and perspectives. People are shaped by their backgrounds, and respecting students means respecting their backgrounds—including their race and culture. Teaching any student well means striving to understand how that student approaches learning and creating an environment that is respectful of and responsive to what each student brings to the classroom.

4. Create a base of rigorous learning opportunities. Teachers who teach up help students form a conceptual understanding of the disciplines, connect what they learn to their own lives, address significant problems using essential knowledge and skills, collaborate with peers, examine varied perspectives, and create authentic products for meaningful audiences. These teachers develop classrooms that are literacy-rich and that incorporate a wide range of resources that attend to student interests and support student learning.

5. Understand that students come to the classroom with varied points of entry into a curriculum and move through it at different rates.

6. Create flexible classroom routines and procedures that attend to learner needs. Teachers who teach up realize that only classrooms that operate flexibly enough to make room for a range of student needs can effectively address the differences that are inevitable in any group of learners.

7. Be an analytical practitioner. Teachers who teach up consistently reflect on classroom procedures, practices, and pedagogies for evidence that they are working for each student—and modify them when they’re not. They are the students of their students.

For the complete article, click this link (Tomlinson, 2012)

What does “Teaching Up” look like and sound like in the classroom? What are the ways that teachers can scaffold and support the diverse learners in their classrooms?

My students are currently working on a new Dystopian Literature Quest. Students are reading different dystopian literature in reading and writing workshop and then have a “choose your own adventure” menu board of activities for students to show their understanding and thinking about their text. There are some required missions that all students are going to complete among the choices. You can check out the Dystopian Quest Here.

Thinking about my EL students and students with learning challenges, I have also made a modified quest board in which I have reduced the amount of work required and added additional scaffolds to help these students succeed in the quest. These modifications include links to graphic organizers, “I do, We do, You do” mini lesson opportunities and modeling, creating opportunities for students to collaborate, and making a variety of resources available to all students.

If we expect student success, we must define excellence for EVERY students to attain and support ALL our students to meet those objectives.

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Gamification & Literacy at #NCTE16

Classrooms of the digital age are interactive spaces where literate lives are groomed through the analysis and synthesis of content. Perspectives formed during collaborative conversations give rise to innovative ideas but not every teacher is ready to be part of the digital change. How can classroom environments become havens of active learning and schools encourage students to make wise technology choices to become independent learners with authentic voices?

As part of a round table session at National Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference, I presented gamification ideas and strategies for engaged, active, student-centered classrooms where choice leads to increased voice.

Here are a few of the games and activities referenced in the slides that I have created for my students that correlate with units of study.

MidSummer Night’s Dream Symbolism Connect Four

Roll the Dice or Think Dots

Here is how this activity works, using a set of dice [or have task cards Think DOTs that have assignments on one side and colored dots that match a “dice” roll on the other side], students can “roll the dice” to see which activity or question they have to complete. You can use different cubes for different students depending on their readiness, interests and learning profiles. The example that I provided below is a for reading response questions for To Kill  Mockingbird. There are two sets that are differentiated based on students level of understanding.

And for a random Dice Challenge

Tagged , , , ,

Task Cards: A Differentiated, Individualized Learning Tool

IMG_6483

Enamored by fancy task cards seen on Pinterest, I decided to revise and consolidate activities for a unit on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream into task cards for my students to use in lieu of worksheets and one size fits all lessons.

What are task cards? Task cards are a set of cards with questions and activities on them that can be used for reinforcement of teaching concepts, assessment, and differentiated learning activities.

Task cards come in sets to target a specific skills, standards, or subject areas. Cards can focus on Bloom Taxonomy of questioning and tap into multiple intelligences. I designed a set specific to layers of close reading. Tasks addressed what the text says, what the text means, and what the text does. This required students to reread parts of a text multiple times with a different lens to hone in on their close reading skills.

IMG_6484

Task cards can be completed individually, in small groups, for homework, in learning centers, and even in game-like activities. Students can write their responses to the task cards and compare  answers. Task cards can be used in a “beat the clock game,” seeing who can answer the task the quickest.

KeslerScience.com describes two different activities to use task cards:

One activity, “Scoot” has students each start off with different cards to answer for a certain period of time, perhaps 2 to 3 minutes (depending on the questions or tasks and grade level of the students). Students answer the task card on their own. When the allotted time is up, the teacher says “Scoot!” All students move and answer another card that awaits them. (Another version of this is to let the students pass on the task cards to his or her seatmate once the time to answer is up.)

In “Back to Back Game” a pair of students will be given the same task card to answer. They either sit or stand with their backs against each other. The teacher reads the task aloud so the whole class has the chance to hear it. The students then answer it, either by personal whiteboards or hand signal and turn to each other to find out if they have same answers. Discussion will follow after that.

Task cards can be used as checks for understanding in the middle of a lesson to see if students have digested the material. For example, after reading through an Act in Shakespeare, students pull out the task cards to apply their reading and understanding. I always give my students four -six task cards and have them complete 3-4 of the tasks. This allows students to show what they know and I have data for what I need to cover or address moving forward. Task cards allow for student choice.

Task cards can also be used as exit slips, review sessions, and I love Amy Brown‘s idea to make a bingo board out of task cards.  Students must complete 5 tasks in a row, column or diagonal to win.

Depending how you design them and use them, task cards can be engaging and an opportunity to help students master content material.

Tagged , , , ,

Close Reading Practice: Station Work with To Kill a Mockingbird

The beginning of fall means To Kill a Mockingbird in my 8th grade classroom and it is also the time to immerse students into the practice of close reading. The more and more students have opportunities to reread chunks of texts, the better their ability of peeling back the layers of a text. To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful (and complex) text to use for close reading of a story still relevant today and the beauty of Harper Lee’s craft of writing.

Early in the school year students need support with close reading. I have students chunk parts of the text and read it first for the basics or literal understanding. The second and third readings are reading with more purpose: language, craft, vocabulary, and mechanics. I want students to actively use the information from their readings to talk, share, write, illustrate, and or debate the theories and ideas they are formulating in their mind while reading.

To help students read and reread the text, I created three different learning stations this week. Each station had students practice towards mastery and gain more confidence with close reading. Students were to choose two of the stations to complete within a forty minute period. Each station was leveled based on students’ understanding of the text.

Station One – Level One – Literal Understanding of the text. I created a Bingo Board with twenty five questions about the plot in To Kill a Mockingbird. Students had 15 minutes to complete double bingo (or for additional points, complete the entire board for homework) with questions addressing Who, What, Where, When, and simple How questions.

Station Two – Level Two – Notice and Note Signposts in the Text. Students were to go back into the text and pull out examples of the six signposts from K. Beers & B. Probst’s Notice and Note. This text is one of the fundamentals in my teaching repertoire because it requires students to be engaged with and analytical of the text.

Station Three – Level Three – Text Dependent Questions How the Text Works, What Does the Author Mean, and Synthesis. These questions were the challenge questions for my students. Students who really were looking to grapple with the text and go back and do deep digging within the chapter chose this station. These questions might include:

  1. The beginning of Chapter 7 Scout refers back to what Atticus told her about “climbing into another man’s skin and walk around in it.” This is the second time Atticus’ maxim is repeated in the story — it’s something to note and notice (repetition). What does this metaphor do for us as the reader? What does this metaphor help the reader to understand?
  2. Chapter 7 is a series of vignettes about mysteries Jem and Scout find: The sewn up pants, the gifts in the knot hole, the soap sculptures of the children. What is the author doing here? What is the mood among the children in the beginning of this chapter versus the end? How do we know?

I work with an amazing Math teacher who levels all his math work in the class. Students choose the math work based on their understanding of the math concepts taught in class. The basic work is labeled “Mustard” whereas the next level of work has a bit of a kick with a few challenge  questions is labeled “Wasabi.” For those students who rock the math concepts and want a brain teaser, they select “Naga Jolokia,” — the world’s hottest pepper! I always model his class work when I am differentiating my lessons. Not only does the station work allow for differentiation, it also encourages student choice. Choice and practice get students closer to mastery with key ideas, concepts, and strategies.

Tagged , , ,

Embracing Choice & Differences in the Classroom Through Differentiation

Carol Ann Tomlinson (2000) defines differentiated instruction as “a teaching philosophy based on the premise that teachers should adapt instruction to student differences. Rather than marching students through the curriculum in a one size fits all mentality, teachers should modify their instruction to meet students’ varying readiness levels, learning preferences, and interests. Therefore, the teacher proactively plans a variety of ways to get at and express learning.”

Differentiated Instruction IS . . .

Differentiated instruction that is more qualitative than quantitative.

Differentiated instruction provides multiple approaches to content, process, and product.

Differentiated instruction is student centered.

Differentiated instruction is a blend of whole class, group, and individual instruction.

Differentiated instruction is organic.

Differentiated instruction IS NOT . . .

Individual instruction

Chaotic

Just another way to provide homogenous instruction (you do flexible instruction instead)

Just modifying grading systems and reducing work loads

More work for the “good” students and less and different from the “poor” students

Teachers can differentiate through: Content, Process, Product, and Environment according to Students’ Readiness, Interests, Learning Profiles through a range of strategies such as multiple intelligences, jigsaws, graphic organizers, RAFTS, tiered assignments, leveled texts, think dots, numbered heads, cubing, learning centers.

The goals of a differentiated classroom are maximum growth and individual success.

When planning and created differentiated activities and assessments, focus on the learning outcomes. What learning do we want student to demonstrate? Offer students choices or choose their own creative ways to demonstrate their understanding and apply it in new situations.

I have written about and shared activities throughout this blog that I have created to differentiate from different versions of Roll the Dice activities where students select reading comprehension questions based on “I read it and I get it” or “I read it but I don’t get it.” I used learning stations often and offer choices on 75% of the assessments students complete in my classes. Differentiation should be the norm in classrooms today in order to help all students reach excellence.

Tagged , ,

Graphic Novel Book List & Projects for Middle School Students

Each quarter my students choose an outside reading book based on a theme that I have chosen. The first quarter were teacher recommendations, the second quarter was Common Core exemplar texts, and this quarter I have selected graphic novels.  My students will have six weeks to read a text from the list below and then choose to complete one of the projects from a differentiated choice menu.

Thanks to many recommendations by other educators and perusing Amazon.com, here is a list of graphic novels for middle school students:

Journey into Mohawk Country adapted by George O’Connor is the diary of Dutch explorer Harman Van den Bogaert’s 1634 journey among the Mohawk people in what is now northern New York State and Ontario.

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis is the exploration of the life and ideas of philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell and his quest for absolute truth.

T- Minus by Jim Ottaviani is a narrative of the United States’ and Soviet Union’s race to the moon in which the engineers and mathematicians are as much the heros as and astronauts.

Clan Apis (Active Synapse) follows the life of a single bee. In doing so, the reader learns how ecosystems work, why life cycles are important and why the food chain is vital.

Dignifying Science by Jim Ottaviani spotlights several pioneering female scientists. Do you know who Marie Curie, Heddy Lammar, Rosalyn Franklyn are? Read this graphic novel to find out about the numerous women who have made a critical impact on science and our understanding of the world. 

Laika by Nick Abadzis spotlights the Soviet dog who was the first animal to orbit the earth and the female scientist who took care of him. Abadzis gives life to a pivotal moment in modern history, casting light on the hidden moments of deep humanity behind history.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang Chronicles the story of  two young men: Jin Wang and The Monkey King. Jin is the only Chinese-American student at his new school. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he’s in love with an all-American girl. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He’s ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there’s no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other?

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow  by James Sturm Baseball Hall of Famer Leroy “Satchel” Paige (1905? – 1982) changed the face of the game in a career that spanned five decades.  Much has been written about this larger-than-life pitcher, but when it comes to Paige, fact does not easily separate from fiction.  He made a point of writing his own history…and then re-writing it.  A tall, lanky fireballer, he was arguably the Negro League’s hardest thrower, most entertaining storyteller and greatest gate attraction.

 To Dance, a Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel Dancers are young when they first dream of dance. Siena was six — and her dreams kept skipping and leaping, circling and spinning, from airy runs along a beach near her home in Puerto Rico, to dance class in Boston, to her debut performance on stage with the New York City Ballet.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland.

Cardboard by Doug Tennapel Cam’s father gives him a cardboard box for his birthday and he knows it’s the worst present ever. So, to make the best of a bad situation, they bend the cardboard into a man and to their astonishment, it comes magically to life. But the neighborhood bully, Marcus, warps the powerful cardboard into his own evil creations that threaten to destroy them all!

Brain Camp by Susan Kim is an old fashion scare story about two kids who form a friendship at a camp where strange things are happening among them.

Epileptic by David B is his autobiography about growing up with an epileptic brother. In search of a cure, their parents dragged the family to acupuncturists and magnetic therapists, to mediums and macrobiotic communes. But every new cure ended in disappointment as Jean-Christophe, after brief periods of remission, would only get worse. An honest and horrifying portrait of the disease and of the pain and fear it sowed in the family.

 Level Up by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham Dennis Ouyang lives in the shadow of his parents’ high expectations. They want him to go to med school and become a doctor. Dennis just wants to play video games—and he might actually be good enough to do it professionally.

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge Paige Turner has just moved to New York with her family, and she’s having some trouble adjusting to the big city. In the pages of her sketchbook, she tries to make sense of her new life, including trying out her secret identity: artist. As she makes friends and starts to explore the city, she slowly brings her secret identity out into the open, a process that is equal parts terrifying and rewarding.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri In 1994, in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side, a 14-year-old girl named Shavon Dean was killed by a stray bullet during a gang shooting. Her killer, Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, was 11 years old. Neri recounts Yummy’s three days on the run from police (and, eventually, his own gang) through the eyes of Roger, a fictional classmate of Yummy’s. Roger grapples with the unanswerable questions behind Yummy’s situation, with the whys and hows of a failed system, a crime-riddled neighborhood, and a neglected community. How could a smiling boy, who carried a teddy bear and got his nickname from his love of sweets, also be an arsonist, an extortionist, a murderer?

Tagged , , , , ,

Differentiation At Its Best: Who was William Sydney Porter?

Because I work with an amazing Special Education teacher who co-teaches my inclusion class with me, I want to share a differentiated assignment that she created for our students about the author O’Henry.  We have been reading and studying O’Henry for the past five weeks in my English classes.  We saved this lesson for the end of the unit so that students could look back and make connections between O’Henry’s life and the characters in his short stories.

For this particular differentiated assignment, there were three different biographies about O’Henry, each catering to a distinct reading level.  We color coded the articles and gave every student the same cover sheet with directions so they would not notice the different readings each student was presented with. Students were asked to read the article closely taking notes in the margins and underlining important details.  Then, students were put into small groups (one of each article per group) and were asked to answer a series of questions that would require all three articles to answer. 

Image          Image

 

The synthesis questions completed in small groups asked students to examine O’Henry’s decision to change his name and what can you infer about O’Henry because of this.  In addition, students completed a chart of the similarities between O’Henry’s life and his stories.  Students also addressed O’Henry’s travels and the personal experiences that affected his writing. On a lighter note, because O’Henry has such a distinct mustache, I gave everyone a mustache to use when speaking so they may be inspired to think like O’Henry.

Image          Image

Here is a link to the higher leveled reading.

Here is a link to the middle leveled reading.

Here and here are links to the easier leveled reading.

Tagged , , , ,