Tag Archives: differentiation

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

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Task Cards: A Differentiated, Individualized Learning Tool

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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Rockin’ n the Common Core Learning Standards: Ideas that blend Rock and Roll history and CCLS

I had the opportunity to present at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Summer Institute this week.  The summer institute includes a week long professional development opportunity I highly recommend.  The objectives of the institute include: (1) learning about the history of rock and roll and popular music, recognizing that music is the complex product of individual artistic creation, social and cultural communities, new technologies and emerging industries; (2) identify aspects of popular music culture that can be brought into the classroom in order to reinforce instructional goals, including meeting state and common core learning standards; and (3) plan classroom activities using featured Rock and Roll Music Hall of Fame and Museum content and resources.

Below is my presentations and the resources I shared with the participants.

Rock and Roll Tweet

With this activity students have viewed Time Life’s History of Rock and Roll documentary. I have students take notes in their rock journal of the big ideas presented in the documentary.  At the end of the first episode, the video discusses how within a few years of the late 1950s rock and roll exploded in the mainstream and then hit some speed bumps — Elvis was drafted into the military, Buddy Holly’s plane crash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry had some legal issues due to their relationship with young women — this Rock and Roll Tweet activity allows students to infer and synthesize based on their understanding of the documentary.

Disco Roll the Dice

Roll the Dice is a differentiated jigsaw activity that allows students to collaborate and answer questions generated by the teacher.  As students walk into the classroom they get the handout above with questions on one side and a particular reading about Disco on the other side.  There are four different readings all about the history of Disco that range in reading complexity and sub topics.  Students take the first ten minutes of class to read and summarize the reading.  Then, students get into small groups with students who have the same readings and articulate their understanding.  After six or seven minutes the students then break up into a second small group that includes students who read each of the four different texts.  The students get a set of dice and each student has a chance to roll the dice and answer the question (with their peer’s help) that correlates to the number they rolled. A collaborative activity that allows students to work together, listen, and articulate their understandings.

Additional materials shared is available on my Rock Write Listen Wiki.  This includes a 1969 Woodstock QR Code Quest and Webquest about the 1980s.

A special thank you to Stephanie Heriger and Max Espinosa of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Education Department for the opportunity to present and share lesson ideas I am passionate about. 

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Techerentiation: Differentiating with Technology

I have created a new word:  Techerentiation

It means to differentiate with technology.  Differentiation is a buzzword in the education world.  Teachers are being asked to provide alternative ways to help student learn.  Differentiation provides students with choices or options based on their readiness, interests, and learning styles (think multiple intelligences).  Teachers differentiate content, process, and product.

Techerification also differentiates content, process, and product but is technology centered. Techerentiation involves choices for students.  Students are given choices to make personal decisions how they want to complete to demonstrate what they have learned but the choices are all technology based.  “By giving students choice, teachers promote a sense of independence and provide opportunities of personal challenge and creativity” (Peterson, 2011).

Below is a techerentiated assignment created for my Rock History class.  Students received a Menu Choice Board in which they had to choose one project in each of the different meal choices.

Appetizers included pinning a landmark on a Rock and Roll Landmark Map created using Google Maps or to add a resource to an annotated Rock and Roll History Resource List compiled in Google Docs.

The main course students could choose between creating a rock and roll musical tree of influence using an online mapping tool like Popplet or bubbl.us.  Students would have to map out the different musical influences of a particular artist going back as far as five or six generations of influence.  Or, students could choose to compile resources for a particular theme or decade in music history using Livebinders.

For dessert, all students were to complete the Rock and Roll Bingo Trivia Hunt.  For an A students had to complete the entire bingo board and get the entire bingo board correct.  For a B students completed four rows or columns and for a C students had to complete three rows or columns.

 

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