Program Standard 3
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.
3.1 Demonstrating Knowledge of Students
Teacher recognizes the value of understanding students’ skills, knowledge, and language proficiency and displays this knowledge for groups of – students.
3.2 Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness in Lesson Adjustments
Teacher makes a minor adjustment to a lesson, and the adjustment occurs smoothly.
3.3 Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness in Persisting to Support Students
Teacher persists in seeking approaches for students who have difficulty learning, drawing on a broad repertoire of strategies.
Interpretation of Standard:
3. Differentiation – Teachers tailor the strategies used for individual students and groups of students in the classroom based on knowledge actively sought ought regarding students’ academic skills, behavioral dispositions, family heritages and social communities.
3.1 Teachers actively use knowledge about students’ academic skill level, content mastery, and oral and written English language ability to help groups of students achieve academic expectations, thereby demonstrating a knowledge of the connection between individual characteristics of students and necessary teaching strategy adjustments.
3.2 Teachers monitor students for comprehension and behavior through regular formative assessments and make smooth changes in the middle of a lesson to focus in on learning targets that are not being met.
3.3 Teachers identify students who are struggling to master academic standards and continually implement a variety of strategies to meet the learners’ needs.
Focus Analysis: Differentiation 3.2
To provide more than adequate support for all levels of ability in a classroom of 25 students, a teacher must plan for differentiated instruction and be able to make adjustments in teaching strategies in the middle of lesson based on formative assessments and knowledge of individual student need. To benefit students, these adjustments must consist of high quality teaching strategies targeted to help specific learners and the transitions must occur smoothly.
In a segment of a lesson plan on Macbeth act 1 scene 3 analyzing Shakespeare’s use of word choice, alliteration and paradox, I altered my lesson plan based on qualitative observations that the support strategy in use was not meeting student need. My lesson plan stated that, following a teacher model of how to select synonyms for the words “fair” and “foul,” students were to work in pairs to complete questions 1-5 on a worksheet (See Figure 1 for lesson plan and Figure 2 for worksheet). The strategy of partner work was employed as a scaffold for students who were not yet capable of independently constructing the denotation and connotation of words, as theory suggests that verbalizing thoughts is a comprehension aide. While students were completing questions 1-5, I circulated and specifically checked with student L. and student Y. who are English language learners who, based on preassessments, struggled with Shakespeare’s language. Neither student was participating in a discussion with a partner nor successfully completing the worksheet.
Based on this informal assessment, I decided to regain the classes’ attention and use the teaching strategy of teacher-led whole-class discussion to model possible answers for the worksheet. Student Y. was able to complete the worksheet based on this whole class discussion (see Figure 3). Student L. was still unable to complete questions 2 and 3 (see Figure 4). This indicates that although the change in strategies was smooth, it was only partially successful.
From this attempt to differentiate learning in the middle of lesson plan and my reflection on the relative success, I have learned that, to be most effective, changes happening mid-lesson must be anticipated during lesson planning. I believe with forethought, I would have used a different strategy than whole-class discussion that would have pushed each student to come up with individual answers instead of the ELLs relying on the answers provided by the stronger students in the class. One such strategy would be providing a teacher think-aloud model for question two and then allowing for an individual student attempt at question three. This would have ensured that all students are given the opportunity to advance their own learning without simply writing down what another student says.
My next step for helping these struggling students succeed will be to start the next lesson with a review of examples of denotation and connotation, as repetition is a key strategy for creating long-term knowledge. Another change that I will make is to anticipate possible failures in teaching strategies within each lesson and have an alternative method written into the lesson plan (an option “B”). This will provide me with a well-thought-out alternative strategy instead of an “in the moment” response to student need.