Currently I am an intervention specialist for grades 9-12 in a small, rural school district. I created a learning center during my first five years. Then I taught for two years in Cairo, Egypt. Now, I am back in my first classroom, and the learning center continues to grow.
In addition to the students who have individual education plans, I serve students who are at risk of failing or dropping out. I have focused my professional development studies on educational technology and phonics instruction.
Vocabulary lesson plans – research based and relevant to the Common Core standards – The actual sets are here Vocabulary Sets.
Welcome to my latest project for sharing differentiated instruction. These multi-media vocabulary lesson plans are free for you to use. The reference for these sets is Wordstrips 180 Vocabulary Words, by June Barzowsky-Smith. The lesson plan sets focus on definitions, context, connections, and analogies. They are appropriate for grades 7-12
The same words in the same order are available on Quizlet, -Type ‘tutorclass’ into the search to Add Class, then scroll down for Vocabulary 1 and Vocabulary 2 or, just click on these links. Be sure to “Add Class” to keep it handy.
Quizlet is a free online study tool/app that is popular with my students. They download the flashcards onto their own devices.
Maya Eagleton uses hypermedia to report on hypermedia in the electronic journal of the International Reading Association Reading Online. Eagleton gathered a semester’s worth of data and artifacts on a small group of 12 and 13-year-olds, while they launched a webzine hypermedia project—a magazine on the Internet for teenagers.
Never mind that this was back in 2002, hypermedia is the language of current students. In her online report, Eagleton provides the reader with the ability to hear the students speak for themselves through audio hyperlinks.
The features of communication that make it possible for an online reader to click on a button and hear voices, or watch a video, view photos and documents, or listen to music, make her case that hypermedia “with its flexible use of text, image, audio, video animation, and virtual reality, represents a unique new form of human discourse.”
Eagleton investigated the process of using hypermedia in literacy instruction by following seven volunteer students for one semester. The group met every other day to plan and write the webzine.
The author, a research scientist with CAST, recorded details of her time with the students and their classroom teacher.Her collection of data is categorized into the specialized sets of communication skills that the students gained through learning hypermedia. But ideally, you will want to click on the ‘sound’ button and hear the students tell it for themselves.
Eagleton’s aim “is to promote a deeper understanding of hypermedia literacy by investigating some of its genres, sign systems, and cueing systems. Increased knowledge of this new, complex literacy will help educators plan curriculum and evaluate student progress.” She quotes others who say that hypermedia belongs on history’s timeline with Cuneiform and the Gutenberg press. It is equally amazing. The 12 and 13-year-olds who took part in the study would surely agree.
The studens’ voices reveal that they enjoyed the project. They started from the beginning, knowing nothing about hypermedia, to a completed webzine. The students reveal the multifaceted nature of the media through their conversations.
Of particular interest is their discovery of the multiple levels of meaning in the electronic text and symbols, which, incidentally, would be missing in a text-only assignment. For example, they had decided to add a link about personal themes. When they could not find a suitable clipart, one of them drew a key, “like the key to your heart,” he said. And they added a swimmy, sky-blue background.
Eagleton’s point, that hypermedia involves a unique set of literacy skills, and “is not simply a lesser cousin of printed text . . .” is well taken. The key is the ‘multi’ in multimedia. According to Rose and Meyer (2002), recognition processes in the brain are distributed to different parts. For example, sounds are recognized in one location and pictures in another.
The opportunity for synapse firing is multiplied when a sound bite is linked to a video or a photograph. Multiple layers of meaning are beneficial to active learners, for example, a clip of his I Have a Dream linked to Dr. Martin Luther King’s photograph makes a powerful connection, therefore increasing the connections for learning. Hypermedia takes advantage of the top-down thinking styles and the kinesthetic needs of the students.
Using Webspiration, the students can collaboratively map the concepts from a section of the history unit. The teacher can provide scaffolding in the form of a folder with audio, video and web files that they can use. Eventually they will learn to find their own files. The finished concept map can be printed for a study guide, but is best viewed on the computer where the links can be followed. All students in the class can access the internet and use the finished product, a truly universal learning tool.
We have all been to workshops and conferences where the speaker gives a glorious, revival-style presentation on differentiated instruction. We sit there thinking, “Wow, this is fantastic!” Then, we imagine how in the world we were going to differentiate for 25 – 30 students, six times a day, and we say, “Wow, this is a fantasy!”
My classmates in UNE’s Differentiation Theory and Strategies course said the same thing at first. “Overwhelming,” was the most frequent response. I have only 30 students in my special education classes, but the whole idea of differentiated instruction seemed like a major life change–more daunting than dieting and exercise.
Two weeks into the course, we saw the light. While reading the introduction to Differentiated Assessment Strategies: One Tool Doesn’t Fit All (Chapman and King, 2005), we discovered that it’s O.K., even encouraged, to “Begin on a limited basis and expand your use of the tools as you grow more comfortable.” Do one unit or one class only, the authors advise. That seems obvious now, but after a good three or four days total of my life have been spent in professional development, this is the first I’d heard of taking it easy.
One step at a time? My colleagues and I assumed that differentiated instruction was all or nothing. The only ones who did differentiate at my school were the type-A, super-teachers, the ones who are so highly organized they can see the tops of their desks at all times. This is not me. I forget what color my desk is painted. But, one step at a time, maybe I can do this–one differentiated instructional day at a time.
The story linked above tells of one student’s efforts to put an end to homework. In six years of teaching, homework has been my single largest source of frustration. As an intervention specialist, I have negotiated with regular education teachers for quantity—fewer math problems, one paragraph instead of three—but I could not negotiate quality. This experience diminished my respect for my colleagues. There is not room in this post to list the abuses of homework that I encountered. Among the worst was the use of homework as a class-wide punishment for behavior.
At present, I teach in a middle school in Cairo, Egypt. My students are in pull out special education classes. In the beginning of the first year, my policy was no homework. Before long, I received a request from parents to assign more homework. I complied, but in the meantime I justified my no-homework philosophy in this way – I spend a tremendous amount of time creating valuable lesson plans and giving extensive feedback in class.
Once I began to assign homework, my distaste for it deepened. I received work which was obviously completed by parents and paid tutors. Besides, how does one assign homework with differentiated instruction? – Do you have to make 20 different assignments with as many answer keys and rubrics? I had trouble making decisions on how to grade homework—Do you count points against students who are practicing skills? Won’t that just discourage them from practicing? Uncompleted homework set up conflicts between me and my students. I had to deal with plagiarism. Gradually I assigned less and less homework.
Recently I have created homework that is giving me positive results. I call it Reading Reflections, and I use a graphic organizer (example below). The directions are as follows: “Read for pleasure for 30 minutes each evening, five days per week. Write a quote from the passage in the left column and your thoughts in the right column. Due every Thursday.”
Now I know, without a doubt, that the student is doing his or her own work. The value of this work is supported by the research in reading. My website has a blank copy of the chart so that parents and students can download the form and an example.
I grade the Reading Reflection with a check minus, check, or a check plus. The meaning conveyed to the students is completed but with too many errors, completed and accepted, or completed with quality. In my grade book the score is zero to five points. The only way to receive no points is to do nothing. I write extensive comments on the charts for feedback, both positive and negative, and discuss the books with each student. Reading Reflection is an effective evaluation tool for me and a source of joy in communication with students.
Graphic Organizer for Reading Reflection
Reading Reflection Chart
Name Debbie Kay
Title of Book or Article Fahrenheit 451
Author Ray Bradbury
Directions: Read for pleasure for 30 minutes each evening, 5 days per week. Write a quote from the passage in the left column and your thoughts in the right column. Due Every Thursday.
Quote and Page Number
“’Happy! Of all the nonsense.’ He stopped laughing.” Pg 10
The girl made Montag think about happiness. Was he
happy in his job? His life? It seems he took happiness for granted and had never thought of it before.
I have changed my mind about my no homework policy. I now believe that quality homework, in the proper quantity, is valuable. Besides, who can argue with positive percentile gains?
For more helpful content on the subject of homework, check out this web page from Stephen Carr.
Teachers can use the site as a center assignment; tell the student to go to ikeepbookmarks, open a certain folder, and complete the activity, quiz, reading, or whatever on a chosen site. This works especially well with Quia because it has the tracker, which lets you know if the student did the work and the results. Since ikeepbookmarks is web based, the assignment can be homework as well. Other ways to verify the work are to have the student print a page or email a completed page to you.
I use Portaportal. To see my links, type dgkerwood in the Guest Access box. ikeepbookmarks has two features that make it better – an easier “public access” choice and instant book marking while browsing.
When students ask if they can play games on the computer, I say, “Sure, you can choose one on Portaportal.” They often head for the Science folder and choose Virtual Knee Surgery.
However, the above mentioned document is an 83-page gold mine. In the first eight pages, the introduction reviews the basics of both Bloom’s and Gardner’s work. Then it explains the qualities of differentiated instruction, referring to Tomlinson, as well as making the connections to Bloom and Gardner.
After the extensive references, the remaining pages are differentiated lessons, on various topics, that meet every promise with quality and reproducible suggestions for assignments. To make their intended meaning more clear, the authors organized their work by the category of Gardner’s intelligence, then by Bloom’s levels of taxonomy. Within each category the key words are underlined. For example, List, Explain, Graph, Calculate, Design, Create, Compare and Contrast, and 73 pages more.
Although these lesson plans are designed for specific topics, Solar System, Fractions, Ancient Egypt, etc., the use of key words makes it easy to identify the type of assignment, then rework it to fit any lesson plan. For someone struggling to understand what differentiated instruction means, or what it should look like, this is the ideal place to begin.
Howard Gardner jokes that his work in multiple intelligences has brought him his fifteen minutes of fame, but truly, his name has been on the minds of teachers for twenty years. Although Gardner says that he is a psychologist and was not thinking in terms of classroom instruction, many teachers are his greatest fans. When he proposed that humans have an entire set of intellectual strengths and weakness, as opposed to the earlier thinking of intelligence as a singular ability, he opened the door for thinking about different ways of learning.
For educators, Gardner’s work in multiple intelligences seems like a natural step in the direction of differentiated instruction. In fact, it offers a framework for developing lesson plans and activities that will include all types of learners. So, it amazes me that he was amazed that teachers took an interest in his work. His earlier studies of people with brain injuries were certainly useful to the clinicians who help those patients relearn the skills that they once had.
Gardner may not have invented differentiated instruction, but his research gives us insight into the many ways that students can be receptive to learning. The effective teacher plans accordingly when she understands those variations in learning styles. For example, knowing that some of her students have strengths in music and spatial intelligence, she will create a song and dance that includes the learning content. She knows that the student with strong interpersonal skills will enjoy and succeed in group work, while the one with strong intrapersonal skills may need more support in the group. When the MI-intelligent teacher plans a lesson with the intent to vary presentation, product, and assessment according to the individual needs of the students, then she is in the right frame of mind for success.
Many teachers have experienced the frustration of assigning a topic for a research project, then giving students a block of time in the computer lab, only to discover at the end of the class period that the students spent most of their time looking at sites that were off topic, or otherwise useless. Chances are that if a teacher sent her students off on an internet search with so little guidance, she uses the same methods, and wastes her own time in similar fashion. It is likely that this teacher and her students began with a basic Google search, which is much like tossing a worm into the ocean to catch a fish.
The tech savvy teacher knows that the best educational websites have already been collected by others and are organized by topic, grade level, or content standards, and take the time-wasting guesswork out of this fishing expedition.
It is likely too, that in this class there were a few students who were able to sort through the endless hit or miss websites to come up with the valuable resources that they needed. In the planning stages of this research assignment, the teacher needs to use differentiated instruction strategies. For example, on his Educational Web Resource pages, John Kuglin has linked to ikeepbookmarks.
With this bookmarking tool, the teacher can select several on-target sites in advance and put them in a folder. The student who is working on the fist levels of Blooms levels of cognitive understanding can remain focused on finding the facts that they need and are able to comprehend. The students who are working at the upper levels can begin with this folder and then seek out additional sites to analyze and synthesize the information that they discover. This group of students would investigate Bernie Dodge’s “Four Nets for Better Web Searching.”
Tomlinson advises that the differentiated classroom promote on-task behavior (37). With the best of intentions, the teacher can assign the research topic of alternative fuels. She thinks this is specific and will serve to focus her students on bio-fuels, wind power and such. But within seconds, someone will find race car fuel, then Dale Earnhardt’s home page, then call out to his friends, and they all run to see the crash photos, and then more time is wasted getting everyone back on task. This lost time has a negative impact on learning.
In a better scenario, the teacher directs her students to one of the many links that she discovered on Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators. The environmental science page lists specific topics in science that link to further sites—all on topic. For optimal gains in learning, the teacher has separated the sites she plans to use according to the choices that the students have made and their level of understanding. Each student or student group would find their target sites in a folder, bookmarked especially to suit their needs. She can tell her students the same thing that I tell mine, “I only get you for 180 days; we don’t have time to go fishing on the internet.”