Monday, September 24, 2007

Diverse Learners in One Setting

Having students of all different ability levels can be quite overwhelming to any teacher. Unfortunately this happens to many new teachers who enter the educational system. Rather than gripe and complain about, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and deal with it! I have taught many years in this situation and actually found it quite a challenge to motivate the students and keep myself motivated also. Here are some strategies that have worked for me and might work for you. Remember Teaching is not an exact science so you may have to tweak and adjust these activities to meet the needs of your students and your teaching style.

First of all, I had to decide what my goals and objectives were. This would be the same for the whole class regardless of their ability levels. Once I determined the goals and objectives, I would work on different activities for teaching and evaluating the students to see if they mastered the goals and objectives. I explained to the class that everyone has different needs whether in the classroom or in the grocery store. My husband loves dairy products but I’m allergic to them so he may buy milk and I wouldn’t. Some people cannot eat food with sugar in it and other can. Some people like bananas and others don’t. This is the same in the classroom so they may see people doing different things but all will reach the same goal.

Sometimes I would create 10 different learning activities and then determine how many of the activities I wanted them to complete. The students would pick the ones that fit their learning style or ability level. If my goal was for them to explain the plot of the story that they read and the objectives were to summarize the story or describe the main characters, I would teach the story by letting them choose 2 of the following: reading the story aloud into a tape recorder, reading with a peer, some students with low reading levels can hear the story on tape (either read it into a tape recorder, or see if the library has it on tape or CD, or have volunteers read it into a tape recorder), students work in pairs to write a paragraph about what they read, work with a peer and complete a worksheet about the story. In order to evaluate the mastery of the goal, I would list activities such as: draw a movie poster, write a newspaper review, draw a comic strip, make a diorama and present it, videotape a commercial about this as if it was a movie, make a book jacket of the story. Students would be expected to pick one and turn it in by a certain date.

For vocabulary, lower ability students may need to learn a different number of words per week. Then as a student becomes more successful, you might increase the number.

For math, I might give a give a pretest to determine what skills the student needs to be taught. I informed each student that they had to get at least 85% right in order to go to the next skill (I did not give in if they made an 84%) Then each student would be given an individual folder with the list of assignments that they are required to complete. As they complete the assignment I would write their grade beside it in their folder so they can get feedback about their progress. I also listed pre and post test grades on this sheet. If they mastered the skill, I would save this form to use during parent/teacher conferences. If they did not master the skill, they would have to redo the assignments or do different ones and retake the test. Most of my students loved this because they were not stuck doing busy work on skills they already mastered while they waited for the others to master it also. This improved classroom behavior tremendously and misbehavior was almost nonexistent.

I liked to do science and social studies topics as a group involving class discussion and group work. I even asked the class for suggestions of projects that could be done to show they understood the concepts of the unit. For evaluation, I liked to offer a variety of projects and let the students decide which one they want to complete. This can be done during class or for homework.

These are just some of the strategies that worked for me. I hope this helps you in some way but if I didn’t make something clear, or if you have another suggestion, please leave a comment and let me know.

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