Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Daring to Differentiate

Image from here
I have been thinking about the students who will walk into Grade Five in a few weeks, recalling their faces as they left in June and wondering how I will be able to reach them and teach them, particularly as readers and writers.

I already know some things about them just from our interactions in the hallway and during Lunch Duty!  I know the rascals, the reluctant and the responsible ones! I know who needs help to put on their coat, who likes to gobble down their lunch so they can talk, who gets boisterous in the bus lines. I know who will be the dramatic ones and who are the shy ones. BUT I know very little ...yet... about their reading habits, their likes and dislikes when it comes to books.

I do know that there are students in my Grade five class reading significantly below grade level and that there are strong readers who love to get lost in a book. And of course they run the gamut in between.  This is not unique in my room, in this school or in this part of the province (or state!) The question is what can be done to accommodate the differences (and similarities) among these readers.

While our schools have authorized resources to augment the prescribed literacy curriculum, we have the backing of our Department of Education, the freedom to teach the children, not the textbooks. This does not make our jobs easier; on the contrary it is as challenging as being given a set of books/material to "cover" with the class.

Considering the myriad needs, the wide range of reading ability of the students that enter my classroom each fall can be daunting. However, at our school. we have practices in place that make a difference. We begin in primary to become familiar with the student's progress with the completion of a Language Arts profile (K-3), such as this one in Grade One as well as the usual evidence gathered through in-class activity. Our teachers use running records, Guided reading and an individualized Home Reading program where books taken home for independent reading are matched to the level at which a student will be successful.
Image from here

That focus on being familiar with the students' reading abilities and the focus on teaching strategies needed to improve comprehension has been part of our teaching culture for some time now!

  • We long ago abandoned the idea that one book for all students to "study" was appropriate.  
  • We adapted our expectations for responses to books shared with the whole class as Read Alouds to reflect the varying abilities in writing and representing. 
  • We aimed to ensure that all our students were dealing with the same big questions around character, setting, plot ,theme and such... only in language they could really relate to and with texts they could actually read.

Much as the picture below models, students are grouped by reading level (generally), interest and targeted teaching of strategies.

Image from here
And differentiating like that can make a huge difference!

*How do you meet the needs of the readers in your room?
*What are some of the challenges you face in differentiating for reading levels?

1 comment:

  1. Your style is very unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from.
    Thanks for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this
    web site.

    Here is my weblog ... xtrasize