3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do


In this article, John McCarthy suggests three paths that teachers should take to differentiate instruction (DI). McCarthy asserts the nucleus to successful DI is the relationship between teachers and students. The teacher’s role is to connect students to the content, process, and product. Students will respond based upon readiness, interests, and learner profile.


Differentiating Content – Content refers to the skills, concepts, and knowledge students need to learn. Differentiating content means using various methods to deliver content and using various methods to organize/learn content. For example, using videos to explain mathematical equations and providing different techniques to solve mathematical equations. The purpose is to use different instructional strategies to reach diverse learners, and allow students to discover which methods are more effective for them.

Differentiating Process – Process refers to how students make sense of the content. Students need time to reflect and absorb the content. Reflecting is a powerful tool to allow students to absorb the material. This is where the students will self-assess the content, and recognize what they understand and what they don’t understand. At this point, teachers should check for understanding – something simple is thumbs up (understand), thumbs down (don’t understand), thumbs in the middle (sort of understand). According to McCarthy, teachers should have one to two processing experiences every 30 minutes of instruction. A few strategies McCarthy suggests are think-pair-share, journalling, discussions – anything that allows the student to reflect on the learning.

Differentiating Product – Product is the evidence of learning. The product should align with learning outcomes. Teachers need to give students options to how they want to demonstrate their learning. For example, for a novel study project, I gave my students three choices to demonstrate their learning. The three choices were a poem, book cover, or narrative story. Also, students had an option to choose something different as long as they discussed it with me.

In the end, to successfully employee these strategies, teachers need to know their students. Click here to read the entire article.


How to Use the Concept Attainment Strategy


To apply the strategy of Concept Attainment, follow this general guideline. First, you don’t reveal the concept or show examples but rather tell student they’re going to learn a new concept, and it’s their challenge to discover the concept. Second, you will show them ‘Yes’ examples and ‘No’ examples of the concept (show two of each). Third, students will analyze the examples and create a list of characteristics that they believe define the concept. Fourth, students generate a definition or common qualities to the ‘Yes’ examples. Once this has been completed, you provide students more ‘Yes’ examples to strengthen their understanding; it also serves to refine their list of characteristics. Finally, at the end, students attain an analytically construct concept.

To illustrate, suppose you’re teaching language arts. The concept you want the students to learn is Haiku poetry. You would show students ‘Yes’ examples of Haiku poems and ‘No’ examples of Haiku poems.

Yes example:


No example:

Poems to Read005

Continue with another ‘Yes’ example:


Show another ‘No’ example:


Allow students to analyze the common characteristics of the examples, and generate a list of characteristics that define Haiku poetry. As previously stated, students are guided to a well-crafted definition.

I learned the above strategy from the an article on the Cult of Pedagogy website. Please visit the website to more about Concept Attainment. Click on the image below to be direct to Cult of Pedagogy’s website.


Balanced Assessment in The Classroom

The following steps must be taken to create a balanced assessment environment that inspires student engagement: (1) The students must have input in the assessment tasks, (2) the assessment tasks must be clear, valid and reliable, (3) use an array of assessment tasks, (4) must be communicated effectively, and (5) must be on demand and embedded within the classroom. Here are a few examples: (1) Display an exemplar in the classroom, and have students analyze and compare their work with the exemplar (2) inquiry based assessment – students create a question and use inquiry based methods to answer the question, and (3) allow students to create the rubrics. Furthermore, is it vital to communicate progress with students and parents frequently. I found an article which pertains to the topic and found it very helpful – http://www.eduplace.com/state/author/valencia.pdf.

Six Ways To Motivate Students To Learn


Students need motivation to become successful learners. Every human being has an innate passion to learn. However, often that passion is deterred under certain circumstances. Here are six strategies to help motivate students to learn.

  1. Personalize the challenge/activity/assignment. Students will be motivated to learn if the activity or assignment is designed at their academic level. Ensure the activity allows a degree of success, and hits the student’s zone of proximal development (not too easy to be boring and not too difficult to be frustrating). 
  2. Start with a question, not a answer. Rote memorization is often tedious and insipid. As a result, students will disengage mentally and cognitively. Questions stimulate students to dig deeper and explore the question. Discovering the answer deepens brain connections and  invigorates learning. 
  3. Encourage student to beat their personal best. As a former athlete, I agree with this statement. It provides students with intrinsic motivation, and it shows them their progress. If students see themselves succeeding and progressing, it will motivate them. The best motivation is achievement.
  4. Connect abstract learning to concrete situations. Abstract concepts are difficult to comprehend. This may cause the student to disengage from learning. We need to apply abstract concepts to real-world events. Real-world events and problems authenticate learning. 
  5. Make it social.  Humans are social animals. Students should share their learning with peers. We need to provide opportunities for students to be teachers and pupils. This activity will deepen their understanding of the material. 
  6. Go deep. Human existence is unique. Learning about the world is intrinsically interesting once you dig deep. Teachers should assign students to become experts on a topic and then explore how the topic connects to the bigger picture (or in the teaching world – big ideas).

This article provides excellent methods to motivate students (click on the image to read the article). Reflecting on my own teaching experience, the project which integrated most of the methods was a project called Genius Hour. The students were extremely motivated, and they took ownership of their learning.

What Doesn’t Work: Literacy Practices We Should Abandon

Photo credit: ©Wavebreakmedia/iStock.com

It is the teacher’s responsibility to provide students with authentic learning experiences which help cultivate their cognitive abilities. Here are a few literacy practices that teachers should abandon or redesign:

  1. Looking up vocabulary words in a dictionary. Teachers should use selected vocabulary activities or can integrate vocabulary activities. For example using dramatization, antonyms, synonyms, illustrations, root analysis, semantic webs or concept cube. 
  2. Giving prizes for reading. This technique may indirectly deter students from reading in the future. More effective techniques or strategies are shared reading, students have a ‘special place’ to read, guided reading, interacting with literature with peers and many more strategies to foster life-long reading. 
  3. Weekly spelling tests. Research suggests that weekly class spelling tests are less effective than students focusing on analyzing and using words.
  4. Unsupported independent reading. Research is showing this is not an effective strategy to improve reading achievement. Independent reading should involve instruction from the teacher on text selection and reading strategies. Also, there must be opportunity to give students feedback on their reading, discussing texts, and other reading response activities.
  5. Take away recess or an activity as punishment. Ample research has indicated the link between physical activity and academic learning. Exercise is great for the brain! 

Click on the image to read the article. Thank you 🙂