The research is compelling: When teachers differentiate reading instruction, students learn more. But teachers are too often given the expectation of differentiation without the details on how to make it work. In No More Reading Instruction Without Differentiation, Lynn Bigelman and Debra Peterson offer a framework that adapts instruction based on individual students' needs and interests.
As a college student, at twenty, I found myself under the tutelage of an educator of color for the first time ever. I did not learn from another one until I was thirty. During my tenure as an educator, I have served students as diverse as America itself. I scoured my memory. I can merely recall fewer than ten colleagues of color among the hundreds with whom I’ve worked. In March I traveled from rural Alaska to New York City to visit Heinemann Fellow Tiana Silvas and her colleagues at PS 59. I was looking for effective instructional strategies. At forty, nineteen years into my teaching career, I found what I hope all thoughtful, passionate educators, regardless of race or ethnicity, will someday find in order to better serve our students. I found community—just as I am.
Ever wonder how to get students genuinely engaged in your curriculum? Or wish you could let them explore those amazing questions they brim with? In his new book, The Curious Classroom, Harvey "Smokey" Daniels provides research-based suggestions that help cover the curriculum by connecting what kids wonder about to the wonders you have to teach them.
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So what is student-directed inquiry approach, and how is it different from other project-based and inquiry-oriented teaching models? Here’s a quick sketch of what student-directed inquiry looks like:
Homework. The word alone evokes strong emotions from children, youth, parents, and teachers. For most teachers, this word sits right between rock and hard place. Assign too much homework, and teachers run the risk of complaints, if not outright misery, from parents, students, and—feeling the need to give feedback on all that homework—themselves. Assign too little homework, and teachers risk being seen as “soft” and lacking in rigor, and because homework can feel like it helps “cover” the curriculum, feeling further behind. And that just regards the issue of how much homework. Then there are all the complexities around what kinds of homework.
Managing classroom libraries requires a delicate balance between organization, choice, behavior, and matching children with appropriate texts. Classroom libraries can be organized in many ways– by genre, series, or some other category. Susan Taberski (2000) suggests having bins of unleveled books from which students choose their independent reading selections and bins of books by level for when they need practice with something "just right." Other teachers label their books using the Fountas and Pinnell A through Z gradient.
Because an "assessed" reading level doesn't always correspond with a student's level of comprehension, it is important that students spend time with more than just independent-level texts. To do this, it is necessary to spend time working with students on independent text selection that supports decoding development, fosters comprehension and thinking, and pique students' interests in reading.
"But How?" you might ask…