Category Archives: Differentiated Instruction

The 6 Comprehension Strategies Every Reader Must Learn

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Kids’ thinking matters. When students begin to understand that their thinking matters, reading changes. Throughout the school day, kids are actively questioning, discussing, arguing, debating, responding, and generating new knowledge. We can’t read kids’ minds, but one way to open a window into their understanding is to help them bring their thinking to the surface by talking and writing about it.

The Primary and Intermediate Comprehension Toolkits emphasize responsive teaching with lessons that explicitly teach the language of thinking. With this metacognitive scaffolding, teachers are able to gradually release to kids the responsibility for comprehending the wide variety of nonfiction texts they encounter. Toolkit lessons strengthen the specific kinds of thinking proficient readers use: six comprehension strategies that research has shown are part of an effective reader’s mental toolkit. The Comprehension Toolkit guides you through the explicit instruction of these six comprehension strategies:

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Taking the Fear Out of Jumping Into Inquiry

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Let's face it, the idea of jumping into student-directed inquiry can be overwhelming. Fears over releasing control to students—and visions of students losing control—can seem like too much to handle to even consider dipping one’s toe into the waters of inquiry. But the truth is, successful student-directed inquiry is a highly structured, adaptable framework that honors kids questions about the world and fits any curriculum. There is no need for it to be scary.

In the following video, author Harvey “Smokey” Daniels talks about how doing inquiry correctly can turn that trepidation into fulfillment and fun for both teachers and students alike.

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How to Set Up Reading Partnerships to Maximize Literacy Learning in Your Classroom

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Adapted from "What Are The Rest of my Kids Doing?" Fostering Independence in the K–2 Reading Workshop, by Lindsey Moses and Meridith Ogden


Partner reading is important for many reasons. Literacy is a socially constructed activity involving reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and visually representing. Reading together and talking about books can provide partners with enriching experiences, thinking, and conversation that would not take place while reading independently. In addition to the motivation, engagement, and social aspects, Rogoff (1990) documented interactions between partners that led to each child achieving a higher level of understanding than working by themselves. This could be due to the type of talk surrounding partner reading. Brown (2006) found five major themes of talk occurred during partner reading time in second grade: organizational, disputational, word strategy, meaning making, and personal talk. All of these, except personal talk, supported partner reading.

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Fostering Belongingness to Support Student Participation

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Adapted from Motivated: Designing Math Classrooms Where Students want to Join In by Ilana Seidel Horn.

Many students enter mathematics classrooms with a sense of trepidation. For some, their discomfort reflects a larger sense of detachment from school. They may not feel welcomed because of the gaps they experience navigating between their home language or culture and the expectations at school. The social milieu of school may make them feel like an outcast, as they see peers who seamlessly “fit in” while they remain on the outside. Unlike the sports field, their community center, or the stage, academic settings may make them feel untalented and incompetent. For other students, school itself is fine, but there is a distinct dread upon entering math class. Math has never made sense—or it made sense when it involved whole numbers, but as soon as the variables showed up, all hope was lost. A standardized test score that deemed them “below grade level” may have demoralized them. They may get messages at home that “we’re not good at math,” setting up any potential success as familial disloyalty. For some students, they love the subject, but must contend with others who do not see them as fitting their ideas of “a math person.” They have to combat stereotypes constantly to be seen as a legitimate participant in the classroom, as they defy expectations.

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Using Pre-Assessment to Ease into Reading Differentiation

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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.

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Heinemann Fellow Tiana Silvas on Fostering Empathy and Understanding Among Students

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From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.—Cesar Chavez

After a long day of teaching I walk around the classroom picking up pencils and scraps of paper. Some pieces of paper have scribble notes that make me smile. Students exchange jokes or attempt to create meaningful emojis. Other times the scribbles make me stop, wonder, and worry. One note shows two stick-figure drawings with one image’s face scratched out. Other scraps of paper have words like “I don’t like . . .”  What did I miss today? How will I handle this?

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