Practices in Pedagogy

"To Teach is to Learn Twice Over"

Archive for the category “SPU Principle P1”

Differentiated Lessons

As part of the requirements of my EDU 4250 course, I was asked to write two lesson plans that were purposefully, thoughtfully differentiated. “Differentiation” refers to Tomlinson’s model of DI (Differentiated Instruction), a model focusing on adapting a lesson’s content, process, and product in order to better adhere to the growing diversity in classrooms around the United States. The three main components of DI are flexible grouping, continuous assessment, and student readiness– all elements I intentionally reflected upon and implemented into my lesson plan. My two differentiated lesson plans were created for 12th grade World Literature students, but their targets and strengths are undoubtedly different. The first lesson, centering on exploring symbolism in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, emphasizes thoughtful engagement, kinesthetic activities, collaborative learning experiences, and linguistic reflection in order to address the individual needs of my students. The second lesson also draws attention to the significance of student engagement in the learning process, but focuses more on real-life application of the lesson’s content, the educational power of communal reading, and ongoing, self assessment.

To put it simply, differentiation is time-consuming, arduous, and incredibly complicated. It took me hours to revise my lesson plans in such a way as to meet the individual, specific needs of my students. It took me countless attempts to create and establish classroom modes that would appropriately assess student readiness, as well as provide adequate opportunity to modify my lesson–in the midst of teaching– so that it would adhere to the varying levels of readiness. On top of all this, the process of differentiation also forced me to think, rethink, and rethink several more times the purpose and value of each and every one of my lesson’s learning experiences. I painstakingly examined and altered every detail I could think of so as to effectively reach my respected students. Yet, I enjoyed every minute of it! I loved the fact that differentiation puts students before teachers, before curriculum, and before everything else. Differentiation, at least in my minimal experience, is the truest form of student-based teaching. Every thought and decision made in the preparation of lessons is intentionally, systematically executed in the light of the students the lesson will teach. And with the growing diversity–whether religious, economic, cultural, or sexual– of the modern day classroom, differentiation is a necessity! We as teachers must be aware of the individual needs of each and every one of our students, and appropriately construct our curriculum in such a way as to fulfill those needs. We must treat every student with the amount of respect, appreciation, and love they deserve. Only when we do this will we be able to confidently call ourselves successful teachers.

As you will be able to discover when reading the rationales at the bottom of both lesson plans, I have spent a great deal of time and effort reflecting on several standards. However, I will select one in particular for the purposes of this rationale. This artifact demonstrates my competency of Principle H1, which states, “Teacher-candidates plan and/or adapt learner-centered curricula that engage students in a variety of culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies.” This is because the process of differentiation, at least the process of DI I went through with these lesson plans, is the clearest form of “learner-centered curricula” that one may achieve. Differentiation takes into account EVERY student’s specific needs, levels of readiness, and capacity for academic achievement so as to produce the most effective teaching practices possible. The revisions I completed on my lesson plans were all part of my ongoing attempt to engage students in “culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies” for learning.


Differentiated Lesson 1- Symbolism

Differentiated Lesson 2- Friendly Competition


Weekly Reflection 3 (January 23rd-27th)

I am going on three weeks and still holding strong! This was an extremely eventful week for me, seeing as how I officially took over one class! From now on, I will be handling all aspects—planning, in-class facilitating, and grading—of our 12th Grade World Literature class! On top of this, I am taking a more central role in the other four classes (our 9th Grade Language Arts classes) as well, as I will now be the lead on all in-class activities from henceforth. I am so incredibly nervous, but I cannot help but be excited for this new opportunity to grow and learn. Our 12th graders are in the midst of a unit on Drama, just about to finish reading the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex and move on to the Roman comedy Pseudolus. Meanwhile, the 9th graders are in the final week of unit 3 (Exploring Non-fiction), and will be moving on to a unit on persuasive writing. It is a crazy time, but one permeated with excitement, enthusiasm, and intrigue.

Easily the two things that went best were the 9th grade group presentations that occurred on Monday and Tuesday and the Oedipus Jeopardy game the 12th graders played on Thursday. As part of finishing up our Non-fiction unit in the 9th grade classrooms, we decided to break the classes into groups of 3-5 and tasked the students to explore several newspaper articles recently written. They were given time in class throughout the last week or so to pick an article that interested them, read the article together, annotate and make notes on the article, and prepare a short presentation on several aspects of the work: the conflict, identifying the two or more groups presented in the article, each group’s motivations, each group’s goals, and a possible solution to the conflict (voting, forming a compromise, letting the government/judicial system make a decision, etc). All of this work was targeted at encouraging the students to think critically about the Essential Question of the unit: How do we as a society solve conflict between two or more groups? Although it took a great deal of time for the students to understand their assignment, their presentations were quite remarkable. Students who rarely talk in class spoke up and demonstrated a shocking level of understanding. Students who are usually a massive distraction in the classroom became their group’s leaders and were inspired to produce quality work. Apathetic students displayed engagement for the first time all year. All in all, it was a great experience!

Here below are a few videos of the group presentations to give you all an idea of the kind of work that was done:

*These videos are being uploaded as we speak… they should be up here soon!


The second thing that went so well this week was the Oedipus Jeopardy game we played on Thursday. This was a lesson I had wanted to create and facilitate ever since we started reading Oedipus Rex. I recognized through our classroom discussions that my students were more interested in games and competitions than in lectures. I noticed they loved when we did interactive, creative lessons rather than lectures. So in accordance with SPU’s Principle P1 (Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. Teacher-candidates plan and/or adapt standards-based curricula that are personalized to the diverse needs of each student), I went for it! I created a Power-point Presentation jeopardy game, and planned the activity on a day before a formal test, so as to utilize the game as an engaging, productive review for my students. Students were separated into groups based off of skill level and understanding of the play thus far, and then competed to win prizes by answering trivia questions about the play.  Some of the questions were easy and straightforward—in order to assess whether or not the students had been keeping up with the reading over the last two weeks. Other questions were deeper and more complicated, so as to assess whether or not students were thinking critically about the themes, characters, modern day relevance, symbols, and tragic elements of the play. And, as expected, the students LOVED it! They were energetic, engaged, and competitive. They answered questions with eagerness and sought to demonstrate the work they had been completing over the last two weeks. All in all it was a wonderful, productive experience!

Here below is a link to the Jeopardy game I created for the 12th graders:

Oedipus Jeopardy!


The only aspect to the week that I wished had gone better was my confidence in front of the classroom. Although I do not think it is noticeable to anyone else beside myself, I am always nervous in front of the classroom. I love every minute of it—cherishing the opportunity I have to work so closely with the future generations of this world—I cannot help but worry I am not doing a good enough job. I want every week, every day, and every single class to be a rewarding experience for my students; therefore, I think I put a great deal of pressure on myself. And although I highly doubt this will really ever change—because I believe a healthy level of nervousness shows just how much someone cares about what they are doing—I would like to work on this in the future.

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