Practices in Pedagogy

"To Teach is to Learn Twice Over"

Archive for the tag “Lessons!”

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 4 (January 30th-February 3rd)

“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.”

– Thomas Carruthers


The above quote was on my heart a great deal this past week. I am now well into my internship, and am still trying to discover my true role in the classroom. My four freshmen classes are fast-paced, organic, and daunting. I never know quite what to expect when the 9th graders file into my classroom—they continually, blessedly surprise me! And as these little nuggets of bewilderment have kept things fresh in the classroom throughout each and every period, they also force me to slide into an authoritative figure much more than I would like. I completely realize this is just part of the learning experience, and that this is all part of my being “baptized by fire,” as my mentor teacher so eloquently puts it. But I still cannot shake the concern that as I continue to grow into a frame of discipline, I am falling farther and farther from being a supportive, loving mentor. As a young, often overwhelmed student teacher, what should be my role in the classroom? Authoritarian? Coach? Is there such a thing as a happy, productive balance between discipline and facilitation? Or is such a thought more fantasy than reality? Carruthers, an extraordinary educational theorist from the early twentieth century, explains the role of the teacher simply: to provide the opportunities for students to learn how to learn, thereby making himself/herself unnecessary. Clearly, he points to the fact that teaching is a progressive experience. Teachers must start with control and authority, but then must steer their classes in such a way as to provide students with an increasingly aggressive role in the classroom. As students discover their own affection for learning, as well as acquire the tools that promote learning on their own, the teacher steps back. It is at this point in the process when true, organic education begins. And when such an experience takes shape, discipline—at least direct regulation and punishment—is extraneous. Therefore, ideally, the more I can plant seeds of interest in the hearts and minds of my students, the more I can hand them the “reins” of the classroom, the less I will have to worry about being a figure or pure discipline. After reflecting on these thoughts and participating in countless discussions with my mentor teacher, I decided to experiment this week.

On Wednesday, I planned a lesson for my 12th graders [with the thought that if it worked with Seniors, I would then try it on the 9th graders] that was designed to promote independence and student ownership. Occurring on the very day we began reading the next play [Pseudolus] in our Drama Unit, I created a contextual lesson introducing Roman Comedy. Students were split into heterogeneous groups based on their grade in the class thus far, and tasked to read an article and become “experts” on it. These articles were all short (on page or less), focused on one aspect of Roman Comedy (Author’s biography, Theater structure, musical involvement, Greek influence, etc), and relatively accessible to their literary minds. After becoming experts on their article, the groups were then disbanded and new groups were formed. Each of these groups consisted of one member from each of the earlier groups, thereby allowing each group to possess an “expert” on every article read that day. The students then spent the rest of their time teaching one another, by taking turns sharing their expertise in their respected topics. All the while, I avoided the front of the classroom; instead, I wandered the room eavesdropping, answering questions, and simply observing my students learn from each other. It was truly a wonderful, enriching experience.

The lesson spoken of above was based on two Washington State Reading standards: 2.3 and 3.1, as well as the SPU Principle “O.” Reading standard 2.3 details how students should “read to learn new information” and reading standard 3.1 explains how students “expand comprehension by analyzing, interpreting, and synthesizing information and ideas in literary and informational text” (Copied directly from the OSPI Website: Students were undoubtedly reading to learn new information, as barely any of them had a remote idea concerning Roman Comedy, let alone detailed contextual information. Simultaneously, by requiring students to become experts in their contextual topics through close reading and group discussion, their comprehension was expanded. My commitment to aligning this lesson came directly from SPU’s principles of HOPE. Specifically, principle “O” was one of the most contributing influences in the development of this experimental lesson. This principle focuses on “Offering an organized and challenging curriculum,” and as I strived to create a lesson plan that not only aligned with state standards, but also challenged students to become experts in new, diverse contextual topics related to our unit, I feels strongly I satisfied this principle’s expectations.

Upon reflecting on this lesson, I am relatively thrilled with its implementation. I thought the students were interested throughout the entire period, they taught one another with respect and enthusiasm, and the general flow of the lesson was actually really healthy. After assessing the students in our next class session, I also discovered an exciting fact: THEY LEARNED SOMETHING!!!! All of these factors lead me to believe Carruthers was onto something when he described how unnecessary the teacher should really be. If students are engaged, challenged, and provided the tools and opportunity to facilitate their own learning, amazing results can occur! My favorite aspect to this whole experience was the fact that I was rarely called upon to act as a disciplinary. Because students were interested in their own learning, my role was simply aiding those who needed it and making sure everyone kept an eye on the clock.

The one reservation I have, upon looking back at this lesson in retrospect, is that students need to be notified of what exactly will be expected of them BEFORE they begin the activity. About halfway through the lesson—just before the first groups were disbanded and the new groups were formed—I had to interrupt the class and tell them exactly what they would be doing in the next round of discussions. This was unfortunate, mostly due to the fact that it interrupted students’ conversations and learning. So if I was to teach a lesson similar to this one in the future [which I believe I will be doing with the Freshmen next week], I would undoubtedly tell them everything they need to know up front.


All in all, I am pleased with my experiment. Obviously, everything did not go exactly as planned, but such is the reality of teaching high schoolers. My hope is that I can continue to reflect on Carruthers’ ideas—along with the countless other people I am being constantly mentored by during this lengthy internship—and learn more and more each day. Every mistake, every mishap, and every failed idea are simply lessons for me. And as I continue to work hard, walk humbly, take risks, and push myself, I cannot imagine my teaching not improving.

Complete Lesson (Parts 1-7 of SPU Template): “Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry”

Complete Lesson Plan: “Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry”



“Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry” (Lesson Plan)

“Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry” (PP Presentation)

“Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry” (Artifact #1)

“Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry” (Artifact #2)

“Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry” (Artifact #3)


The purpose of this lesson is to prepare and equip me with the knowledge and experience needed to successfully complete my student teaching internship and the Teacher Performance Assessment. First and foremost, the assignment provides me with the opportunity to practice completing a lesson plan—using the Seattle Pacific University Long Template—that is both accurate and relevant to the work I will be doing in the classroom. Secondly, the assignment initiates thoughtful, pertinent reflection on standards-based instruction. The process of planning, performing, critiquing, revising, and finishing, has allowed me to be actively engaged in my development as a better teacher. I have been blessed with the chance to take risks in my planning, receive constructive criticism from my peers, and improve my work dramatically. Finally, I have been able to practice the processes associated with the TPA. I have been planning to teach, teaching, and reflecting on my teaching, all in the hope that when I am assessed later in the year, I will already know what is expected of me.

The assignment in itself is a completed plan for a lesson entitled “Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry.” Intended for a high school freshmen English classroom, the lesson is centered on practicing close reading strategies, critical thinking, and making and defending interpretive claims. The lesson focuses on two main standards: the student understands and uses different skills and strategies to read (Reading 1) and the student understands the meaning of what is read (Reading 2). Therefore, by the end of the lesson, students should be able to read closely and pull main ideas from a given poem. This will be done through independent reading, rereading, public reading, marking/highlighting the text, talking to fellow students and the teacher, and a group drawing activity. Students should be able to see what Emily Dickinson is trying to say (answer to the riddle, main idea, etc) and provide an accurate, thoughtful defense of their interpretation (using imagery, symbols, descriptions, illustrations). For the purposes of the lesson, we will be using a riddle called the “River Crossing Problem” and Emily Dickinson’s “I like to see it lap the miles.” These two works are similar in that they are both complex riddles, and are wonderful examples of the correlation between solving riddles and explicating poetry. Employing creativity, engaging activities, and collaboration, this lesson will encourage students to not only learn, but also be excited about their learning.

This assignment demonstrates my competency in Standard O2 because of its foundation in planning and adapting curricula. Standard O2 states, “Teacher Candidates offer appropriate challenge in the content area. Teacher-candidates plan and/or adapt curricula that are standards-driven so students develop understanding and problem-solving expertise in the content area(s) using reading, written and oral communication, and technology.” Breaking this over-arching statement down into a simpler form, it mainly speaks to teacher candidates’ ability to complete three different goals: create adaptive/student-centered curricula, facilitate standards-based learning, and use the four components of literacy (reading, writing, oral communication, and technology).

The first aspect of Standard O2 details how teacher candidates are able to plan, implement, and adapt curricula in order to provide students with a better understanding of the content area. So, because this assignment is completely focused on creating a lesson plan, teaching the lesson, receiving constructive criticism from peers, perceiving my students’ success or failure to grasp the concept (based off assessments), and revising my plan in order to better teach my students, it absolutely coincides with Standard O2. After teaching the lesson the first time, I realized that my initial entry task took far too much class time to complete. It was a waste of precious class time and problematic to my students’ learning. Therefore, in my revision of the lesson plan, I elected to shorten the entry task by 5 minutes. Similarly, during my initial teaching performance, my peers reflected on my consistent lack of professionalism in front of the class as a clear obstacle to student learning. Instead of speaking formally, I repeatedly spoke with “umm’s” and “you guys,” which severely undermined the maturity of my teaching. Instead of being professional and having everything ready by the beginning of the lesson, I had to stop at different points in order to pass out worksheets and set up my Power-point presentation. Once again, I fixed these issues and found success in my second teaching of the lesson. Completing an adaptive assignment—where my work is changed in order to better adhere to the needs and abilities of my students—I have shown how my teaching is always student-centered.

Simultaneously, my lesson plan was constantly, unceasingly contoured to State Standards—the second aspect to Standard O2. No matter how much certain aspects changed, such as the length of my entry task, the goals of my lesson remained unchanged. The lesson was always focused on Washington State Reading Standards 1 and 2, which say, “the student understands and uses different skills and strategies to read (Reading 1) and the student understands the meaning of what is read (Reading 2).” These standards produced two goals for the lesson: practice several close-reading strategies and use critical thinking skills in order to produce thoughtful interpretations. Students were made aware of these two goals at the beginning of the lesson, and were continually encouraged to work towards them.

I displayed my fulfillment of Standard O2’s final attribute: using reading, writing, oral communication, and technology to encourage student expertise in the content area in several ways. My students practiced guided, close reading a total of seven times! They worked through a complex riddle in three different segments, each encompassing a different close-reading strategy. Then, students read through the Emily Dickinson poem four different times: once with the teacher reading aloud, a second time with the teacher reading aloud and the students following along, a third time with each student reading on their own, and finally a fourth time reading the poem within a group. Students also were given several opportunities to utilize writing in order to aid them in their expertise of the content area. In the entry task, students were encouraged to write out a brief interpretation of the riddle. During their reading of the poem, students were asked to write out—after each segmented reading time—an interpretation of the poem. Finally, the collaborative illustration activity provided students an opportunity to write out, and draw, images and interpretations based off their group’s discussion. In all of these activities, students were allowed the chance to practice solving problems in the content area through their writing. Oral communication was prominent in the many teacher-led discussions as we read the riddle and poem as a class. It was also a vital factor in the group illustration activity, for students were required to discuss and synthesize their thoughts on the poem within their group. They were encourage to debate, ask questions from one another, and most importantly, to develop a compromising interpretation in their pursuit of the knowledge in the content area. Technology was the least used component in the lesson. However, even it was utilized to some significant degree. I employed the use of Power-point presentation in order to help facilitate and lead my students in the lesson. Without this technology, the lesson would not have been nearly as effective.

In one last final note, this lesson reflects a great deal about the types of knowledge, teaching, and literacy I employ in my teaching. My lesson is primarily pertaining to soft, pure knowledge. Soft knowledge means that interpretation is the central problem, where debate and reinterpretation are necessities.  Pure knowledge is theoretically oriented and abstract. Therefore, as my lesson is founded on creating and revising interpretative claims based off abstract ideas expressed in poetry, it is quite clearly utilizing soft, pure knowledge. My teaching in this lesson is primarily telling and controlling, meaning that the learning is mainly achieved through teacher-led discussions. Although there are hints of a deeper teaching style present in the lesson, such as the emphasis placed on developing personalized interpretations of the poem, the lesson functions predominantly as an avenue by which my knowledge of poetry explication is transmitted to the students through dialogue. Finally, the style of literacy evident in this lesson is undoubtedly adaptation. The lesson emphasizes the functionality of literacy skills by showing how close-reading and critical thinking techniques are essential to comprehension. By practicing skills such as rereading, collaborative reading, and illustration, students are encouraged to see to the necessity of literacy in our world today. These styles, or metaphors, are incredibly beneficial to recognize, for they encourage me to reflect and improve my teaching. I someday want to incorporate all possible teaching styles into my own, making me that much more of an effective instructor for my students. The more diverse my teaching, the more my students will learn.


* To see a video of my lesson taught in a classroom, follow the link below to


A Second Possible Lesson for 9th Grade Language Arts

Lesson #2 (“Friendly” Competition?)

The link above possesses a lesson (presented on the SPU Template Parts 1-5). The lesson is entitled “Friendly Competition?” and focuses on close reading strategies, analytical thinking, and real-life applications. Although there are many critical reading objectives employed in this lesson, the two most essential goals are…

1. The student understands and uses different sills and strategies to read (WA State Reading EALR #1)

2. The student understands the meaning of what is read (WA State Reading EALR #2)


The most important, and easily most engaging, portion of this lesson is its real-life applicability. Through a series of close-reading opportunities– independent, public, and interpretative–students will unpack three different passages from John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, in order to better explore the issue of adolescent competition and jealousy. This issue plagues our youth culture, and the opportunity to explore one author’s expression of said topic could be incredibly fruitful. Students will be able to passionately discuss their reading, their reactions, and their general opinions on a very real, tough issue.

The lesson would be a part of a greater unit, focusing on reading the entirety of John Knowles’ novel. Because this particular lesson utilizes passages from chapters 3 and 4, the lesson would need to be at least midway through a [possible] 3 week unit. Presumably, a teacher would need to briefly teach the ‘novel’ as a distinct genre, contextual information regarding John Knowles and American social life during World War II, introduce the inspiration behind A Separate Peace, and also already have explore chapters 1-3 before beginning this lesson. The rest of the unit after this particular lesson would focus on finishing up the novel and completing a summative writing assessment.

Finally, the following link below possess a supplemental to0l for a teacher hoping ot teach this lesson:

PP Presentation (Friendly Competition Lesson)

A Possible Lesson For 9th Grade Language Arts

EDRD- Lesson #1 (Unpacking Riddle Poetry)

The link above is a possible lesson plan (completed on the SPU Template) for a 9th grade Language Arts class. The lesson is entitled “Unpacking Emily Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry,” and focuses on accomplishing two main objectives:

1. The student understands and uses different skills and strategies to read (WA State EALR Reading #1)

2. The student understands the meaning of what is read (WA State EALR Reading #2)

By aligning the seemingly opposing processes of explicating poetry and solving riddles, a teacher might be able to provide an informative, engaging opportunity for students to learn how to read closely AND understand what they are reading! Critically reading and interpreting poetry is usually least on a student’s list of favorite tasks to do (especially high school freshmen). Therefore, this lesson offers even the most apathetic students to find joy and success in unpacking difficult poetry.

Presumably, this particular lesson would fit into a greater poetry Unit. Because the lesson expects students to already have some understanding of poetry as a distinct genre, a basic set of skills to analyze poems, interpretative reading strategies, and possibly some contextual knowledge on Emily Dickinson and some other famous American poets, this specific lesson should fit in at the later stages of the Poetry Unit– possibly even near the final week.

Finally, the link below possesses a supplementary tool for the teacher hoping to complete this lesson:

PP Presentation (Unpacking Poetry)

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