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Adapting Curriculum to Learners' Needs

This video illustrates how Kerry Meehan, a third-grade teacher at the World of Inquiry School #58 in Rochester, NY, adapts and differentiates a close reading lesson from an EL Education curriculum module. Meehan attends to students' various readiness levels through her instructional decisions, the adaptation of materials, and classroom management strategies.


- Today’s lesson was a third grade lesson from module one, we engaged in a close-read lesson using the text Waiting for a Biblioburro. Differentiation is really important to the students in my class, so as a critical thinker I’m compelled to adjust the lessons to meet the needs of my students. Some ways I differentiate in the classroom are chunking text, adding sentence starters to support students with their writing. All students bring a different level of readiness to the tasks that they have to complete, so when I’m preparing to teach a lesson I consider three things. One, the data I have on my students, two, my menu of options for differentiation, and three, the structure of a lesson plan I have at hands. And then I take those three components and weave them together to design a differentiated lesson. First target size. When I start the whole group lesson I start by unpacking the learning targets with students. Reading and learning the target aloud and making sure the students are clear on the vocabulary used on the target and also giving the students some protocol to self-assess where they are on those targets. Show me where you feel where you are on that target. Are you a five, a four, a three, a two, a one? Great, hands down. Once I do that, then we work through the close-read process. On a hill behind a tree, there’s a house. We take it step by step. First we close read for enjoyment. I just read the text out loud and ask the students to enjoy the story. So he took her book on his donkey to bring it to other kids. Isn’t that cool? In your arm seat sack you will find a little surprise from me. I disseminated the materials this morning prior to the lesson. My students have seat sacks behind their chairs so I had tucked away the materials that I had differentiated for them. Disseminating the materials in this way allows for students not to feel singled out. And the next part of our lesson, I bring the students through annotating the text in the close-read process. So in this particular case the annotating of the text coding was the underlining of important information and circling unfamiliar words. I underlined libraries and books. In order to have my classroom more student-centered I balance teacher talk and student talk. And I chose after each work period to have them pair and share their work and make corrections that way and I allow them to check in with each other or myself in regards to that work. Cause you’re a good reader, could you read it to them? And then after he’s done reading it could you give him a suggestion on what he should write right there? I strategically pair the students on a similar reading level but even on a similar reading level they brought a different subset of skills. I knew that one student may bring a lot of vocabulary knowledge while the other student brought a comprehension element, and by pairing them like this they’re able to reach a deeper understanding within the text. About halfway in the class is identifying the special needs, and I have a co-teacher to provide additional support to small groups as needed. Another way I differentiate is chunking text. I may give one student one paragraph and another student two. The students who receive one paragraph are able to feel like they can complete the process without feeling intimidated or frustrated, while those who feel more confident may get two paragraphs so they’re able to complete the task and feel the challenge and not get bored during the lesson. Being aware of the pacing and the reading level that they’re at it’s just giving students a different amount, but I’m not changing the complexity of the text. The great thing about the modules is that the lesson plans and student work and student text are already prepared, so my planning time is spent preparing the differentiated material for the students and I’m not spending my time preparing those other pieces that I used to spend my time preparing. Once we complete the annotation of the text with the circling and the underlining, we ask the students to do the third close-read independently of their excerpt, and then after they do that to mark the gist on the side of their excerpt that best matches their chunk of text. Sean, how would you explain a gist in your own words?

- What the text talks about a lot.

- The gist is if the first draft of thinking about the text. What’s the text mostly about? Alright, we’re on the fourth part of the close-read which is answering text-based questions. Then I guide the students to take all that work that they’ve put into the text, that deep learning, and apply it to answering text-based questions. I provide different recording forms, some recording forms offer more support including sentence starters and some of the recording forms offer less support and they are minus the sentence starters. So another way I was able to differentiate instead of modeling for the whole class and then taking away time where other kids were ready to move on, I made sure I set the class and then moved to the students who would need the extra examples, touched based with them first and then was able to monitor the rest of the class. Exit ticket, you need to pick one question and right the answer for me on this card. So in this case I wanted an exit ticket as my ending assessment instead of a whole group discussion. I find with whole group discussion I’m not sure I heard from everY student, and with an exit ticket I do get a piece of work from every student. Differentiation done well is short term for the children so by the time they complete the academic year, they don’t need the same differentiation and scaffolding that they did at the beginning. I absolutely see results, the kids have the support during the lesson that they need to complete the work regardless of their readiness.

- So at night on her own bed--

- Students who normally feel frustrated, intimidated, overwhelmed, or lack confidence are able to feel empowered, engaged, because they know that the support is there for them to be able to finish. We all have the same text, we all have the same target, but we achieve the target by different means, and that’s what differentiation does for the students during the lesson. Provide a different pathway to get to the same target.

- And they were happy, because now they were reading, and they could read more better.

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EL Education

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