Grammar. Spelling. Syntax. Go.
It's as simple as that, right?
We know, what a knee-slapper. Writing varies by as many degrees as you have students in your class. Not to mention what sort of mood they're in, whether they learned a new word in class, or if reading Ulysses before sitting down to write impacted their style that day.
So what we need is differentiation in how we teach writing, to suit all the differentiation we see in the folks who are learning writing, practicing writing, loving or hating writing, and just plain writing.
You can hit up our general approaches to get started down the differentiated instruction path, or head straight into these writing-specific tips. You may think some of them are more suitable for students of specific ages, but hey—adaptability is the beauty of differentiation. So pick your poisons and leave the rest to the little Ellisons, Dickinsons, Allendes, and Rushdies (maybe in a few years) so diligently differentiating your classroom.
Start With Shmoop
Okay, we couldn't not shout ourselves out here. Before hitting you up with other tips, here's a reminder that our Essay Lab includes over 20 types of essays (including a Lab Report and Math Proof for the non-humanities writers). Each Essay Lab breaks down the process with tips, examples, and videos—and students can go at their own paces, using as much (or little) of the provided scaffolding as necessary.
For students who aren't even at essay-level yet, we even have a Thesis Statement Lab and a Paragraph Lab to differentiate for students who need a little extra push on their tush.
And now that that PSA is over, here are some more general tips.
1. Have students participate in goal-setting and assessments.
Chances are you introduce each writing project or unit by saying what it's about, what they're going to learn, and what the final assignment will be. But you know full well that having the same final assignment guidelines and grading rules for the variety of students in your class may not always be the best option.
For example, let's say you've got a four-week unit on persuasive essays. Maybe there are a couple students who could write three fully formed, edited, and revised essays giving Aristotle a run for his money. And a few others who don't quite get what persuasion means—or who do, but take a bit longer to put their argumentative brilliance into paragraph form. Our advice? Encourage students to aim high, but let them know that they should work at their own pace.
When assessment time comes, involve them in that process, too. Have they put forth their best efforts? Turned in their best work? Made progress? Improved their skills? The student for whom persuasive essays come easily shouldn't receive high marks just because she could probably get her stuff published as an op ed somewhere—unless she has challenged herself and expanded her skills or knowledge in the process, too. On the other hand, the student who has progressed from barely getting the words on paper to completing a well-crafted paragraph might earn a high score despite the fact that she has written 150 words to another student's 500.
And sometimes rewarding that level of progress, even if it isn't the gold standard, is the boost that student needs to keep pushing. By adapting your own goals and grades in line with those of your students, you not only cut them a break—you keep them motivated, too.
2. The magic words: student choice.
Specifically when it comes to picking writing topics and styles, giving the students some leeway can increase their investment as well as their performance. This can mean offering an array of different writing assignments with varying point values to match.
A three-panel comic: ten points. Five-page research paper: maybe 50. One-page poems, five-paragraph essays, movie or book reviews, song lyrics, screenplays, skits, recipes—somewhere in between. Pretty much any kind of writing you can think of, you can assign a point value. Then you give students a total to aim for—100? 500? 273? This will vary depending on the value you assign to various projects and how long you intend to spend on this activity. All that's left is letting them choose the assignments they want to complete along the way.
To get started on this writing workshop, first make your big list of types writing assignments (hey! your students can help!) and give each type of writing a point value (they can help there, too, if you're careful about assigning 3,000 points to a limerick).
You'll also want to talk to students about the quality of work that will be expected (final draft, clean copy, no errors, typed, double-spaced, and all that jazz) in order for them to receive their points. And maybe say a thing or two about how much variety you expect, or whether it's fair game to write 200 recipes related to Bleak House. Sounds pretty bleak to us.
One version of this approach was presented by Noelle Gallant and Gwyneth Nicholson at the Maine Association for Middle Level Educators conference in 2012. They made a Prezi (yes, that would be another type of assignment) to show their list of writing projects and point values. Take a peek to get a feel for the way they ran what they call the "Lifelong Writer Project" in their classrooms, and think about how you could recruit some lifers of your own.
3. Ready, set, graphic organizers.
Flow charts. Graphs. Spider webs, rivers, or trees. All these and more (the graphic version, not the nature stuff) can help visual and spatial learners see all the parts of a writing assignment and how they fit together. A simple Google search using the phrase "graphic organizers for writing" will get you a slew of results—just check the images tab and peruse your options. If you're working on a particular kind of writing (paragraphs, short stories, narratives, analytical essays), add that descriptor to your search to narrow it down. These things are great for learners who need to see their argument in a way that isn't just lines of words, but it can also be a helpful exercise for the line-ier among them, too.
4. Try writing "on location."
Sometimes introducing a little movement or a change of scene into the lesson will help kinesthetic learners focus or think in new ways. Walking to a new location in your school or community and having students record their thoughts and observations can be a nice way to stimulate writing.
You can use this as a break in the routine when they're stuck on their essay for Brave New World, or you can use it as a creative activity. Encourage them to jot down anything that comes to mind, or ask them to "collect" words they see during their walk ("Exit," "Cafeteria," "Break glass in case of fire," etc.) and use these words in a future assignment. What could be more poetic than that?
5. Get physical.
Yes, we're still talking about writing. Write letters, words, and phrases on LEGO pieces or blocks. Or get those word magnets. Or make your own set. Then let your students build words, sentences, poems, and stories. You may get some weird stuff, but hey, what better way to experience the versatility of language?
And yes, obviously that's the cue to remind that, of course, versatility is what differentiated learning is all about.
6. Put students' interpersonal intelligences to work.
That can mean collaborating to tell a story, writing a poem as a group, debating about whether a character is good or evil—you name it.
Want interpersonal intelligences to also include inter-media intelligences? Use voice transcription software (there are apps for that) to allow students to first tell stories orally and then play with the text after it is transcribed to practice editing and revising. Some students will forget it's even writing class when you bring in the technology. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, we'll leave that answer to you.
7. Create a class newsletter or zine.
That way the creative process is going on regardless, but students can take on different roles in line with their strengths. Sure, you'll want to toss in a writing component for everyone, but assign different jobs so everyone gets invested.
So, some students may write articles, while others create crossword puzzles or word searches, write horoscopes, sell or design advertisements, manage marketing and PR, edit, contribute pictures or artwork, write captions or headlines, create agendas, run staff meetings, and the like. You'll have an army of mini-journalists in no time.
8. Use writing models. And lots of 'em.
Here's a secret: reading helps writing. And even reading headlines, sports news, and fashion columns can help students passively absorb new words and proper sentence constructions. So sure, every kid has got to have a grapple with Shakespeare at some point, but don't be afraid of other writing models, too.
Keep around a range of writing samples that can help inspire your young writers and increase student interest and engagement in the world of letters. When you give them specific assignments, this will help you provide exemplars so they can see what it is they're shooting for. And when it's chill time, it'll give them something to do that doesn't feel like work.
What do we mean, specifically? Magazines covering a vast array of subjects (sports, cars, horses, dogs, wildlife, fiction, current events, entertainment news) could be good to have on hand along with a wide selection of books, word games, comics, graphic novels—anything that can provide them with a model of writing to which they might aspire. Or at least to which they might turn their eyes in a moment of boredom and accidentally learn something from it on the side.
9. Offer pre-writing strategies.
Like, as many as possible. Clustering, brainstorming, listing, freewriting, looping, drawing, conferencing, researching—the more the merrier. Why? Because that way you give students a variety of entry points into an assignment. Hey, at least one of them has got to work.
Need a refresher or some new ideas? Check out suggestions from The University of Kansas, Learn NC, Illinois Valley Community College, and The Purdue OWL. That list alone should be enough to get anyone going.
Ready to write? Good. Now go transfer it to your students.
Essay on Differentiation in the Classroom
917 WordsNov 4th, 20114 Pages
In this short essay I intend to explain the meaning of differentiation....
In order to fully explain differentiation it is important to turn to The National Curriculum and look at what has become known as the ‘general inclusion statement’. This statement contains a statement that defines inclusion as “a demand on teachers not to ignore the three principles of inclusion (below) in their planning” Session 1 / Inclusion, the individual and the environment. In short, these three principals are: To set suitable learning challenges, to respond to pupil’s diverse learning needs, and overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups. In other words teachers are expected to develop lessons…show more content…
So how would we differentiate a lesson so that it fulfilled the needs of SEN students? Firstly, it is important to know the educational needs of all students in every classroom. We would find this information for every student regardless of SEN in their targets and performance histories. But with SEN students we should also find help from the SENCO or person in charge of co-ordinating the needs of SEN students. Once these students have been identified they will appear on a document such as an SEN register or student support list. The aim of this list is to help us as teachers identify our SEN pupils-forewarned is forearmed. OFSTED would then expect to see that lessons are differentiated to take these students needs into account. Therefore, if I were taking a class with a visually impaired pupil I would be expected to have provided resources that overcame any barriers to learning that this might cause in my lesson. This might include worksheets in large print for the student or temperature probes that emit an audible reading rather than a visual one. If I were working with a student with dyslexia issues I would look at the students IEP (individual education plan) and identify way to help that student fully participate in the lesson. This might be something as simple as allowing the student to use their laptop for written exercises or giving handouts on specially coloured sheets of paper. In a practical cooking lesson I might employ a sequence