Prepared by Laurie Goode

"It is not what is poured into a student, but what is planted." - Linda Conway

Meeting Individual Needs

All students have needs that must be met in the classroom for optimal learning to take place. These range from basic needs such as food to academic needs such as learning styles and differentiated lessons. Before students can begin to learn in the classroom, the basic needs such as hunger and security must be met. I can meet these two needs by providing approved snacks to students in need and building a community of trust. Only then can I turn my attention to meeting the individual academic needs of students.

Learning Styles
I believe it is important for me as a teacher to know the way my students learn best. By taking time at the beginning of the school year to give a learning style inventory, I will be a more effective teacher by planning lessons that match the learning styles of the classroom. A sample of an elementary learning style inventory can be found in the Teacher Resources Manual for Peter Reynolds' The North Star. In lessons, I incorporate hands-on activities for kinesthetic/tactile learners, direct instruction for auditory learners, and visual aids for visual learners. Below are pictures of different activities completed in class to reach all learning styles.

Kinesthetic/Tactile Learning
Visual Learning
Auditory Learning


The students have three-dimensional figures to
explore before using toothpicks and clay to create a geometric solid.

An alligator's mouth is a visual reminder to help students remember the difference between
greater than and less than.

While there is a visual aid on the board, the students are listening to direct instruction and participating
through answering questions.

Lessons can help meet individual needs by differentiating the content of the lesson (the "what"), the process (the "how"), and/or the product (the "why"). Exit cards I used in Math 6 when first learning how to write and follow formulas demonstrates the differentiation through process. All students are learning the same content (area formulas for parallelograms and triangles) and are completing the same exit card with the same problems, but the process of getting to the answers is differentiated on the bottom card with guided help given for struggling students.
Differentiated Exit Cards on Area Formulas

Just as lessons need to be differentiated to help struggling students attain concepts, similarly advanced learners need
Differentiated Flash Cards
differentiated instruction in order to extend their learning experiences. I realized during the third grade fraction unit that the advanced learners had mastered comparing fractions while many struggling students needed more practice with the concept. Therefore, I developed a game for students to work together in homogeneous ability groups. Using the flash cards seen here, students moved their game pieces around a game board when they correctly compared the fractions on a drawn flash card. All members of the group completed each comparison problem in order to check the other group member's work. The skill level of comparing fractions was differentiated through the different colored flash cards to provide a challenge for advanced learners. The orange flash cards provided harder problems that included adding fractions before comparing fractions, while the yellow cards provided additional practice for basic comparisons of fractions.

Motivating and Engaging Students

As discussed in my educational philosophy, the first step taken in my classroom to get students motivated and engaged in learning is to use their interests to draw connections to the curriculum. Intrinsic motivation comes from interests and passions, and these connections with the material will make learning more meaningful. Other ways to help students stay motivated and engaged in the classroom is to incorporate what students want to know in with the conent of standards (can be assessed with a KWL chart) and to use a variety of teaching strategies to keep students from getting bored. This mixture of teaching strategies also ensures that all learning styles are being reached.

A second way to engage students is to catch them off guard. For example, being able to move around the classroom during a lesson was engaging for the students since they were actively participating. This is what the students were able to do during the first day of the election lesson when the concept of voting was introduced. Students began by standing in a straight line in the center of the carpet. They then chose which of two choices they liked best by walking to that side of the carpet. For example, I would say "Vanilla Ice Cream" while pointing to one side of the carpet and "Chocolate Ice Cream" while pointing to the other side of the carpet. The students would move to the side they liked best. I had not anticipated that some students would not be able to decide, but these students stayed in the middle of the carpet on choices where they could not make up their mind, which contributed to our class discussion, but this proved their engagement and concentration on the concept and allowed us to discuss the "undecided vote."

Example of Interwrite Tablet Notes
Finally, a third way to engage students is to use technology, which is discussed further in the Integration of Technology section in Ability to Plan, Organize, and Prepare for Teaching. One concept that caused particular difficultly for students was understanding how to show their work when using formulas to determine the area of a given shape. After providing numerous examples in notes and using analogies to describe the formula as a recipe that must be followed step-by-step or directions to a birthday party that must be carried through completely in order to make it to the party, students were still having trouble showing their work, even if they understood the formula. I knew more examples needed to be provided, but I also was aware of the repetitiveness of this instruction. Therefore, I integrated technology in an attempt to increase student engagement in the concept. By using the Interwrite Tablet to give examples and provide notes, the students immediately became engaged and motivated to stay on task in order to have a chance to use the Interwrite Tablet.

Here is an example of a student's example of finding the area of a circle using the Interwrite Tablet. The tablet allows students to write from their seat and have it appear on the projected screen. On this day, we were writing notes on a blank word document, but it is also possible to capture images and write on top of problems or a powerpoint slide. The particular student was able to correctly use the correct formula for the area of circles. I asked the student to circle the "3²" changing to "3 · 3" to clearly identify the operation of squaring a number. I also asked the student to highlight the units as many students were forgetting to include the squared units in the answers.

Promoting Critical Thinking Skills

One goal I have for students in the classroom is to be thinkers. I want students to evaluate information rather than simply believing the information provided by a teacher or other resource. I also want students to become comfortable with not always having an answer because there are many natural phenomena that are unexplainable at the moment; however, I also want their curious minds to continue to look for answers. One method I use to promote critical thinking skills is questioning. The short video clip below demonstrates how I take a student's misconception and help her correct the misconception through questioning and offering a hands-on demonstration that she could see and believe rather than believing me that a "paperclip is not magnetic."

In language arts, I also extended student thinking during read alouds. When teaching the character traits, I promoted critical thinking skills by asking students to compare and contrast characters, either from the same book or two different books. After modeling this skill during a mini-lesson using the visual aid of a Venn diagram, the students completed their own comparison and contrast chart from characters of their choice of books recently read.

Lastly, I was happy to watch a lesson that I had not intended to become a problem solving lesson for pre-algebra students turn into a critical thinking lesson by having to use problem solving strategies. Students were building tetrahedral kites with step-by-step instructions. However, the instructions were not as clear on which way the kite coverings should face when building a larger tetrahedral kite (a kite with four cells). I watched and guided students through this part of the assembly of the kite, allowing students to attempt to put together their kite in any way as long as it could be justified with logical reasoning.

Two Students' Tetrahedral Kite

Teaching to Lesson Plans

I use the standard-based lesson plans described in the Ability to Plan, Organize, and Prepare for Teaching page as a guide during instruction. The plans help me consider the pacing of a lesson and the direction intended for the lesson. I am able to follow lesson plans closely as demonstrated on one of my observation forms completed by my University Supervisor; however, I also conscientiously assess students' needs during lessons and am not afraid to deviate from the lessons if needed. For example, during a pre-algebra lesson, I came to a point in the lesson where I had to decide whether it was more beneficial to student learning to continue the activity to ensure that all students were able to participate or stop the activity to review the concept with classwork that was originally planned. I decided that the concept was being easily attained and the students were more likely to stay engaged with the activity rather than working on the classwork; therefore, I diverted from the lesson plan in order to maximize student learning.