Prepared by Laurie Goode

"Every student can learn, just not the same day, or the same way." - George Evans

Diversity of Student Populations

Third Grade

Exploring the Advantage of Inclined Planes
I worked with 22 eight and nine year olds at Norge Elementary School. Many students were from backgrounds of upper middle class families, while about 1/5 of students came from working class homes. One-fourth of the class were minorities, with the majority of minorities from an African-American background. I had one student from Latin America, who missed the first two months of school due to a family visit in Honduras. This student speaks English without an accent and just as clearly as any other student in the classroom, but his parents only speak Spanish which limits school contact with the parents.

In terms of abilities and learning styles, four students were pulled out of the classroom once a week for both Visions math and language arts programs. Three struggling readers worked daily with a reading interventionist. Learning styles ranged across the board, from tactile learners to auditory learners to visual learners. Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences was evident in the group of 22 students, as we had some students who became a new person when they had returned from lunch for the afternoon subjects of math and science from the person they were during the morning of language arts. The majority of the students proved to need instructional strategies from all three learning styles in order to fully understand and apply concepts.

Sixth Grade

Working on Pre-Algebra SOL Presentations
Teaching four periods at Berkeley Middle School equaled working with 84 sixth graders between the ages of 11 and 13. Each period had a different dynamic because of the learning styles and personalities of the students. My class sizes ranged from 15 students in the first period to 23 students in pre-algebra. Approximately twenty five percent of the students in my classes are from minority backgrounds. Classes were mixed with extremely intelligent students, an ED student, and struggling students being referred for child study. There were also multiple students with behavior problems.

Just as there were difference in learning styles in third grade, there are differences in middle school too. After careful observation and conversations with the students, there seems to be a pattern in how struggling students and advanced students learn best in these classes. The struggling students in mathematics preferred more of a Madeline Hunter's direct instruction lesson where the information is clearly organized, whereas the advanced learners prefer a hands-on, inquiry based approach. The most advanced learners I have are the students in the Pre-Algebra for Sixth Graders.

Providing for Individual Differences

As evident in my philosophy of education, it is a priority of mine to work with students and other parties to provide all possible avenues to success and achievement. Especially in sixth grade, it is crucial to help struggling learners "catch up" so they do not become a hardened to the idea of school and apathetic to learning. In order to reach all of my students in middle school, I would constantly monitor student work by walking around the classroom during the checking of homework and note-taking, stopping to work one-on-one with a student when needed. I also provided students with a lunch pass to come back to the classroom during lunch for extra help when needed. It is extremely important at this level to be aware of students' performance at all times in order to prevent students from falling through the cracks with the large number of students on a roster.

In terms of providing for individual differences in terms of learning styles, I would vary the strategies used during instruction. When learning about three-dimensional figures, we copied notes and definitions to glue into interactive notebooks and we explored the figures through games, folding nets, building the geometric solids from toothpicks and clay. With these activities, the students who attain information from direct instruction were able to hear the notes and have information on paper to refer back to when necessary. However, the students who learn by doing or are artistically intelligent were able to cut and fold nets to make three dimensional figures as well as construct a 3-D figure from toothpicks. This is just one example of the variation of strategies I use in order to reach all learning styles in the classroom.

In addition to teaching with a variety of instructional strategies, working with students in small homogeneous groups helps provide for individual differences. In my sixth grade cooperating teacher's after school program, I have worked with struggling students. I can give the same direction I gave in class with 20 other students around, and this time, in a smaller group, the light bulb is more likely to turn on than during class in whole-group instruction. Using flexible grouping in classrooms is critical in order to meet students' needs.

Collaboration with Specialists/Family Members

I worked with specialists at both Norge Elementary School and Berkeley Middle School to better meet the needs of my students. The specialists I collaborated with were always willing to help and provided me with a plethora of information.

At Norge Elementary School, I worked with the reading specialist to find the appropriate level books for struggling readers with content that would be of interest to them. She also gave me ideas of how to effectively organize the reading workshop in order to ensure that the stronger readers do not fall through the cracks while I focus attention on the struggling and average readers. I also collaborated with the guidance counselor about different situations surrounding some of the students. She was helpful in explaining a student's home situation, explaining the probable psyche of the student, and how I should react to the situation. I had been ignoring a student when outbursts would occur because I thought she was wanting attention and I did not want to reinforce the behavior. The counselor recommended talking with the student, however, and possibly working out a system in order to provide the student with the right amount of "hidden attention" as she called it (where other students will not pick up on the attention). She only recommended this type of attention because the student has a sibling with severe special needs, and therefore, the counselor believes she may be needing the attention since the sibling receives the constant attention at home.

There was one parent I spoke with regularly when student teaching at Norge Elementary School. One mother was in constant communication with us about her son's switching in medicines while trying to find the correct dosage and kind of medicine. She would call to let us know if he had forgotten his medicine in the morning or if he was having a bad morning. She was an ally in her son's education because we were both trying to help the boy do his best work.

At Berkeley Middle School, I was fortunate in that the math specialist monitored/led an RTI class in my classroom every other afternoon. During our conversations at these times, we would discuss ideas for certain topics coming up. She helped me the most with finding challenging activities for the advanced students in pre-algebra. We finished the curriculum very quickly after I began teaching pre-algebra. In order to begin preparing for the SOL tests, I developed a group project where students created a presentation on given topics to present to their classmates. In passing, the math specialist mentioned a kite activity that she used to use with her students before the time crunch determined what activities were implemented. She lent me the book of kites and gave me ideas about how she used to use the projects in her classroom. This project was exactly what the advanced learners needed to apply their mathematical knowledge as well as using problem solving skills effectively in determining which would be the best way to design the kite covers to get the highest flying kite.
Preparing to Fly Tetrahedral Kites