Home > Uncategorized > Differentiating Lesson Plans to Meet Student Needs

Differentiating Lesson Plans to Meet Student Needs

Mindmap updated

Click to enlarge

As indicated in the readings this week, it is imperative that teachers take into account learners’ interests, abilities, and learning preferences for the purpose of improving motivation, learning outcomes, as well as encourage teacher accountability in the area of ensuring that all students are making progress (Subban 1996, pp.939, 943). With the aforementioned in mind, it’s important to give students a sense of ownership in the classroom as well as create learner environments that not only cater to specific students individual needs but also enable the learner to thrive in the learning environment from his or her learning standpoint.

That said, the activities  and strategies that I have decided to utilize in the mind map above are designed to empower teachers to enlighten their students in a challenging but productive way. For example using the computers to do a brain pop activity makes achieving the learning objective more salubrious as the task appeals to different learning styles as brainpop contains a variety of activities such as writing, drawing, reading, listening and completing comprehension questions in a virtual environment. The activities cater to a variety of different learning styles. The use of brainpop also serves to help develop students’ basic 21st century skills at grade 1 level through browsing the web, using a mouse, and searching for key information. The use of drawing activities allow for differentiated learning outcomes and allow students with differing multiple intelligences express themselves in ways relevant to their interests.

Nonetheless, such learning might be all for nought if teachers have not conducted a needs analysis at the beginning of the term/semester/class to determine what the students interests, hobbies, strengths, weaknesses as well as learning preferences are. With this information, teachers are empowered with a rationale for making the decisions that they make that inform how they approach unpacking key objectives to be taught in the lesson.

In the future, I intend to make use of needs analysis to ensure that I am aware of my learners strengths and weaknesses as well as their learning styles and preferences. I believe that we must be ready to respond to the shifting of the learner’s goals, hopes, and aspirations as the social climate changes. I believe that educators should be willing to revise aspects of the curriculum that are no longer effective or viable in order for teaching and learning to remain relevant. If educators are unwilling to take the situation on the ground seriously, the result can be disastrous.

I recall having a conversation with a colleague many years ago in Japan about the state of English teaching and learning. We were talking about students in middle school during a professional development class. Many of these students were said to be shy and tended to have an aversion towards learning English. The professor shocked the class when she said, “Perhaps the best solution to the students’ lack of motivation would be to stop requiring them to learn English” (personal communication). In retrospect, her words made a lot of sense. Why should students be forced to learn English in the first place? English is taught as a foreign language in Japan. Students do not use the language outside of class and many will not use it extensively in the future. Their lack of interest probably extends from the fact that they don’t view learning English as useful. This speaks to the content of what they were learning and leads to critical question: How could the curriculum be revised to make learning more interesting, motivating and relevant to the needs of these learners?

A curriculum, even at its best, is incomplete as a teaching resource because we can never know if we are helping or hindering our learners. By designing our curriculum with a central concept in mind, we have merely created a framework on which to base our lessons. Successful implementation of the curriculum must be learner-centered however. I believe that we must take the learner’s personal experiences, competencies, and goals into consideration when teaching. Every learner is unique and has special needs. These needs are directly influenced by his or her desire to learn a subject and the goals that are achievable through learning the subject.

The aforementioned reminds me of my experiences teaching at a business language school many years ago. Some students wanted to conduct business meetings abroad while others wanted to learn English for traveling. In both cases, we provided detailed syllabi for the students to achieve their goals. The students knew what they wanted to achieve and thus they were motivated. We informed the students of their current abilities as well as how long it would take them to succeed. Throughout the course, students were tested on their abilities to speak fluently and accurately. Students were given feedback on their progress in relation to reaching the final goal.

Learners must have the opportunity to express themselves in an environment that is open and responsive to their needs. They must be able to determine which aspects of the curriculum are suitable for them and which aspects they feel uncomfortable with. Learners should find the content of a curriculum agreeable and should feel a sense of satisfaction while progressing through the curriculum.

I believe that the progression through the curriculum can be termed “learning.” Learning can be classified as good or bad. Good learning leads to understanding, retention, and application. Bad learning leads to confusion. When we are successful at implementing student-centered curricula, we will more than likely observe increased levels of motivation from our students and less confusion. Teachers should make use of this motivation to encourage the student to make learning a life long pursuit.

Students must know about their strong and weak points and how to maximize on their strong points. They must see how their performance is related to achieving an objective and how this is related to an overall concept. This means that accurate assessments and evaluations are necessary factors in curriculum design. In the case of the business language school that I mentioned earlier, we tended to rate students’ speaking and listening ability at first and asked the student to confirm their own strong and weak points. As the lesson progresses, we constantly gave the students feedback concerning areas where they were improving and areas where they were having difficulties, especially after the completion of unit tests. I tried to show how their areas of improvement would hinder them from achieving their personalized goal hence supporting the rationale for the study plan. I never criticized my students, but merely allowed them to think about their development critically throughout the course.

Finally, I believe that teachers must be encouraging and put the learner at ease as well as serve as a model for students to imitate. In every lesson, teachers must show, through demonstration, the essence of the ideals embodied in the curriculum. Teachers must be patient and understanding as well as determined to help students succeed. Good teachers quite naturally encourage good learning through lesson customization.

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