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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Style to Your Students' Learning Style
How to Home
How To: Adjust Your Teaching Styles to Students' Learning Styles
How To: Develop as a Professional
How To: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

Knowing What They Know

Sharon Longert

By the end of the first month of the term, we are all beginning to settle into a routine. At the same time, we are beginning to realize that our greatest challenge will be those students who are not “getting it” on the first presentation. The “it” in this case may be in any of the curriculum areas.

Why Each Student Is Different--The Short Version
Language processing that includes listening, speaking, reading and writing occurs in all curriculum areas. Language processing emerges and develops interdependently at differing rates in different children. This processing is an inclusive process and cannot be divided into its component parts. For this reason, the lessons we develop need to include the components of language processing that compliment each individual’s style of learning.

Each of our students has a differing level of strength in listening, speaking, reading and writing. It is our task to go beyond teaching the curriculum. We need to be willing to teach each individual, regardless of their circumstances and perspectives. By becoming aware of our students’ needs and interests we begin to enable each student to work at their own higher level of thought, problem solving and production.

How to Motivate Each Child to Learn
Most students are very well attuned to their own strengths and weaknesses. Allowing each student to feel successful at the various tasks they attempt is the key to motivating every child to learn. By providing a variety of ways for them to successfully accomplish the tasks at hand, we motivate them and allow them to express what they have learned, thereby letting us know what they know.

“Deciding to Teach Them All”
Carol Ann Tomlinson’s article, “Deciding to Teach Them All,” (ASCD, October 2003) offers some broad pointers for teachers interested in reaching individual students.

  • Good curriculum comes first. The teacher’s first job is always to ensure a coherent, important and thoughtful curriculum.
  • All tasks should respect each learner. Every student deserves work that is focused on the essential knowledge, understanding and skills targeted for the lesson. Every student should find the work interesting and powerful.
  • When in doubt, teach up! Good instruction stretches learners. The best tasks are those students find a little too difficult, but are attainable with a support system in place to facilitate success.
  • Use flexible grouping. Find ways and times for the class to work as a whole, for students to demonstrate competence alone, and for students to work with varied groups of peers. This gives students a chance to be involved in varied contexts.
  • Become an assessment junkie. Everything a student says and does is a potential source of data. Assessment is an ongoing process, and is meant to maximize opportunities for each student to widen their window on learning.
  • Grade to reflect growth. The teacher’s job is to guide and support the learner in doing their best work. Grading should reflect a learner’s growth.

Making Learning Engaging
There is no doubt that reading and writing are the main focus of our curricula. By incorporating the following into a variety of assignments, the work the students produce will inevitably reveal their understanding.

  1. Entertain through articles, novels, poetry, song lyrics, graffiti.
  2. Inform with articles, flyers/pamphlets/brochures, directions, reports, research papers, notes to family members and friends, business letters, informational/reference books.
  3. Share feelings through personal letters, diary/journal, postcards, thank-you notes, letters of complaint.
  4. Persuade with advertisements, flyers/pamphlets/brochures, mini-biography for application, graffiti, catalog.
  5. Request information test items, business letter, interview.
  6. Remind/Record lists, personal notes, minutes, research notes, captions, observations.

This far from exhaustive list of activities can be used to engage learners in a wider range of possibilities that can lead us to know what they know and give voice to their individual styles and strengths. It should be emphasized that along with the spirit of variety, students should be encouraged to demonstrate understanding in a variety of ways at different times throughout the term.

Do you have a question or suggestion? E-mail it to Sharon.


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