Working with Diverse Students

I had an opportunity to work with students of all abilities during my practicum and student teaching experiences at Waller Mill Elementary School. My class while student teaching contained one LEP student, two retained students (one in Kindergarten and one in First Grade), and one student on consultation for speech therapy. I also had three students who were recommended for the gifted/talented program in the county who required extension activities regularly. There were also four students who were pulled out daily for for Reading Recovery services. These students were identified through the PALS Testing scores they received at the beginning of the school year. Having such a diverse classroom provided me with many opportunities to differentiate lesson plans daily. I made sure to use a variety of instructional methods daily in my classroom to meet the needs of all of my students: use of manipulatives, music, listening, reading, and actually getting up and moving to incorporate kinesthetic activities. In order to view samples of lesson plans I created incorporating differentiation, please see Planning for Teaching or Teaching Skills

In order to constantly challenge the students who were recommended for the gifted/talented program, I found extension activities for them to complete on the topics being covered in the classroom. During a reading unit when students read "The Little Red Hen," I had these students compare and contrast different versions of the stories. After they had read the one in the required curriculum text, I found other versions at the library for them to read. They then completed a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the two versions. The student work samples can be viewed below.

Having never worked with a LEP student, I did not know what to expect from this individual. His reading scores were above grade level and he seemed to be comprehending everything that he read. He was also very knowledgeable about many topics discussed in class. However, when I began the Words Their Way program with the class, he struggled with his weekly sorts, being unable to identify the pictures. I found that his general vocabulary was lacking. My cooperating teacher and I requested the services of the LEP teacher, whom he now meets with every day for thirty minutes. She has him working with basic picture dictionaries to identify common objects and build his english vocabulary. I would then follow up by having the student identify things in the classroom throughout the day as well as objects in the books he reads daily.

The students who get pulled for Reading Recovery are all in the same reading group so that instruction can be more focused on each individuals abilities. I was in constant contact with the Reading Specialist to find out how the students were doing daily as well as overall. I also worked with her to create Accelerated Reader tests that would be more appropriate for these lower students so that they could participate in the program as well. While they complete the same reading assignments and work as the other students, they require more time to complete such activities. I found that it was most effective to group these students together because I could spend more time with them as a group instead of focusing in on them while in a group with other students. They have already come a long way during my time in the classroom and I know they will continue to progress!

One major form of differentiation that I used during my student teaching was through spelling/reading. I began using the Words Their Way spelling program along with the other first grade teachers. After having the students complete the spelling inventory, I was able to group students based on the results into three groups: short vowels, digraphs, and long vowels. Students spelling words and weekly sorts are created based on these results. This allows students to progress at his/her own rate and still remain challenged. Students will be reassessed in January and my cooperating teacher will determine if groups should be changed.