When we acknowledge that students have multiple ways of learning and ways of showing that they understand, we move away from working to match and fit students into the exisiting curriculum toward creating new curriculum to meet students’ strengths (Silver, Strong, & Perini, 2000). I could not agree more, and it is the very reason why the lesson I relate here provides various ways to meet the strengths of all students, but also provides opportunities for students to stretch beyond their comfort zones.
The following lesson provides many opportunities for students to to access content through reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and visually representing what they are learning. A large number of my students have had great success by manipulating the content through various learning styles, preferences, and modes such as reading, writing, and speaking.
While this lesson involves Native American regions other content such as exploration or the 13 colonies can be easily inserted into the format. The standard this lesson was based on focuses mainly on regional resources and how those resources provided food, shelter, and clothing for tribes such as the Chinook and Haida.
Since my students are nine and ten years old and are experiencing a formally sequenced American History course for the first time I generally begin a new topic by utilizing the textbook. For this particular lesson I started with general statements about the region as well as the tribes students would encounter and presented them as an anticipation guide for students to predict true or false. Laura Robb states in her book Teaching Reading in Middle Schoolthat taking the time to engage students in strategy lessons that prepare them to read a text can develop a strong base of prior knowledge that deepens students’ comprehension of books and other texts, which in turn helps them to construct new understanding (2000). Anticipation guides provide opportunities for students to become more attuned to their individual opinions about a variety of issues brought forward during reading and thus, are more apt to make personal connections to those issues as they read (Vacca and Vacca, 2004).
After students had had a chance to share with a partner their responses to the true and false statements we listened to a compact disc recording of the text while students followed along. I stopped the disc following each section of text and students discussed what the text had uncovered. I used questions to check for understanding and pointed out particular text features such as maps and pictures.
After reading the text I asked students to revisit the anticipation guide and review their answers. I encouraged students to volunteer their prior answers and identify answers that needed to be updated based on the text information. Following a short discussion I presented a concept organizing web on the board for students to copy in their notebooks. In the middle of the diagram was the title Northwest American Indians. Three legs extended from the middle circle. One leg was labeled food, another was labeled clothing, and the third leg was labeled shelter.
I asked students to revisit the text and working with their tablemates they should be able to fill in the organizer with the resources discussed in the text and how it was used. I encouraged students to draw sketches, as well, indicating the type of shelter, foods, and clothing the tribes of the Northwest used.
Once I observed students were close to being finished I called time and I asked each group to volunteer information they had found. I completed the diagram on the board per the information students gave me, and asked students to verify the information on their diagrams with the diagram on the board.
The following day I felt students had enough practice with the content to go it alone with various assignments I had structured for students to rotate through. Task rotations allow students with different learning styles to acquire the content and skills in the ways that best meet their needs and strengths as learners (Silver, Strong, and Perini, 2000). Assignments included creating flashcards for the lesson vocabulary including definitions and illustrations, writing an informative paragraph about the Northwest region, analyzing a diagram of two types of tribal canoes from the Northwest region, viewing a Powerpoint presentation I put together showing many images from the Northwest region, and creating a totem pole based on pictures and designs I have collected and maintain in a folder.
Students rotate through the various activities. Some are low maintenance on my part so that I am available for other students as they are involved in more complex tasks such as organizing the canoe diagrams or writing the informative paragraph. Low ability writers are given more support with various modifications such as a paragraph frame.
This type of two-day lesson format is common in my classroom. I attempt to hit various learning styles and preferences as well as include many activities that are based on reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and visually representing content. This type of lesson framework provides a comfortable atmosphere as students complete activities that match their learning styles and preferences while they are also safely prodded to go beyond their comfort zone.
NT learners are given an opportunity to think through the material on their own as they prefer to structure material while they craft their paragraphs (Silver, Strong, and Perini, 2000). ST learners prefer assignments that are logical and useful so they attack the flashcard activity with zeal because they realize they can use the cards to study with (Silver, Strong, and Perini, 2000). SF learners are comfortable because group activities give them social moments. The very content of the lesson gives SF learners information that directly influences the Native American’s lives rather than impersonal facts or theories per Silver, Strong, and Perini (2000). NF learners are imaginative and look for new ways to express themselves. What better way to do this than by creating your own totem pole!
This particular lesson provides all sorts of opportunities to satisfy many of the intelligences. Verbal-linguistic students have opportunities to read, write, speak, and listen to content as well as each other. Logical-mathematical students can use their deductive skills while locating and recalling information from the text. Spatial students are satisfied through the diagram activity, the power point, and the creation of the totem pole while Bodily-Kinesthetic students give their hand-eye coordination a workout to make sure the totem pole has the right proportions. The group work provides students an opportunity to experience the interpersonal style by creating the paragraph and the internalization of vocabulary during the creation of the flashcards helps students experience the interpersonal style. The Naturalist style is satisfied through the content which is heavily infused with images and descriptions of the Northwest region. By using a CD of Northwest Indian tribal music or chants I affirm and encourage the music intelligence.
This lesson is one of five that I utilize regarding Native American regions. They are all similar with the exception of the region. The last time I gave my benchmark assessment for the unit which covers all five Native American regions required by state standards 40 out of 50 students earned an 85 or higher on multiple-choice test even though the test is not the best tool for assessment for some students. I believe by including activities that hit upon all learning styles and preferences, by making sure students have opportunities to read, write, speak, listen, view, and visually represent content, and by including research-based reading strategies such as the anticipation guide I am helping all students to succeed.
*Robb, Laura. (2000). Teaching reading in middle school. NY: Scholastic Professional Books.
*Silver, H.F., Strong, R.W., & Perini, M.J. (2000). So each may learn: Integrating
learning styles and multiple intelligences. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development.
*Vacca, R.T. and Vacca, J. (2004). Content area reading. (8th ed.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
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