Anchors are meaningful, self-directed activities that students move to when they complete an assigned task. In a differentiated classroom it is inevitable that students will complete their work at different paces. Once students know that they move to an anchor activity whenever they have free time, it becomes an important management strategy as well as an extension of learning.
Anchors may include activities such as:
When we talk about using drama as an effective strategy to enhance learning, we are not talking about putting on a play for an audience. Rather, we are talking about improvisational role play or simulations that are unscripted and allow the learner to come to new understandings.
Drama is a way for students to access the curriculum using several of Gardner’s multiple intelligences. It has also proven to be an effective teaching strategy through recent brain research and theories of learning.
Jeffrey D. Wilhelm writes, “Through drama, students became a part of the learning process rather than mere observers or inactive receptacles of the rich experience of learning; in this way, their learning was deeper, more sustained, and infinitely more complex.”
Reference: Wilhelm, Jeffrey D. “Drama is Imagining to Learn: Inquiry, Ethics, and Integration through Drama”
Exit cards are an effective way to assess a student’s understanding and to inform teaching. Exit cards are designed to collect feedback about a lesson from students at the end of an activity or class. They are helpful in prompting students to synthesize the information learned in class. An example of an exit card, or as some call them exit “Tickets” or “Slips,” is to ask a student to summarize the key points of the lesson.
Flexible grouping is a teaching strategy where students are informally grouped and regrouped in a variety of ways throughout the school day. Groups may come together according to specific goals, activities, and individual needs.
Flexible groups include:
whole class instruction
small group activities
Group members write and sketch, graffiti style, their thoughts about the book they are reading. The graffiti may take the form of quotes, responses, comments, connections and sketches. The students are recording their initial responses during or immediately after reading. Later, during literature circles, the graffiti board provides a starting point for further discussion.
(Adapted from Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers, Kathy G. Short and Jerome Harste, Heinemann, 1996)
Graphic organizers are frameworks that allow us to visualize information, thoughts or ideas. They can be useful scaffolds to help students organize, extend and clarify their thinking. Graphic organizers come in many different forms and can be used for a variety of purposes. Brainstorming webs, plot diagrams and story boards, flow charts, Venn diagrams and concept maps are all examples of graphic organizers that students can use individually and in groups to support learning.
Students take on the role of a character and answer questions about their background, behaviour and motivation. This is a great way to flesh out characters and build understanding. Characters may be hot-seated individually, in pairs or in groups.
This Cooperative Learning strategy was first invented by Eliot Aronson in 1971. It is an effective way to help all students understand a new concept or learn new information.
The key component is that each student is an essential part of the process. Jigsaw encourages active engagement, student interaction and communication skills. It works well when working on topics or concepts where there is a large amount of material to cover.
This active strategy takes planning and practice, but students gain confidence and social skills as well as knowledge in a safe and cooperative atmosphere.
"Home" groups of 3 or more students are formed (students A, B and C).
In each group, students read about a different but related aspect of the topic. e.g. for a topic about farming, all "A"s may read about dairy products, "B"s about grains, "C"s about fruits and veggies, etc..
All of the "A"s gather together (and all the "B"s, etc.) and discuss what they have learned, deepen their understanding and brainstorm ways to present the material to their home group. They become the experts.
A timeline, summary chart/graphic organizer or guiding questions can be used to establish focus.
The students record the key points of their learning to share with their home group e.g. create a chart, make a visual, write a summary, highlight key points, etc..
Students return to their "home" groups and teach the other members of the group what they have learned.
The home group puts all of the new information together to complete the assignment. This is an essential part of this technique.
In a whole group, students can reflect on what they learned and how each member of the group added to this learning.
Opportunities for differentiation with Jigsaw technique :
Pair students with mixed abilities in home and expert groups.
Have resource materials at different levels of readability, and in different formats, e.g. internet site, material presented in visual or auditory modes, etc.
A student who has difficulty writing could represent what he learns visually, tape record key points, or have someone act as a scribe.
Writing in journals can be a great way for students to generate ideas for writing, respond to essential questions, explore concepts from reading or class discussions, and think critically. At times, teachers may want to guide student thinking by providing prompts to the journal writing.
Reading prompts can be developed to promote a range of responses. For example:
To help students identify a problem or issue
To challenge assumptions
To use what they have learned
To consider different points of view
Writing prompts can inspire Quickwrites. Poems, short stories, photographs can all be used as prompts for Quickwrites.
Reference: Tomasek, T. (2009) Critical reading: Using reading prompts to promote active engagement with text, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 21 (1), 127-132
A learning or interest centre is a space set aside in the classroom that allows easy access to a variety of learning materials in an interesting and productive manner. Using a variety of materials, designs, and media, students work alone or in small groups to deepen their understanding of the information learned in the classroom. Centres are designed to enhance the learning of concepts, skills, themes, or topics. This learning can take place after a topic is presented to students, during the course of presenting important concepts, or as an initial introduction to material in the text.
A learning log is an on-going way for students to monitor and reflect on their learning. These reflections, focused on a lesson or learning experience that has just occurred, help support understanding and provide a record of ideas and insights. Teachers may use the logs as an assessment tool in order to make decisions about future instruction. In a student conference the log can become the basis for a discussion about new understandings and future goals.
Learning log formats include binders, notebooks, folders, etc.
What did you learn?
What strategies did you practice, if any?
What questions do you have about what you learned?
Mind mapping is a creative, non-linear form of brainstorming and is an excellent tool to help elementary students with reading, thinking and learning. Mind Maps are usually created around a single word or idea, placed in the centre of the map. Key concepts are linked to this central word using visuals, colour, words and lines. Main branches flow backwards and forwards from the central word. Attached to these branches are other branches which represent less important concepts.
Mind mapping can be used to: