Spring 2016: Differentiation in Research Topics
For the AP research project, students choose from a list of topics that deal with environmental issues. Most students can find something from the list that they can become invested in; for example, one student connected her topic to the endangered bee population, an issue she has been working with in her volunteer work. Another student who intends to major in biology investigated stem cell therapies. One student, however, had a very difficult time finding a topic she could connect with, so I helped her explore options. She was really interested in hair, and I helped her find a way to take an academic approach to the things that interest her in her everyday life; she ended up doing a very good study on the political and sociological implications of relaxed vs. natural hair. She learned a valuable lesson about how academic discourse works, and she discovered that academic life is about finding our passions and exploring them from a different perspective. From now on, I am going to be more open to students' preferences for topics and use that as a gateway for helping them learn what academic discourse is all about.
Spring 2016: Check-In Emails for Special Needs Students
Email check-ins for special needs students are incredibly important, but it is not always easy to craft great emails week after week. Sometimes I provide extra resources or give particular feedback for students, but some weeks I simply need to touch base and remind the students that I am there for them. I find that a catchy image or something that elicits a laugh from the student can go a long way toward creating a sense of connection with the students, and it makes them more likely to read the email. I have included below a simple example of one such email; these are easy to set up in advance, so I can do several weeks' worth at one time and then schedule them to be sent at the right time.
Spring 2016: Special Education Accommodations Reduced Assignments
Sometimes one of the accommodations for special needs students involves reduction of assignments. For one student in my AP English Language class, I consulted with my colleague Lindy Crace, who had also taught this students, and together we picked out assignments to omit. To determine which assignments to require, we chose assignments that closely connect to the AP exam or are direct practice in the anchor standards. Assignments that were redundant in terms of meeting standards or that were unconnected to the skills needed for the AP exam were chosen for reduction. The reduction of assignments met the needs of the particular student based on her accommodations and the knowledge of her from her teacher in the previous semester. The workload was reduced, but all the important skills and knowledge were sufficiently covered.
Fall 2015/Spring 2016: Extra Learning Opportunities
Throughout both semesters I offered a plethora of extra learning opportunities that offered both remediation and enrichment. I especially focused on the skills needed for the AP exam. I offered chances for students to extend their learning about parallelism and to hone their skills in multiple choice questions. I created some extra timed essays like the ones on the AP exam that students could use to replace timed essays they scored poorly on. The more practice students have, the better they will do on the AP exam, so I offered many opportunities for them to learn from feedback and then demonstrate increased competence.
Fall 2015: Video for Differentiation
I am always looking for different ways of presenting information; the more different ways students see the same information, the more likely they are to remember, understand, and apply the knowledge. The course modules have information on logical fallacies, but I like to find fun videos that get the ideas across and bring the learning to life. The announcement below has a link to a website with lots of information and a very funny and informative video.
Fall 2015: Multiple Methods for Learning MLA Style
Students often have difficulty following bibliographic formats and style sheets. I have found that the more ways I present it, the better. I provided students with links to videos on setting up their papers correctly and citing properly, and I also provided visuals and printed text so that everyone could find a way into understanding.
MLA Style Essay Format - Word Tutorial