Accomodating for students' individual differences (chapter 3 activities)

School Tales: Online Research and Repository Initiative (STORRI) stories of “wobble” that teachers tell about the complexity of contemporary classrooms




Because you’ll be using the same or similar activities with different grade or ability levels, you will need to be able to create alternative versions of your tasks to match differences in students’ grade or ability levels.  For younger grades or lower ability levels, you may need to provide more specific directions or scaffolding or you may need to substitute less difficult tasks.  Even within the same class, you may need to provide some students with more structured directions than other students.


You will also be continually revising your tasks even during your instruction to accommodate for differences in students’ abilities, engagement, interests, attitudes, and performance.  For example, you may find that students are simply not able to keep up with the reading, so you will then need to alter your plans.   You therefore need to plan ahead for potential challenges, particularly related to reading ability.   In reflecting on his teaching of Catcher in the Rye in student teaching, Chris Johnson noted the ways in which he accommodated to his students’ background reading experience.


I asked, who’s read a novel?  Not many hands went up and they, I guess most of them had read one.  Some had read one of those adolescent novels, but I don’t think any of them, well some of them, I’m sure had read, in fact I know one in particular that is a reader of paperbacks, and she read quite a few but a loot of them hadn’t really read any “adult” novels before.  So, I took it real slow.  We did maybe two or three chapters a day, no more than 10 or 20 pages per day, and I uh, had study questions for each chapter that I made sure they had to and they could really skim through that. I didn’t make the questions too challenging because I didn’t want them to get hung up on questions, have that interrupt the reading.  What I did to settle the questions and I tried to direct them towards um, specific things in the novel that I just wanted to make sure they noted. Why they were in there?  What did they represent?  So when we went into discussion they already had the details down.


After we had finished reading the book, I wanted them to focus on Holden and his struggle with growing up, saving sexuality, and the death of his brother, basically all the issues he had gone through.  So I did a group activity where I gave them a list of 5 essay questions and they picked one of them to put on the test.  I broke them up into groups of about 4 or 5 kids in each group, and each group had to take an essay question, and had to discuss it and they each had a role.  One person was the recorder, one person was the facilitator and so each group had to discuss the essay questions and come up with a way that they would answer the question on a test to present their findings to the class.


I was a little nervous about it, because they were in-depth questions.  I mean, they were college-level questions.  And I thought, oh boy they’re really going to bang their heads against these ones, but I was really pleasantly surprised that they all, all the groups came up with real solid answers and I was going around as they were working on them and helping out here and there, but I really didn’t have to do as much as I thought I would do, I just had to nudge them along, so that really showed me that they had been listening and paying attention and it wasn’t just two or three kids that did a lot of participation in the discussions who understood what was going on but they really most of them you know had been listening to what we’re talking about.  I was real happy with that.

Take the directions formulated for #2 and formulate them for a 9th grade class.  Then, revise your directions for a 12th grade class.  Reflect on differences in your directions and reasons for these differences.




In devising tasks, you need to recognize differences in the “intelligences” (Gardner, 1993; 2000) students bring to your classroom.  When English classes may focus primarily on logical/linguistic intelligences, it is important to consider all seven optional “intelligences” in planning tasks:


Logical-Mathematical Intelligence—consists of the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. This intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking.


Linguistic Intelligence—involves having a mastery of language. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively manipulate language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically. It also allows one to use language as a means to remember information.


Visual/Spatial Intelligence—gives one the ability to manipulate and create mental images in order to solve problems. This intelligence is not limited to visual domains--Gardner notes that spatial intelligence is also formed in blind children.


Musical Intelligence—encompasses the capability to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms. (Auditory functions are required for a person to develop this intelligence in relation to pitch and tone, but it is not needed for the knowledge of rhythm.)


Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence—is the ability to use one's mental abilities to coordinate one's own bodily movements. This intelligence challenges the popular belief that mental and physical activities are unrelated.


The Personal Intelligences—includes interpersonal feelings and intentions of others--and intrapersonal intelligence--the ability to understand one's own feelings and motivations. These two intelligences are separate from each other. Nevertheless, because of their close association in most cultures, they are often linked together.


These seven intelligences are not separate phenomena, but continually interact with each other.  However, certain students develop particular skills associated with certain of these intelligences.  For example, they have developed talents as artists, musicians, athletes, or socially-adept persons.  In a unit on The Grapes of Wrath, Michelle used some drama activities designed to help them visualize images about the novel, empathy with others’ perspectives, and apply a variety of lenses/perspectives.  Her directions for each activity highlighted what she wanted them to learn from separate groups doing different drama activities:


Analogy Strategy:  In this activity, your group should enact a personal experience that parallels in some way a scene from the reading.  Make sure that you think about the tone, the urgency of the situation, and the emotions conveyed in creating a parallel situation.  You will mime your parallel situation.  Then, as a class, we will discuss how your enactment connects with the text.


Slide Show:  Your group will create a series of “slides” to tell about the major scenes from the chapter.  You may add a caption to each of your slides.  Be prepared to answer some questions about each of your slides concerning how you decided to depict the particular scene.


Hotseating and Inner Hotseating:  In your group, a student will play the role of a character and answer questions as if at a press conference.  Another student, standing behind the character, will respond as the “inner self” of the character telling what that character might be really thinking, feeling, and wanting to say.


News Flash:  Your group will conduct a brief news flash about what happened in this scene/chapter.  You may choose to interview someone from the scene or just give an overview of what happened.


Guided imagery:  This activity is similar to the game of Pictionary.  In your group, someone will play the role of the teacher and read a scene.  The remaining group members should draw what they picture up on the board when they hear the scene read.  You may do this spontaneously.  Drawers, be prepared to explain your drawings.


Dramatic Play:  Your group will “enter into character” and act out a scene from your chapter.  However, you should incorporate acting out imagined conversations and interactions between/among characters depending on your interpretation of those characters’ thoughts and feelings. 


Missing Scenes:  Your group will create a missing scene or missing scenes that you feel were implied by the story or could have happened.  You will act these out for the class and be prepared to have supporting evidence from the text that shows these scenes might have logically occurred.


Revolving Role-Play:  In this activity, each group member will choose a character to play from the scene.  After acting out that particular scene, everyone will “switch” into a new role and reenact that scene from a new perspective.  This activity is similar to the dramatic play activity because you may be creative in acting out imagined conversations and interactions between/among characters.


To help student connect their participation in each activity to the larger purpose, she asked each group to choose one character or key event to portray through their specific drama activity. Each group then prepared a 3-5 minute presentation to include their dramatic activity as well as a brief explanation of why they chose to focus on that given character or scene/event, and subsequently, what their dramatic activity highlights. The students also had to write in their journals about their experience in their dramatic activity and how it offered new perspectives or made the text more relevant to their personal lives.     


Devise some tasks that draw on intelligences other than just the logical/linguistic intelligences.  Consider how you would integrate some of these other intelligences with uses of logical/linguistic intelligences, how, for example, mime or pantomime drama tools can be used to foster writing tasks.