O2- Offer an appropriate challenge in the content area.
To me, an essential element of offering an appropriate challenge in the content area is differentiating instruction to scaffold growth for all of my students. In order to accomplish this goal I need to assess each child’s ability and developmental level so that I can provide a safe and attainable entry point to the learning for every student.
Recently, I taught a poetry lesson for writing workshop that challenged students to identify feeling words in poetry, and then use these words in their own poems. The evidence I am presenting is the lesson plan for this workshop.
During the lesson I utilized various high-impact instruction strategies to engage all students in the writing activity. Knight (2013), in High-Impact Instruction, outlines five high-impact instructional strategies for facilitating student engagement: thinking prompts; effective questions; stories; cooperative learning; and authentic learning.
I practiced all of the aforementioned engagement strategies in the mini-lesson I taught as a means to supporting student trust in challenging themselves in their writing. The result was all students challenged themselves to use a new feeling word of their choice in their poetry piece. I have developed competence in challenging students to take academic risks throughout my internship teaching experience. My coordinator observed this lesson and wrote notes on strategies I utilized in order to support each student in stretching their comfort level. She remarked on how I communicated high expectations for their writing and trust that they could meet these expectations, patiently sequenced steps while informally assessing, provided activities with clear expectations, and gave new examples to meet student voice. Additionally, I provided students with a structured choice for the feeling word they wanted to use in their poetry that facilitated accountability and authenticity.
I have learned the value of creating and implementing a lesson that meets each child where they are academically and developmentally through this experience of enabling all of my students to be successful and grow as authors. All of the effective instruction techniques that I have practiced and grown more confident in as a student teacher have one crucial component in common. This is the ability to facilitate student engagement to the degree that they are constructing the learning experience within the framework of the learning goal. By truly listening and responding to student’s authentic connection to feeling words, or whatever the content may be, I can empower children to take academic risks.
Moving forward, I will continue to take the extra time to create lessons that challenge students to take risks in their learning. This is a complex task that requires reflection on each student’s learning profile, collaboration with professional learning communities, research, planning, and love of the content area. However, seeing all of your students feel successful and empowered with academic risk is well worth the dedication to best practice.
Knight, J. (2013). High impact instruction: a framework for great teaching. Corwin Publications. Thousand Oaks, CA.