This fall a few teachers had the opportunity to attend a conference put on by the National Council of the Teachers of English. Meeting the Needs of the 21st Century Learner: Differentiating Literacy Instruction through Technology, presented by Downers Grove North HS Principal Janice Schwarze and Downers Grove North English & Communications Department Chair Christopher Bronke, provided us with a unique insight into the blending of differentiated instruction, tech tools, and literacy strategies. Here are some reflections from two teachers
This conference gave me some validity to how we approach Differentiation at Maine Township. After going through the DI Cohort last year, I feel like we have a deeper understanding of why and how to use technology to differentiate. I enjoyed hearing Chris's stories from his classroom but I would have liked to hear more about how other English teachers are differentiating argument writing. I wish we could all meet again and everyone share examples of differentiation in their classrooms. Personally, I differentiate with process and product the most. I let students decide what to write about the majority of the time in class. I also differentiate by using various Graphic organizers to help them formulate their essays.
My students get to choose what problem they want to write about: (using evidence and reasoning)
My Problem letter
My students get to choose a topic to argue about and then write a blog post (partners or single):
Blog links (Responses)
When writing our "Homework essay" I give some student these essay stems:
No More Homework 2 tier 2
Homework 1 tier 2
Homework Tier 1
I thought the conference was well-organized and thoughtfully delivered. One of the things I'm doing immediately is finding ways to differentiate. For example, I usually have my students write an essay about one of the characters in "A Raisin in the Sun" and his/her chances of achieving the same dream today. I always give them a choice of character and resources; this time I'm allowing them to work with a partner (if they choose) and to deliver their argument in any format they see fit (except for a powerpoint or Prezi). I'm hoping to see some creativity and to be able to generate more discussion than I would by just collecting essays. Also, I will emphasize that they will be delivering their message to an authentic audience.
As for technology, I'm going to attempt to use Community Clips to give verbal feedback on Senior Composition papers. I will also have online discussions using Let's Recap second semester when my sophomores read and discuss "Kite Runner."