Saturday, August 10, 2013

Differentiate Classroom Lessons

I am sure all counselors reading this have been required to sit through professional development in their schools that did not lead to improving the counseling program. AMEN! I do think professional development on how to differentiate classroom lessons is worthwhile.  Our district is training staffs using the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP®) Training for Teachers developed by Dr. Jana Echevarría, Dr. MaryEllen Vogt, and Dr. Deborah Short.  SIOP® is the only scientifically validated model of sheltered instruction and a proven framework for teaching both academic content and language skills in ways that are more effective for English learners. As a framework for organizing instruction, the SIOP® Model includes many features that are characteristic of high-quality instruction for all students, such as cooperative learning, reading comprehension strategy instruction, and differentiated instruction.  The valuable part of the training for counselors was how to develop lesson plans that include simple (child friendly) language and content objectives, and better ways to introduce and emphasize key vocabulary in a lesson.  The training also offers practical  suggestions on how to apply scaffolding techniques consistently and support student understanding (e.g., think-alouds).  Of course much of the training would feel irrelevant to counselors but learning how to better engage students and maximize retention of expected outcomes makes the time valuable.  In addition, many districts are moving to evaluate counselors lesson plans as part of the teacher evaluation process.  To be a highly successful rated employee counselors must plan and deliver high quality classroom instruction. And the bonus is if you decide to go for RAMP it will make your lessons that much better.

We have many very bright students at my school that can race through most of the activities and assessments in my lessons.  These are the kids that finish in one minute get out a book and read, put their head down, or stare at the students with "average" work speed like they are so slow.  Now when I assign the culminating activity for my lesson I automatically give instructions for early finishers.  This can be as simple as posing a question for them to answer on the back of the paper everyone is doing, asking them to go back and review their answer and check for ___.  It could be another task that gets at higher level skills. 

I am interested in how other counselors differentiate when teaching classroom lessons.  Please share your suggestions in the Comments section.

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