One of the biggest challenges in classrooms such as mine where there are a wide range of learning abilities is to meet the needs of all learners, regardless of their ability. In my classroom, I have four particular students who perform at a lower level than the rest of the class. Often times these students are unable to fully engage with my instructional content and are left sitting quietly with their thoughts. As I grow in my teaching abilities, I need to develop ways to engage students such as these regardless of their levels. To achieve this, I need to collaborate with more experienced colleagues, and have a student-centered mindset.
I recognize the importance of spending time learning from and collaborating with colleagues more experienced than myself. Colleagues with different skill sets or more years of teaching experience have much to offer. It is important to remember that I have a variety of personnel in my school whose roles are to provide different types of support to students. To name a few, there are speech and language therapists, ELL teachers and paraeducators, occupational therapists, instructional coaches, social workers, master teachers, and psychologists, all of whom can offer different levels of support to my classroom and my teaching (Wasserman, 2012).
Two of my four students mentioned above are ELL and can benefit from additional ELL instruction. Also, my teaching may be able to benefit from advice I receive from ELL teachers. ELL teachers have been trained in specific instructional methods for ELL students and collaborating with the ELL teacher at my school may yield some improvements to the everyday academic experience for my two ELL learners.
It is also important I maintain a student-centered mindset. This means that for every lesson I plan, I need to consider what I know about my learners both on the higher and lower ends of the academic spectrum and provide adequate support. Word banks with pictures are something I have discussed with my mentor teacher as a good potential support for my ELL students. With adequate planning I could provide images along with the words I’m teaching. Providing images along with words to ELL students enhances their learning and retention (Pinter, 2009).
A student-centered approach for my other two students who are lower-level readers might be to find audio recordings of books we are reading together as a class in ELA. Therefore, it would be necessary to choose a book that had an audio option as I was doing my planning.
Consistently meeting the needs of all learners in my classroom will be a formidable task. However, if I learn to collaborate effectively with colleagues and keep the specific needs of all learners at the center of my planning and instruction I will improve the odds of my success in my first year of teaching.
Pinter, A. (2009). Teaching young language learners. Oxford [England] ; New York: Oxford University Press.
Wasserman, L. (2012). Strategies for meeting all students’ needs. Education Week Teacher.