Focus On: Changing a Unit — Part 1

I have decided to challenge myself and change a unit that I have taught, aside from minor improvements and variations, the same way for about (gulp) 10 years.

How have I taught this unit in the past?
In the past, knowing that a) students have to write an essay in the EQAO Literacy Test and that b) students tend to know very little about essays and how they are formed, I have simply modelled writing one, with their input, on the Smart Board from the beginning of the essay process to the end. And prior to this writing process, I have given them mini slideshow lectures on brainstorming, organizing their ideas, a thesis how-to, the hamburger structure, and transition words. In other words, it’s a lot of information, and an essay has a lot of ‘moving parts’, so to speak, and I have such little time, in the past, I have simply steamrolled through the process to one degree or another. 😦

Have I tried to differentiate before now?
Yes. I was able to include some multiple intelligences aspects to the unit: when it came to the hamburger, I have given students the opportunity to consolidate that concept in a creative way of their choosing — write a rap, draw the structure, make it out of Lego, etc. Or, I have had students use paper, crayons and paint to make a visual representation of the hamburger. In addition, I have given some choice of the topic students eventually write, and I have included their ideas when I model the writing process.

Has this been enough differentiation? (Or could I be doing more or be doing something better or more effectively?)
I think yes. I have been reflecting on this over the past week or so, and have decided to challenge myself: the parts of the process that I usually ‘steamroll’ through are the areas that I want to respond to the assessment data I have gathered. That is to say, I know certain characteristics of my students and I want to teach to those strengths and preferences a little more than I have been.

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