We all know that it can be a problem, especially with the ever expanding class sizes around us, making our classes effective for all the different skill levels of students we encounter. If we teach towards the most highly skilled students, we risk leaving the less skilled students behind; if we teach for the lowest level students, the others may become bored or frustrated. I believe this problem becomes even more acute when it comes to the question of reading. Talking in class can be a great leveler, whether it be for debates, discussions, sharing of ideas or what have you. After all, everyone knows how to speak and they’ve all had ample practice. Moreover, speaking in class is an area where the teacher can make much more overt efforts to include all students in the conversation and try to increase participation. The same is not true, alas, of reading. Reading is not, unfortunately, a skill that most students are likley to have equal facility with, for the simple reason that some students will not have practiced reading very much. It becomes much more difficult then to set a ace for the class, whether the reading is done silently or out loud.
(You all read at the same pace, right?)
The question I have decided to focus on, then, is how to deal with this situation. How can we effectively deal with a classroom in which some students are racing ahead to the ends of chapters and articles while others are still struggling with the vocabulary on the first page? What kinds of reading should we choose? Should we assign different readings to different students? How do we keep track of these readings and what kinds of questions should we pose about them? For that matter, a related question would be how exactly do we measure the reading skills and rates of students, to be sure we are delaing with skilled or struggling students, and not just unmotivated or disingenuous ones?
As you can see, there are many questions surrounding this topic. Fortunately, my preliminary research indictaes that there are many other people interested in it as well, and that they are willing to provide me with a plethora of answers(or at least suggestions anyways:).
Here are some sources I’ve found so far:
“Ability Differences in the Classroom” Mara Sapon-Shevin from Common Bonds: Anti-Bias Teaching in a Diverse Society. Author(s): Byrnes, Deborah A., Ed.; Kiger, Gary, Ed.
“Literacy Teaching Practices”
“Lesson Planning Tips for Different Level Students”
“Differentiating Reading Instruction in the Language Arts Classroom” Janice Christy
“What is Differentiated Instruction?” Carol Ann Tomlinson
More to come as I continue my research…