Differentiating instruction with Laura Robb

Last week, Laura Robb, Scholastic educational consultant and author of Unlocking Complex Texts, and XBOOKS™, was featured on Reading Today Online. In the article Laura discusses differentiating instruction. Below is an excerpt of her post: 

Accommodations...I’m in favor if they support developing the skill of all readers in a class. However, as I visit middle schools and talk to teachers around the country, I notice that in the era of the Common Core, dozens of districts have returned to one book for all. Since one book or one anthology won’t meet students’ range of instructional needs, teachers accommodate instruction to meet district requirements. They often read the text aloud to a group or the entire class.

The result is that developing readers who need to read to improve their skill aren’t reading during instructional time, while advanced readers aren’t challenged to read complex texts at their instructional levels. Moreover, many students don’t absorb information from teachers reading aloud because they aren’t listening. However, there is a teaching strategy that can meet the instructional reading needs of middle school students even if teachers have forty-two or forty-five minute classes: differentiating instruction.

Differentiation asks teachers to meet students’ instructional needs by providing texts at a variety of reading levels. Equally important, differentiation allows students to choose instructional and independent reading texts, and choice motivates and engages them. To facilitate differentiation, organize instructional reading units around a genre to meet your students’ reading needs. By looking at what happened in a seventh grade inclusion class, you can better understand how the teacher and I restructured instruction.

In September, students in that class had instructional reading levels from 3.0 to 11.0. Required to deliver selections from the grade-level anthology, the teacher read the selections out loud to the majority of students. After debriefing with the teacher, we developed these accommodations.

  • the anthology became the anchor text, and the teacher and I used it to think aloud and model reading strategies in brief mini-lessons;
  • we raided the school, public, and classroom libraries to find enough books within the anchor text’s genreto offer all students choices;
  • we provided several books within each instructional level and students chose one;
  • instructional books and materials remained at school and students read, discussed, and wrote about these texts for 25 to 30 minutes three to four times a week; and
  • students completed independent reading once or twice a week, after finishing instructional reading tasks and at home.

Click here to read the full article.

Will you be attending IRA’s 59th Annual Conference, May 9-12, 2014, in New Orleans, Louisiana? Join Laura Robb as she co-presents with Ruth Culham on “Deep Reading & Deep Writing: Developing Literacy Skills Using Mentor Texts.”