Archive | Differentiation RSS feed for this section

Now using centers

24 Apr

With the start of a new trimester I began using centers in my classroom.

The main reason I am using centers is because I have many more students in my classroom with Individualized Educational Plans.  This is because 2 years of World Languages are required now to graduate in Michigan, beginning with this year’s Freshmen.

Our high school World Language classes have typically included mostly college bound students who are in the top 20% of their class.  We are all happily learning to differentiate and accommodate learners of all skill levels.  I have found with centers that I can accomplish this in many ways.

1.  I can be available to all students by monitoring the classroom and checking in on their work.

2. One of the centers is occasionally just for students struggling with the current concept.  These are not just students with IEPs, I include other students as well who can use some extra guided practice.  We sit at a table together and go through the material together in a variety of ways.

3. It is a great way to differentiate student work.  All groups have the same objectives, but can complete them in different ways.

Prepping for centers is a lot of work for the first time through, but I have found it to be very much worth it.

I have gotten great ideas for center work form the Creative Language blog.  These gals have great ideas!

Let me know if you have some great ideas for centers in a World Language class.

Gracias, Penny



Seamless Teaching : Navigating the Inclusion Spectrum

23 Jan

Seamless Teaching : Navigating the Inclusion Spectrum | Teaching Tolerance.

One of the many items to consider when planning lessons is how to accommodate students with IEPs.  This is a good article with many thoughts to consider.

In schools across the country, students in special education and general education are increasingly learning together in inclusive classrooms. This is a significant civil-rights achievement, but it also means students in special education are being taught by general education teachers who may not have the training and skills to best serve them.

Click on the link to find out more under these headings:

What General Education Teachers Should Know

Teaching to All Learners

The Inclusion Spectrum

Audacity: Playback audio at a slower speed

21 Jan


Recently someone anonymously sent me an assistive technology calendar (if you are reading this, thank you very much).

Friday’s helpful hint was changing the playback speed on audio files.

It could be very helpful for students to hear audio played back slower at times.

This tip goes along with Audacity, which is a free download.  Here are the steps to slowing down the playback speed:

  • File/Open the .mp3 or other audio file.
  • From the effects menu, select “Change tempo”
  • To reduce the tempo by 20%, type “-20.0” in the “Percent Change” box & click OK
  • The length of the playback will be increased by 20%
  • File/Export the audio file

The only credit listed in the calendar is to Jim E in Ohio…..  I wish I could credit him better….

Enjoy!  Penny

Biography projects

8 Jan

I hope everyone is having an enjoyable start to their new year!

I just did a Google search for types of projects you could do with biographies.  I am having my students research a famous Hispanic and I get so bored reading types papers I am sure it is boring to them too).

I found some great stuff at Pro Teacher.  I wanted to share my favorites with you.  If you have ideas, please share them too. Here they are:

1:  A teacher in our school did this project with our Gifted/Talented kids and it worked great. Each student had to bring in pictures from various eras of their life. First, they created a Life Map (timeline) of their life. Then, they used the pictures and information from the Life Maps to create a brochure about their life. On the front, they put their most recent picture. The title was, “The Life and Times of …” Inside, they started with infancy and carried it through until today. They listed accomplishments, interests, and etc. It was a fresh take on Auto Bios. I suppose this could work for Biographies, too. The students could create their own Life Maps and bring in pictures. You could assign each student a partner to interview and create a brochure or Bio. about that person’s life.

2:  Last year I had my students, who were very bright, read biographies and bring in a garbage bag full of items that represented/symbolized the person they read about. I was so impressed and amazed with the thought that went into this project, many of the students completed two just because they wanted to!!! For example, some of the things they brought in were: a candle because Florence Nightingale was a vigilant person, a soccer ball for Majorie Stoneman Douglas because she achieved her goals, an Energizer battery, because she kept going, and going, and going. They had to briefly give an oral summary about their person, then share the garbage bag.

3:  I have done a cereal box book report with my students. The students read a biography and designed their cereal box to include a Wheaties like picture of the person. On the back, students wrote about the person. For the nutrition facts, they included the “ingredients” of the person which was their character traits. On other parts of the box, the students used their creativity to add fun facts about the person.

I recommend using an actual cereal box and covering it with construction paper. Then students should type or write on light colored paper and glue it on the construction paper background.

4.  For the wax museum, I first had my kids research a famous, yet imaginative person in history (this went along with our Open Court Unit and the unit project of Biography) The kids chose people like Claude Monet, Henry Ford, Duke Ellington and the like. They researched them, wrote their biographies, etc. Then, to present their findings, the kids wrote a one paragraph “summary” of the person’s life in the 1st person point of view. On the day of the museum (today!), the kids dressed up as that person, stood still as a statue, and had a poster of their name and a “button” (just a red circle) people could push. The kids from other classes came by, pushed the button, and my students “came to life” and recited the speech, as if they were a wax statue at a museum. When they were done, they just stopped in the same position the began in, just as an animatronic statue would.

5:  For our unit on biographies my students do bio-folder projects. They have a file folder which they designed like a book about their individual. They create a timeline about their lives, a poem sharing what made that person incredible, along with a portrait. Then they create a pipecleaner model of their individual. Last year I added a bio-cube to the project using the bio-cube maker from ReadWriteThink. My kids really seem to enjoy it as they get to express their information in a variety of ways rather than just a written report.

6:   Bio Cubes–I had my assistant make cube patterns out of poster board (these make a 3-d cube or box). The students had instructions of what to write on each side of the cube:
1. name, birthdate, deathdate
2. what the person was famous for
3. they glued a picture of their person
4. something they found interesting that they didn’t know
5. important facts
6. I think on this side, we listed our resources.

It gave the kids something concrete to hold and handle. They love it. At the end of the unit, they shared their cubes and we hung them from clothes hangins to display.

I also found this during the search:

5 Pocket People:  Directions for making the 5 Pocket People

Use poster board for the body

The person’s body must be decorated with at least 5 different kinds of material, such as:  felt, fabric, buttons, burlap, leather, plastic, yarn for hair, ribbons, straw, old pieces of jewelry, beads etc…. NO FOOD ITEMS.

The face must be drawn on with crayon, colored pencils, markers, paint, made from felt, or colored construction paper.

Your figure must have 5 pockets on the costume.  They may be on the hat, legs, arms or body.  You may cut slits into the cardboard to use as pockets.

In each Pocket there must be different kinds of information:

  1. The name of the person, date and place of birth.  Also include the reason for choosing this person.
  2. Tell about the person’s family and childhood.  For example, give information about the person’s parents, brother/sisters, his/her education etc…
  3. Why is he/she important or famous?  What did they do that made the world take notice?
  4. Tell about special interests or hobbies of your person.  If none are mentioned you may write about a fact that was of interest to you.
  5. What difficulty or challenges did your person face in life?   If none are mentioned, when did your person die?  If the person is alive, how old is he/she?

I am leaning towards the bio-folder idea, what do you think?

¡Gracias!  Penny

Centers: How to keep track of who’s where when & evaluating center work

12 Jul

Again, great information from Nooks, Crannies and Corners.  The authors explain how to keep track of student movement and how to handle evaluating their work.  I may throw in a few of my own ideas inspired by reading the book.

Keeping track of Student Movement:

1. Give each student a checklist.  The checklist will not only point the student to the center they visit next, but will allow the teacher to see if a center was skipped.  I envision the checklist not only including the name of the center, but a sub-checklist for each center of which activities need to be completed.  If differentiation is required, alter the assignment on the checklist as a reminder to the student and yourself.

2. Use a typed chart.  This could be just sitting at the center.  Students would refer to it to see what the next center was.  This works if the students stay together as a group.

3. Give a creative invitation.  Make the activity sound like a quest maybe.

4. Make your checklist a graphic.  Imagine a picture of a house:
On the roof is typed “Week of March 17-21” along with a space for the student’s name.
The second story windows are labeled: “Art: Peruvian artists”, “Video: Sports in Peru
Answer questions 1-5″, “Sports: Create a graph based on the survey you have given”.
The door says “Write 5 sentences about the last sporting event you attended or participated in”.
The first floor window says “Complete activity 12 on page 231”.
Each window and door represents a center they must complete that week or day.  You could even have the students color each part as they finish.  My high school students would love that…

Considerations for assigning centers:

1. The student must know exactly what course to follow and the teacher must be able to tell at a glance exactly what tasks have been completed.

2.  Exemplary systems offer choice and alternative assignments.

3. Have an “Open center” that students can visit at any time. Provides freedom and a safety valve.

Evaluating & Grading:

** Discuss grading system with students

** Talk about “failure”.  Why and how it happens and how to avoid it.

**Give a grade every day.

I will definitely be sharing what specific centers I use in my classroom for two reasons (or more): to get feedback from all of you, and to have a reference for later.  I have found blogging to be rewarding in both instances.

The following are types of centers that Nooks, Crannies and Corners suggest as evaluative measures:

suggestion box
record of observation

Open ended questions

I am leaning toward a daily journal.  I think it is important for students to be able to refer back to their work and reflect on it in writing.  It is always very cool to see the difference between the first few pages of the term and the end of the term.

I hope you got some ideas.  Remember to share your ideas and thoughts.

Gracias, Penny

Student developed activities

11 Jul

I continue to look forward to implementing the Flipped Classroom and incorporating centers in the classroom.  The following is advice from Nooks, Crannies and Corners about how to allow students to develop activities and how to shift responsibility to learners.  I am looking forward to developing center activities, I have lots of ideas.  If you use centers, I would love to hear what works for you.  Please also share any activities that you do that would be great in centers.

Steps to Students Developing Activities:

1. Teach students to plan:

a) Make a short list of the kinds of decisions your students are capable of making right now (attendance, # of students per center, arranging materials).
b) Make a list of responsibilities that can be absorbed more gradually and how they can be accomplished.


-Dependable student “checker at each center.
-Students individually record progress

Appoint a committee
-Each student gives an item (suggestion, question, picture, etc.)
-Committee organizes information, materials and evaluative measures.

1. Keep record of daily progress

2. Setting up one center

3. Choosing student guide or resource for center

-Teachers determines duties of guide & criteria to choose guide
-Students decide how to select guide






I am not positive about what a student guide does…  Any ideas?

Considerations for shifting responsibility to learners:

A) Decide what decisions students can make now.

B) Assign responsibilities gradually

C) What do you want students to do in an ideal situation.

That is what I have to share about student responsibilities from the book.
I picture that
there will be a need for peer tutoring.  I am looking into the Flipped Mastery concept from Flip Your Classroom.  I am not to that chapter yet but am assuming that peer tutoring could be involved.
The record keeping process in a center based classroom intrigues me.  It will be the focus of my next blog.

As usual, let me know what you think, share any ideas you have.

Gracias, Penny

Centers: Determine Learner Needs

10 Jul

Continuing with my research on using centers in my classroom, Nooks, Crannies and Corners suggested to determine the needs of the learners.

They gave a few suggestions on how to do this:

**Battery tests – short tests, one in each major area.  Test in several ways: matching, writing, listening, etc.
**Student created tests
**Student’s personal preference/interests (questionnaire)

I did some research and found a couple of web sites to refer to when creating Learner Needs Assessments:

Learning Needs Analysis

Identifying Learner Needs

At our school, it is preferred that we give a pre-test and post-test.  We do this to show growth, but I can see the value in assessing student’s needs as well.

What are your thoughts?

Gracias, Penny

Centers – What to Consider

9 Jul

This is Part 3 of my string of Centers posts.  I am thinking it should have been #1, but that is the great thing about blogging, order doesn’t matter if you tag well…  Again, it is all a part of my plans to Flip my Classroom this school year.  I just received the Flip Your Classroom book in the mail.  I can’t wait to read it.

This great information is from Nooks, Crannies and Corners.  A book that I just read.

When considering and creating centers, think about these items:

1. What do I want the student to be able to do in order to show that he understands the idea or concept taught?

2. What tools and materials will I need to provide in order for him to do this?

3. What directions, guidelines and explanations are necessary for him to be able to accomplish this task.  How can I simply and efficiently help him go about it.

4. How will I know if and how well he has accomplished the task?  How will he know when he has been successful?

Remember, in centers, the student should be able to complete the task with little assistance from the teacher.  The teacher will be busy catching up with students who are struggling or have been absent.

Two types of Centers:

Uni-disciplinary center: Teaches one or more specific concepts related to one content area.  Examples: Word Box – write one descriptive word for each object in the box.  Substitution – For each sentence below with the word “Say”,  substitute say with another word that means the same thing.

Multi-disciplinary center:  Activity is related to one topic but provides for integration of several content areas.  Examples: letter writing, estimating, comparing, art projects.

Great Stuff!  Still to come: Students developing activities; determining the needs of each learner;  shifting responsibility to the learner; how to keep track of who is where when; evaluating and grading; cheating (copying, etc); and discipline.  Stay tuned!

Please let me now your thoughts and ideas!

Gracias, Penny

Centers – Set Up Considerations

8 Jul

This is my second post in a row about centers.  I plan to use centers as a part of the Flipped Classroom concept next year.   

I recently read Nooks, Crannies and Corners by Imogene Forte given to me by my mother-in-law when she retired from teaching.  I learned a lot about centers reading it.  It will takke several posts to share the great tips.  Today I will share her ideas for setting up centers.

** Make sure there is free trafic flow.

** Centers (and classroom in general) must be clean, neat and attractive.

** Distance quiet & noisy centers.  Yesterday I mentioned that she suggests having days with quiet  centers and days with active centers…

** Centers have clearly marked areas.

** Centers must utilize optimum use with least amount of teacher direction.  I believe this is very important so the teacher canbe free to assist in a certain center or to assist students who are struggling, were absent, etc.

** Include specific plans regarding putting things away.

Although these may seem like common sense suggestions.  I have found that it is easy to try to focus on the task and worry too little about details.

I hope you find these helpful.  Keep sending me your tips for using centers or inncorporating the Flipped Classroom concept.

Gracias, Penny

Flipped Classroom & Centers in the WL Classroom

7 Jul

I have shifted my gears from a technology focus to my full pedagogy for next year.  I am still working with technology…

I am planning to implement the Flipped Classroom method.  I have just ordered Flip Your Classroom by Jonathan Bergmann.  I have also been attending webinars and reading many blogs about the topic.

Flipping the class of course means that the students will get direct instruction through video.  A great idea since they can watch it over and over…  I (usually) only lecture one time.  For practice, I believe that using centers is going to work well for my World Language and Flipped Classroom.   I would appreciate any advice from anyone who is using the Flipped Approach.  

This post will concentrate on planning centers.  I write this not only to share what I have learned, but because I have found that blogging (and tagging posts well) has allowed me to group similar ideas and resources.  It’s like creating my own reference guide!!

I read a very old book (1972) called Nooks Crannies and Corners: Learning Centers for Creative Classrooms by Imogene Forte and Joy Mackenzie It was given to me by my mother-in-law who was a fabulous elementary teacher before retiring.  It was very informational!  It started with planning centers and discussed individualizing curriculum.  It  was thorough about how the role of the teacher changes.  All of the practicalities were discussed:  measuring the learner’s abilities; shifting responsibility to the learner; materials; and evaluating and record keeping.

I took lots of notes.  Today I would like to share with you what I have learned about developing centers.  These are my favorite tips from the book:

**Centers must be carefully explained with clear directions.  Use modeling, place written directions also at center.   Seems like a no-brainer, right?  I got to thinking about it and there have been times when I have assumed that directions would be easy enough without explanation….

**Exemplary systems offer choice and alternative assignments.

** Offer an “Open Center”.  This center can be visited at any time by any student.  It provides freedom and a safety valve.

**Award “Excellence badges” sparingly for noteworthy achievements.

** Begin each day with goal setting.  End the day with evaluation.

** The move to centers must be gradual.  Familiar practices must still be in use.  Begin with one center and add new centers gradually.

**Provide a balance of Active and Quiet periods.

**Each center has open ended and varying expectations.

**Each center has a finished product.

Those are great concepts to think about when designing a center.  My future posts concerning centers will include:  Set Up, Student developed activities, Determining the needs of the learner, Keeping track of where students are; Cheating, and evaluation.  All of these topics are in the book.  I suggest anyone who intends to use centers buy it.  They are less than $4 used at Amazon.

I will also share the many types of centers I have designed so far (at least in my head).

As always, I appreciate any of your thoughts.

Gracias, Penny

A Lucky Mother


La Maestra Loca

Language Acquisition through CI and OWL strategies

My generation of polyglots

A language teacher's blog by Mike Peto

The Comprehensible Classroom

Become a more confident language teacher.

Grant Boulanger

Exploring the Convergence of Language Acquisition and the Arts

MJ's Comprehensible Input

CI rubber meets the road

Facilitating language acquisition through comprehensible input

The Electric Teacher

Electric resources for today's teachers

TPRS Teacher

Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling

Español para inmigrantes y refugiados

Blog de recursos para la enseñanza de español a inmigrantes y refugiados

Teaching a World Language

Sharing my own personal experiences and ideas on teaching the Spanish language in a comprehensible, engaging, culturally relevant way.

Classroom Aid

Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching


Learning to communicate with the world

Leyendo leyendo, disfruto y aprendo

Blog de promoción de lectura, donde se compartirán: cuentos, poesias, textos, artículos para los estudiantes de educación inicial - grado primero y sus familias.

180 días en la clase de Sra. Rutherford

a #180blog To reflect on my teaching & celebrate the learning in my classroom, I will try to post 1 picture a day for the 180 days of the school year.

Creative Language Class

Ideas, solutions, and inspiration for world language teachers

My Spanish in Spain

Las mejores oportunidades a tu alcance

%d bloggers like this: