For my case study, I worked with Eden, a third grade student who is advanced in all subjects. I chose Eden in order to challenge myself in differentiating lessons for advanced students while remaining within curriculum standards and guidelines.
One of the most interesting things I noticed about my advanced student is that her intelligence did not prevent her from encountering frustration and discouragement. I believe it is a common misconception that smart students are always confident and willing to try new things. Despite her aptitude, Eden still worried about “getting things wrong,” as she would say, or simply not knowing things. While challenging her in these lessons, she admitted to feeling more confident with the content that was proposed without differentiation; meaning, she was afraid to try things that may have appeared more difficult, or of which she did not already master the concepts. This was a minor road block, because plenty of support was enough encouragement to convince Eden to try. Otherwise, Eden was always excited to showcase her abilities and knowledge. Eden enjoys reading and writing, does so for fun, and hopes to become a writer one day.
The Making Words lesson incorporated a premade lesson from our textbooks. This entailed forming words out of given letters. The lesson provided words that were too simple for Eden’s level, so I utilized the third grade Dolch sight word list. I chose the word “together” and Eden was able to form several words of varying lengths using the letters. She was also able to determine what the word was that used all of the letters. She was able to do this by deducing the word from three separate words she was able to form: to, get, and her.
The Spelling lesson incorporated the Diagnostic Spelling Scale. I conducted the spelling test with Eden, who was able to achieve a spelling level of S which is the equivalent to grade level 5.8. I chose to use this particular spelling assessment due to the high number of advanced words and my confidence that Eden would be able to spell beyond what was expected for her current grade level.
The Guided Reading lesson entailed reading a story and conducting corresponding “before,” “during,” and “after” activities. Eden read aloud a short story about Martin Luther King Kr. I created a KWL chart, which stands for “What you know, what you want to know, and what you’ve learned” for this lesson. Before Eden began reading, she wrote about what she already knew about the topic (Martin Luther King Jr.). During the story, Eden would pause frequently to write down what she wanted to know or questions she had about the story. Once Eden was finished reading the story, she reviewed the “What you want to know” list and answered those questions in the “What you’ve learned” portion of the KWL chart. She also added some facts that she found interesting. Finally, Eden reflected upon the story by creating a story map. I chose this assignment for Eden due to her ability to think beyond the story, as well as her ability to be imaginative and wonder about the story’s contents.
The Technology lesson was a reading and social studies integrated lesson. For this lesson, Eden was given a fact sheet about the city of Detroit. Using various materials – maps from our family road trip through Michigan and the Internet – Eden was able to fill out the fact sheet. I chose this lesson because of the independence it allowed Eden to research and explore about a topic, as well as the incorporation of technology that would push Eden to investigate a topic. I also chose to integrate another subject into this reading lesson in order to differentiate the assignment on a more advanced level.
The Writing lesson incorporated an expository writing piece in which Eden followed the writing process. Eden brainstormed her topic by using a “topic sandwich” handout, drafted her writing, revised and edited, and published her writing digitally. I chose this topic to allow Eden the ability to write freely and without too much of a boundary (aside from theme selection). I wanted to see how creative Eden could be with her writing.
The Assessment lesson involved an appropriate reading passage and conducting a running record. Eden completed passages that were on par with her reading level without any error, so, she progressed to the next level. There, I was able to conduct the running record due to a few mistakes she made. I assessed her ability to self-correct and my own ability to mark a running record as Eden read aloud.
This case study showed me how much I enjoy instructing both reading and writing. As an instructor, I like to find ways to make the basic subjects fun and creative, while offering various outlets for students to perform. For example, a simple writing piece should offer a sense of freedom and openness while still operating under a sense of guidance; I believe this helps the students feel confident in their abilities and subsequent writing. I also believe that the aforementioned varied outlets is necessary for student confidence: whether they prefer reading their writing aloud, writing a draft by hand, or publishing their story electronically, gives students a sense of control and a sense of pride over their success. For my future, personal development, I will continue to find ways to make common core content exciting and enjoyable for my students.
This case study also showed me that differentiation is just as essential for the advanced learner as it is for the struggling learner. As the case study progressed, Eden’s confidence in trying new, more difficult lessons increased as opposed to her insecurity in the beginning of the study. She proved that she was able to complete more difficult work, and thus is being challenged in the same way as her peers are challenged with their regular, grade-level work. This is very important, because advanced learners need to be challenged as well; their academic needs must be met, and they themselves should not be ignored in the classroom.