When a teacher is planning a lesson, beyond thinking through the skills, knowledge and concepts of what is being taught, the teacher also has to think about what the best way to get the information into the diversely able brains will be. Students learn differently and they come to class with different sets of prior knowledge to pull from. The teacher needs to use this information to determine what the instructional approach for the lesson will be.
Students learn using their senses; most commonly their visual, auditory and kinesthetic senses. Teachers need to understand what learning styles make up the class and prepare teaching materials that kids can see or read, hear or talk about, and physically interact with. Traditionally, direct instruction and textbook readings worked well for visual learners, but it left behind many auditory and very often the kinesthetic learners in the room.
Teachers have developed more integrated approaches that involve hands-on learning and more group work to increase spoken interaction between students. These additions to an instructional plan can mean that students will have direct instruction, targeted readings, and opportunities to explore and interact with the central concept of the lesson.
Another approach that teachers use is within the establishment of group work routines. Students can be grouped together with the same level of ability or with differing level of abilities. A homogeneous group allows for students to pace learning at a speed which works for them. A group of differing abilities means that students take on different roles of teacher and learner, allowing some students to learn from someone beside the teacher and some students the opportunity to teach.
Both grouping styles can be effective. A cognitive theory which supports the more diverse ability grouping is referred to as the Zone of Proximal Development, and suggests that a student will be able to intellectually develop based on the influence of their close peers. In a way, this is similar to a mentoring relationship which can significantly help individual learners understand what they need to know and do to succeed.
When children learn, they are not necessarily aware of the various instructional approaches and how they are mean to spark the learning centers of the brain. Parents can talk to their children to get more information about the school day, the lessons, and what really stuck for the child. By doing this, parents will understand what have been effective instructional approaches for their child and can use that to advocate for their education. Students definitely know if they like a lesson or “got it” and that usually turns into a true appreciation for the subject.
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