Saturday, January 5, 2013

Differentiating Instruction With Menus for the Inclusive Classroom: Social Studies Grades 6-8, by Laurie E. Westphal

Differentiating Instruction With Menus for the Inclusive Classroom: 

Social Studies Grades 6-8
Author: Laurie E. Westphal
Editor: Sean Redmond
Publisher: Prufrock Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2012
Oh these books make me excited! The entire series is filled with such enthusiasm for teaching and so many great ideas for teachers that I actually get a little tingly when I read them.

First of all, I love the idea of creating choice boards (or menus) for students' assignments. It's such a great way to incorporate different means to a common end. This is good for a classroom in which many students may have IPPs (individualized program plans) so they have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways.  (A student with dyslexia may choose to do an oral or a visual presentation instead of a written assignment, for example.) More importantly, it empowers the students to make the choice themselves, so they can decide which assignments best play to their strengths (The student with dyslexia may prefer the written assignment because it allows more time for proofreading and revision as needed.) And, of course, it allows all of the students to have a variety of assignments to choose from, not just those with identified special needs.

And, as Westphal points out, having an inclusive classroom doesn't just mean taking students' different learning abilities into consideration It also means paying attention to things like socioeconomic differences. One thing she suggests is the "$1.00 contract," in which students and their parents verify that no more than $1.00 was spent on additional materials for a project. This encourages students to be more resourceful with materials available in the classroom or to re-purpose things they have at home, and evens the playing field for students who may not be able to afford expensive presentation materials or props.

Westphal also understands that teachers may find it intimidating to allow students to choose from a variety of assignment types, then figure out how to grade them all equally. For that, she includes a useful rubric that can be applied universally to any project or can be adjusted to reflect the state or provincial outcomes the teacher intends to assess.

Differentiating Instruction with Menus for the Inclusive Classroom: Social Studies Grades 6-8 includes a lot of specific ideas for lesson planning and assignments on U.S. history, civics and geography, but for Canadian educators they could easily be adjusted for your own curriculum. For instance, the "Explorers Menu" asks students to choose one activity for "breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert" (in that order). Each "course" asks the student to create something that demonstrates a knowledge of famous explorers, but they wouldn't necessarily need to be the explorers most pertinent to American classrooms (though, of course, there is a lot of overlap).

As with the other books in this series, teachers can use any or all of the suggestions in the book in whole or in part to make their lesson plans more varied, more inclusive and--I think--even more interesting. So good!

Or should I say A+?

You Might Also Like:
Differentiation That Really Works: Math (6-12)

Differentiating Instruction With Menus for the Inclusive Classroom: Language Arts (6-8)

Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program Primary 2

How to Handle Difficult Parents 2nd ed. Proven Solutions for Teachers

Changing Tomorrow 2

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purposes of writing a review, though the review did not necessarily need to be favourable, just honest. I frequently read and review books for this reason, but I am always very truthful (and, I hope, fair) in my reviews. Therefore any opinions expressed are strictly my own (except in the case of educational resource books, in which case I often consult other educators to help me assess the books, which I usually mention in my reviews).

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