Instructional Variables in Meeting Individual Needs
The instructional factors that teachers should consider in meeting individual
needs are much the same for various groups of students. These factors are
discussed in the following sections.
Meaningful Reading and Writing Tasks
In recent years the criteria for effective instruction have
undergone a dramatic shift from emphasis on drill and
practice to emphasis on meaningful tasks of reading and
writing. The focus of instruction should be on ways to help students integrate
new knowledge with existing knowledge to construct meaning (Roehler & Duffy,
1991). Good readers spend the majority of their time engaged in meaning-making
activities such as silent reading and peer discussions (Allington, 1983). It is
important for the tasks that students do to require thinking (Marx & Walsh,
1988). For example, choosing the correct response to a literal detail question
requires significantly less thinking than summarizing the important events in a story.
Research indicates that children in remedial and compensatory programs spend the
majority of their time completing low-level tasks (Anderson & Pellicer, 1990;
Allington & McGill-Franzen, 1989). Not only does this pattern reflect lower
expectations, but students do not develop the higher levels of academic functioning
necessary to achieve success in later years (Clifford, 1990).
While gifted students are academically advanced, they also need special provisions
to meet their individual needs. Like all learners, their potential is affected by
the quality of instruction and the learning experiences provided (Tuttle, 1991).
Successfully meeting individual needs is dependent upon knowing what an individual
is already able to do and linking what is already known with what remains to be
learned (Chall & Curtis, 1991; Eisenhart & Cutts-Dougherty, 1991). By
helping students bridge the gap between their current abilities and the intended goal,
teachers are providing scaffolds of support for learning (Rosenshine & Meister, 1992).
Varying Levels of Support
Scaffolded instruction may include direct explanation, modeling or showing students
how to perform a task or operation, and think-alouds of the reasoning behind a
particular procedure (Roehler & Duffy, 1991).
The organizational plan for the classroom can also provide scaffolding. For example,
students acquiring English might be introduced to a concept with the whole class, work
with peers in some form of collaborative learning, and then work individually to apply
the concept independently.
See also Literature-Based Instruction
Another characteristic of effective instruction and learning is the degree to which
students are active participants in the learning process. When students use each other
as learning resources by working in cooperative or team learning arrangements, student
engagement increases (Knapp, Turnbull, & Shields, 1990). The lowest amount of student
engagement usually occurs during seat-work types of activities (Evertson & Harris, 1992).
Match Between Classroom and Support Programs
The degree to which the classroom program and special support programs (such as Chapter
1 or Resource Room) philosophically match is referred to as congruence. When students receive
philosophically compatible literacy instruction and all teachers emphasize the same strategies
and skills, learning increases (Winfield, 1987). Typically, however, the opposite happens. A
consistent lack of coordination between the core curriculum and the curriculum of special
teachers has been documented (Allington & Shake, 1986; Johnston, Allington, & Afflerbach,
1985; LeTendre, 1991). The amount of congruence between instructional programs seems to be greatly
influenced by the amount of communication that takes place between the classroom teacher and the
special teacher (Allington & Shake, 1986).
Cultural appropriateness of instruction includes consideration of the materials and types
of activities used. All students, but especially students of different cultures - African-American,
Asian-American, Latino, and Native-American - need multicultural literature. Its inclusion in
the reading curriculum can affirm and empower students about their cultures. It confirms that
members of many groups have contributed, and continue to contribute, to human life (Harris, 1990).
See also Literature-Based Instruction and
Multicultural/Diverse Perspective Instruction
Go on to Organizational Patterns
Back to Learner Variables to Consider
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