to Layered Curriculum®
Dr. Kathie F. Nunley
of the advantages to this type of classroom is that it is individualized.
Even the assessment can be differentiated. I may have different
expectations for different students even though they have both chosen
the same assignment. Although each student is expected to meet the
objectives, the modality of expression or depth of understanding
may vary. Individualized education should no longer be delegated
to only those students in special education. All of our students
deserve an individualized program. Since all students begin their
learning experience at various levels, the emphasis should be on
personal growth from the individuals starting point.
defense of assignments becomes an important opportunity for me to
evaluate, clarify, and offer additional instruction. These one-on-one
conversations allow me the freedom to modify or individualize the
students evaluation. It takes only a minute or two with each
student to assess learning.
tradeoff for many students is that this presents a much less stressful
assessment than a formal test. Once Ive discussed the assignments
with them personally, I often feel no need to go back later and
give them a paper and pencil test. Most students prefer these oral
assessments. After we have discussed an assignment, I initial the
assignment on their unit sheet and put the points they received
next to it. It is the students responsibility to keep up with
their assignment sheets.
behavior problems are reduced in this type of classroom because
students feel in control and you are addressing many different learning
modalities. A large variety of assignments assures that everyone
will find something he or she enjoys and can master. The most difficult
problem comes early in the year when students, unaccustomed to a
student-centered classroom, may misuse the freedom. I handle these
problems early on with a personal conversation. Then if need be,
I have the student work on the assignment sheet in another teachers
classroom for one unit. At the end of that time, we discuss a plan
for the student moving back into our classroom.(also see starting
are a few extra benefits Ive found to running my classroom
using Layered Curriculum. Students rarely complain to me anymore
about doing a particular assignment. Since all assignments are of
their choosing, if it turns out to be boring or unenjoyable they
have no one to blame but themselves. One idea I've used is to make
a list of students who need assignments graded as they enter the
room. They simply call out their name as they enter and I write
it down. When the tardy bell rings I draw a line at the bottom of
the list. I guarantee to get around to those names on my list, but
if you come tardy there are no guarantees. I may or may not get
to them that day. This has greatly cut down on tardy students.
bottom line - you CAN reach all the varieties of students that sit
in your classroom. You can accommodate the lowest ability level
while providing a stretch for your highest ability level students.
In many traditional teaching methods, the material is easy for some,
difficult for others, and impossible for a few. This differentiated
instruction allows the lesson to be structured in such a way that
everybody learns something. It doesnt marginalize students
entering with less preparation or ability. Everyone makes progress.
Because everyone wins, the students feel they are benefiting from
the lesson.. The teacher wins by having involved students that actually
learn. And all of it happens under the control of each student.
Your role as teacher is as a facilitator and a coach to help each
student reach their individual potential.
Dr Kathie Nunley is an educational psychologist, researcher and
author of several books on parenting and teaching, including A Student's
Brain (Brains.org) and the best selling, "Differentiating the High
School Classroom" (Corwin Press). She is the developer of the Layered
Curriculum® method of instruction and has worked with parents and
educators around the world to better structure schools to make brain-friendly
environments. In addition, her work has been used by the Boeing
Corporation, Family Circle Magazine, the Washington Post, and ABC
her: Kathie (at) brains.org