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Being a humble servant in the art of teaching has caused me to pause and reflect on my teaching regularly. In a previous post I wrote about how I wanted all my students to succeed, but what was I actually doing to make that happen? I started to learn how to better plan differentiation beyond just grouping students by high, medium and low. The head of school at my first international teaching post told me two important tips: don’t be afraid to be creative and always be humble; it is all about the children. By considering my student’s mother tongue I was able to better connect with each of my students. So again, I reflect on my teaching and take a deeper look on how I support every individual in my class to be successful so that achievement gaps close.

Humble Servant

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:5-8

Study The Student

With the desire to support each individual, the logical start is to know who you are trying to support. Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings said it short and to the point, “study the student”. Relationships have different levels and the deeper the relationship the more we reveal about ourselves; either willingly or through our behaviors. As teachers, it is our job to develop these relationships with our students and uncover who our students are. It is necessary that we build trusting relationships with our student if we want our students to learn from us (Hattie, 2009). To do this, we must determine their background, culture and learning styles. Over time we can build a complete picture which allows us to constantly improve our planning each time we peel back a layer.

Culturally Relevant Teaching

Culturally relevant teaching uses the “backgrounds, knowledge, and experiences of the students to inform the teacher’s lessons and methodology.” (Coffey, 2012)


For me, it was a part of my practice to know my students and understand their background – this is a teaching 101 lesson. Previously, I would look at past scores or anecdotal experiences from other teachers. I may have known that they didn’t like a particular subject or if they had trouble in their class, but this was the extent of the background knowledge I collected. Now I realize that if you want to know about a students background, you cannot exclude their culture and home experiences.

In addition to students having a negative prior experience, it is interesting how Geneva Gay explains in Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice how a student’s culture may also cause a negative experience even before they step foot in a classroom. Cultural factors can play a strong role in perpetuating negative views of a class or education/school in general by students. Regardless of the cause, we need to look no further than Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to know that it has to be addressed if we want our students to be in a mental state that is open and receptive to learning.

The diagnosis is the part that requires our expertise as effective teachers.


The Art of Storytelling

I love hearing stories. Having students share stories will help immerse you in their world. To view an important event from their perspective. It is a wonderful way for everyone in a class to make connections with each other. I see myself as a lifelong learner, and there is no better way for a teacher to learn from their students than to hear from their students. A great resource that I share with teachers and students to help explain the power of storytelling is through StoryCorps. I especially enjoy their animated audio stories. It helps to capture the emotion of a personal event that was important to an individual. I have seen growth in empathy and the art of story-telling by sharing these videos.

Thai Culture

In 2008 the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Thailand made it mandatory that all international teachers must take and pass the Thai Culture and Language Test in order be issued a work permit to teach in Thailand. This was a difficult rule to enforce and ultimately failed, but the reasoning behind it had some very good intentions. Although I was able to easily pass it and thought it was a good move by the MOE, other international teachers that I worked with did not feel the same. Their general feeling, which at the time I agreed with, was why should teachers be required to take another test if they are already certified and in Thailand to teach in English at an international school. I can now see that the move would have helped teachers in Thailand gain a deeper understanding of their students if the test was maintained and improved.

The best way for me to learn about a place is being immersed in its culture. You can learn a lot from books, but some things are only possible by experiencing it. It provides a window into their world. To me, becoming a member of an ethnic group means being involved and going through the window. Going beyond just being an external observer and learning the knowledge of a culture. When you become actively involved you are able to take some of that culture as well. You become emotionally invested. With this connection, you can actively pursue the social justice for all members of your classroom.

I will never fully be a member or even fully understand a culture completely, nor do I feel I have to. At the end of the day, we are all humans and children of God. We all bleed, cry, and love. Our different stories make for a colorful collection of members in the house of God. Being a member or not, should not prevent us from trying to connect with each other. If we only learned from those who mirrored ourselves, we would lose so much potential. The advancements in society are due to the collaboration of humans that came from different backgrounds.

Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are.
It solely relies on what you think.


When considering our students, skin color may seem like an obvious choice of determining a student’s background. However, Dr. Geneva Gay made the important point in Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice that educators should not group ethnic groups based solely on their skin color. Instead, we should take the data about how they possess different learning styles and use this information to support students better. This is a way to be preemptive in identifying problems and create effective differentiations during planning.

Upon reflection, this made more sense to me. It allows us to dismiss preconceived notions, or what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie coins in her powerful TED Talk speech as a “single stories”. Instead, we must go deeper than the surface of the skin and past our personal bias or superficial assumptions. This also applies to what students see in themselves. What is worse than someone believing a single story about another person, is a person believing a single story about themselves. In Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice, Gay also shows the importance of why teachers are responsible for creating an environment that is conducive to this happening. We are the “cultural organizers, cultural mediators, and orchestrators of social contexts for learning.”

Even though Dr. Gay makes a very important point about going deeper than skin color, it is also important that we identify groups that are more likely to fall between the gaps if we want to close the achievement gap. Research that has been conducted over the years, shows us how certain groups are at a greater disadvantage. One of the causes of these disadvantages occurring stems from poverty.

Poverty is a perpetual cycle that is difficult to escape from, especially children born into generational poverty. Low-income families do not only lack money and resources, they also lack the cognitive skills to become motivated to learn. Their brains begin to adapt to their condition. To help break the cycles it is important that educators understand the effects of poverty on the brain and then make the necessary changes in their educational practices to support these students (Jensen, 2008).

In addition to poverty being a demoralizing situation, it also causes neurobiological changes that are detrimental to their success. According to Nobel in Neurocognitive Correlates Of Socioeconomic Status In Kindergarten Children, the areas of the brain affected by poverty or the regions responsible for working memory, impulse regulation, visuospatial, language, and cognitive conflict. This is a result of exposure to toxins, chronic stress, chronic exposure to substandard cognitive skills, and/or impaired emotional-social relationships.

Types of Poverty

Poverty looks different for each person, culture or location. Eric Jensen categorized different types of poverty in his book Teaching with Poverty in Mind. Below is the breakdown of different types of poverty to assist with having a better understanding its complex nature.

Situational Poverty

Situational poverty is generally caused by a sudden crisis or loss and is often temporary. Events causing situational poverty include environmental disasters, divorce, or severe health problems.

Generational Poverty

Generational poverty occurs in families where at least two generations have been born into poverty. Families living in this type of poverty are not equipped with the tools to move out of their situations.

Absolute Poverty

Absolute poverty involves a scarcity of such necessities as shelter, running water, and food. Families who live in absolute poverty tend to focus on day-to-day survival.

Relative Poverty

Relative poverty refers to the economic status of a family whose income is insufficient to meet its society’s average standard of living.

Urban Poverty

Urban poverty occurs in metropolitan areas with populations of at least 50,000 people. The urban poor deal with a complex aggregate of chronic and acute stressors which includes crowding, violence, and noise. These stressors are dependent on often-inadequate large-city services.

Rural Poverty

Rural poverty occurs in nonmetropolitan areas with populations below 50,000. In rural areas, there are more single-guardian households, and families often have less access to services, support for disabilities, and quality education opportunities. Programs to encourage the transition from welfare to work are problematic in remote rural areas, where job opportunities are few. The rural poverty rate is growing and has exceeded the urban rate every year since data collection began in the 1960s. The difference between the two poverty rates has averaged about 5 percent for the last 30 years, with urban rates near 10–15 percent and rural rates near 15–20 percent.

In all honesty, I felt that those in America who are poor are so because, at least in part, due to a lack of motivation and low ambition to work hard. I never even consider the different types of classifications of poverty. I have come to learn that the brains of poor children are different because our neurons are designed by nature to reflect our environment and not to automatically rise above it. Poverty also creates mindstates that can manifest as aggressive behavior or lack motivation when exposed to stressful conditions. There is no shame in admitting my ignorance, as long as I take the knowledge and put it into action to better support these students and families.

Poverty for me looks a lot different than poverty in America. What I knew about poverty was the observations of extremely poor and oppressed people. I never considered Americans to be “poor” by my definition of the word. That definition was defined by my visits to third-world countries and my early teaching. My first teaching job, I would visit rural parts of Thailand to teach English. Makeshift homes did not have running water, electricity, or much in the way of insulation from insects except an old mosquito net when they slept. Children piled into the back of pickups as they were collected from across the hillsides before the sun was up to travel to school. The school had no air conditioning and there was a single fan pointed at the teacher. Although education is mandatory, many parents in rural areas would pull their sons out as soon as they finished primary school to help the family. Students wanted to go school. Education was in many ways seen as a luxury because the alternative was to tend the farm or perform labor-intensive work to help their parents make money so the family could eat.

Poverty looks different. The extremeness of poverty helps us to classify it, and not serve as a means to dismiss it. This what I previously did when considering poverty in America.

An unfortunate statistic that the Pew Research shared from a UNICEF Research in 2012, showed that despite having the largest national economy, 23.1% American kids live in poverty. This is much higher than that of other advanced countries. Dig deeper and we find that of those in poverty blacks and Hispanic children have a higher rate of 36% and 31% respectively.

Something is not right and the closing of the achievement gap must be put at a priority if we want the children to escape this cycle.

So the important questions we ask are can those from poverty succeed if their brain has been changed. The answer is a definite yes. Positive experiences can change their brains for the better. Dr. Michael Dyume asked and answered this question in his publication, How Can We Boost IQs Of “Dull Children”?, He showed that even students with lower IQ could catch up to their peers if provided the right environment and experiences.

With the knowledge that change is possible, what can we as educators do to make this common in our teaching practice? The first is ensuring the school environment is supportive. They should be work in a collaborative manner. To treat a problem you have to first identify it. Having accurate data about individuals, not groups allows for targets assistance to support achievement of standards. Change does not have to occur over-night, but it is important that immediate action is taken in addition to building a longer-term plan for change.

Finally, the simple act of creating hope helps to bring about change. Create hope by providing examples and role models that they want to emulate. Changing the mindset to optimism. This cannot be something that happens once or even occasionally. It needs to become apart of the daily curriculum. It must permeate the relationships and community so that all stakeholders are involved.

Early Language Development

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and State Health Officer, shows how research indicates language development is an identifier for a child’s future success in school and life. Regardless of race, culture or social-economic status, parent interaction can have a positive success. However, parents from poor families had less time or interaction with their child. This may also be a result of the parent’s educational background. Stimulating brain development early on to strengthen neurons to help increase the ability to learn.

Watch Now

Meaningful Relationships

I know the importance of differentiation and the results it has on the success of my students. Providing the content in varied formats that is delivered in a way that is meaningful for them helps me to achieve my mission as a teacher. During my Master’s’ courses I now understand the importance of culturally responsive teaching has on creating that differentiated instruction. I enjoy content that I can connect with, and my students are no different.

A story from another teacher in Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice conveyed a wonderful message about collaboration. She shared a similar viewpoint about life and learning. Just as we find enjoyment in living day to day, we should also in learning. The two should not be seen as different or separate. Learning should be an experience that we find joy in, desire to explore and want to take action in.

Learning will have fun times, struggles, and surprises. Most of all, like life, it should be shared with others.

By building genuine relationships with my students I will uncover their culture and background. This deeper connection allows us to create a learning environment that will all students to succeed. It will then become a place where students feel safe and free to express themselves. They will want to share their ideas and hear the ideas of others. My classroom feels open already since collaboration is a 21st-century skill that I actively discuss with my students. However, with the additional component of culture, I believe that my classroom will be a richer experience for my students and myself.


The building of hope will come from many avenues, but since teachers are the most important factor in a students success in school (Rand, 2013), it is vital that it also comes from them as well. The teacher wears multiple hats and one of those hats is being the coach. The person who will motivate our students towards their victory. No teacher enjoys the feeling of dragging a reluctant student (students do not like the feeling either). The motivation must come from within. This is known as self-efficacy. Building self-efficacy is different for each culture and student. Their culture and background will play a role in determining their initial outlook on education. The importance of building student-efficacy is presented Marzano’s research about the self-system. His findings of instructional strategies having the ability to impact the self-system to produce gains as much as 31% (Marazno, 1998).

Building self-esteem also means building resilience and determination. Failure is an experience everyone will share. However, from that failure arises success. Success naturally stems from failure and growth through reflection. This is such an important skill, that in my opinion, does not receive enough attention. When they fail, they can have to learn to self-correct and reflect so that they can push on. Students should be encouraged to take risks that go beyond what they view is possible. Many times students see failure as a bad thing or a negative connotation and the severity of failing is different for each culture. A failure that is coupled with determination is a characteristic that should be applauded. Picking yourself up after failing and pushing ahead is one of the most difficult things to do, but it can also be one the most rewarding feeling once we do succeed.

Building the self is the action of building lifelong learners. To begin this process, students must realize the importance of education and know that that it will make a positive difference in their life. Seeing students for only one period each week requires me to collaborate with our team of teachers in a committed effort. Ideally, it should also come from the home and community as well. However, I understand this is not always possible. Fortunately for me and my students, there is a high priority from parents to instill the importance of education into their students. An argument could be made that maybe they are a little too focused, but I will gladly take too much focus over not enough focus from parents any day. If parents are not involved, then it is important that the school find ways to help parents become involved. Educate parents as well as also providing them with resources to extend learning at home.

A student’s perceived self-efficacy is vital in the self-system. They must truly believe in themselves and know that are capable of greatness. Self-efficacy will have an effect on how a student feels, think, and behave. Scaffolding lessons to allow structured achievement makes this journey for a student manageable with progress viewable. They must understand what success looks like through clear instructions and examples. As we scaffold a learning journey, we must challenge, motivate, and encourage students to stretch beyond into what Vygotsky called the zone of proximal development. Through this support, students will have a history of prior success which motivates them to continue on in the future.

Role Models

Connecting with the community and finding role models that students are able to connect with I believe is a powerful method of building resilience in students to succeed. Teachers are an important role model, but when students hear the same message from someone from a similar background it carries more weight. When students are able to relate to individuals or groups, they are able to see that they too could be successful. Teachers should facilitate these experiences to occur regularly.

These role-models provide an example of the success that the students can emulate or at least begin to see as possible in themselves. They can believe they can also achieve it and what they do now in school will help them to accomplish it. In addition to being an example, they will be able to answer questions that they have which is unique to their background. Hearing how they had to overcome hurdles, barriers and problems are motivating messages.

Role models allow students to make real-world connections to their learning. It is great to make grandiose worldview connections that we find in our curriculum, but it is also important to make connections to the learning domestically or within the community. Students can make a better connection with the success made by those in their community or those that they share a similar culture with. This builds intrinsic motivation. They also become more emotionally involved as the learning is connected to their home.

Finding these individuals or groups may be difficult. A good first step is reaching out to parents. Next looking at the local community and those who work in it. The website Nepris helps to connect schools and businesses together. Searching online through LinkedIn or other social media websites is another good option for finding smaller local companies. Finally, tasking students with the task of searching for these role models is a great project. Many stars, authors, and successful people are very passionate about education. They are willing to connect with students and share their story. Many jump at the opportunity to even show up in person.


Differentiation is also important in building self-efficacy. When the learning is meaningful for the student they are able to make more sense of what is being presented. They can then take ownership of their learning, while also having an opportunity in demonstrating their understanding. This builds confidence and allows them to experience the joys of success

Differentiated Instructions

Learning should not start and stop based on if a child is in school, and neither should their exposure to success. For students to be successful in every part of their day, they need to learn a set of social and emotional skills. However, many students are at a disadvantage due to their race, culture or social status. In addition, the learning environment may not be supportive of their needs. Diversity is not a handicap, it is actually an advantage to our society.

Sonia Nieto went further to say that diversity and equity was necessary to create an environment that promotes learning. The relationships that students, teachers, and community all have with one another is an important factor in success for all students and creating a more conducive learning environment. To establish these relationships that consider race, culture, background and socio-economic factors; educators and stakeholders must go deeper than superficial relationships. They must identify the students as an individual if they want to help provide meaningful learning, scaffolded with success within an environment where students feel safe and free to collaborate, express themselves, and take risks.


There is no single teaching approach that will engage each and every student in our classroom at once. The building of relationships and creating an inclusive classroom takes time. By developing a strategy to consistently deliver culturally-responsive lessons, educators can help make learning meaningful, which will in turn increase motivation to be successful for all learners in our diverse classroom.


Adichie, Chimamanda. (2009, July) The Dangers Of A Single Story. TED Talk. London. YouTube. Web.

Duyme, M., Dumaret, A.-C., & Tomkiewicz, S. (1999). How Can We Boost IQs Of “Dull Children”?. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 96(15), 8790–8794.

Gay, Geneva. (2000). Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice.

Jensen, E. (2008) The Effects Of Poverty On The Brain. Paper submitted for: Brains R Us: The Science of Educating, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA. March 3, 2008

Nieto, Sonia (2008). Diversity, Access, Equity, And Learning: Conditions To Promote Learning And Principles For Practice. In Janette R. Hill, Bob Fecho, Jenny Penney Oliver, & Talmadge C. Guy, (Eds.). The Intersection of Diversity and Learning: Capturing a
Conversation. Based on a two-day conference at the University of Georgia, Athens.

Noble K., Norman F., & Farah M. (2005). Neurocognitive Correlates Of Socioeconomic Status In Kindergarten Children. Developmental science. 8. 74-87. 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2005.00394.x.

Patten, E., & Krogstad, J. M. (2015, July 14). Black Child Poverty Rate Holds Steady, Even As Other Groups See Declines. Retrieved April 01, 2018, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/14/black-child-poverty-rate-holds-steady-even-as-other-groups-see-declines/

Rand. (2013). Teachers Matter: Understanding Impact On Student Achievement. Retrieved April 01, 2018 from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/corporate_pubs/2012/RAND_CP693z1-2012-09.pdf.

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Culturally Responsive Teaching By Supporting The Mother Tongue http://www.aimbrightstars.com/culturally-responsive-teaching-by-supporting-the-mother-tongue/ http://www.aimbrightstars.com/culturally-responsive-teaching-by-supporting-the-mother-tongue/#respond Mon, 26 Mar 2018 12:43:22 +0000 http://www.aimbrightstars.com/?p=24815 The post Culturally Responsive Teaching By Supporting The Mother Tongue appeared first on AIM Bright Stars.


The language used in different in cultures influence how people think, understand, feel, and interact with the world. The obvious role of language is that it allows us to transmits information in written and spoken forms, but it is much richer than that. It is a tool for creating relationships and collaborating with others. Language is the mechanism that provides external meaning to internal being. Understanding language is at the heart of being a teacher. It is also a crucial part of how students demonstrate their understanding. To achieve this in my classroom, I want students to know that their culture and language is respected and to use this relationship as a way to support them.

Intercultural Communication

What we talk about; how we talk about it; what we see, attend to, or ignore; how we think; and what we think about are influenced by our culture … [and] help to shape, define, and perpetuate our culture (Porter & Samovar, 1991).

How Culture Influences People

The following videos provide an over-arching view of how language and culture affect our perspectives. As you watch the video, you can quickly answer the questions without over thinking to see how your views are similar or different than those in the video. What was interesting for me was I answered many based on the East perspectives, probably due to growing up in Aisa.

Culturally Responsive Teaching

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. –Nelson Mandela
My personal journey to make this connection has been to learn my student’s mother tongue of Chinese. Nelson Mandela said it best, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” I learned first-hand how people appreciate the attempt to connect with them through their language. No matter how bad my attempt is to communicate through another language, the receivers always appreciative of my efforts.

Learning another language, I have a better appreciation of what my students experience every day. I have become more away of their non-verbal clues and notice how they often become frustrated when they cannot convey what they want. As I learn more Chinese each year, I am able to understand more of what students are saying. I always respond in English to help support their language acquisition, but by allowing them to speak Chinese when they are unable to communicate what they want in English, it still allows us to achieve the other parts of our curriculum while also building a strong bond with my students.

Thai Culture (Creative Roots)

Thai Culture (Creative Roots)

I take Chinese courses twice a week in the evenings, but I am also learning from my students. This makes living in China a much richer and enjoyable experience, but more importantly, it allows me to connect with my students. I learn best from being immersed in the language and using context clues to find out the meaning of words I hear. When I hear a word repeated often, I focus or research the meaning. I also watch how they interact and behaviors they have. Although I want to share my culture, I do not want to create any cultural mistakes.

A great example of an unintended cultural mistake that could ruin the relationship within a classroom comes from a common problem for beginning teachers in Thailand. If a foreign teacher patted the head of a Thai student to say good job it seems like no problem. However, this would cause a huge embarrassment for the student and be very disrespectful as the head is considered the holiest part of the body. These simple mistakes can seriously damage the relationship and educational environment.

Mother Tongue

A child’s identity, culture and language need to be fostered so that the child is motivated to learn.

It is hard to argue that we are teaching the whole child when school policy dictates that students leave their language and culture at the schoolhouse door.
Cummins et al, 2005

Mother Tongue

Our First Language

The same troubles I face as an adult working in foreign countries, I see my students experience. If I was forced to never speak English or constantly scolded for doing so, life would not be enjoyable overseas and I would not get much done. As I learn other languages I often make connections to English. English is what my brain operates in and through English, I can learn other languages. Research into the mother tongues explains why this is so.

The “mother tongue” refers to the first language children first learns at home. The development of a child’s first language is connected to the acquisition of their second language. The skills acquired in the first language will be transferred to their second language. This is known as the Common Underlying Proficiency (Cummins, 2000). Therefore, if children fail to reach competency in their first language, they will struggle to learn a second language (Cummins, 1979).

Cummins suggested children need to attain a critical level of mother tongue proficiency in order to avoid negative cognitive consequences and to achieve increased success in second language acquisition.
Threshold Theory
The Threshold Theory explains that there may be certain levels of linguistic competence which bilingual children must attain both in order to avoid cognitive deficits and to allow the potentially beneficial aspects of becoming bilingual to take shape.
Independence Theory
The Interdependence Theory suggests the concepts and skills from the first language are transferred to the second language and affects the rate and level of development. The greater the first language abilities and the more knowledge available for development of the second language. It provides a more rapid and more complete acquisition.

Language Acquisition

In order for children to have successful language acquisition,
attention needs to be given in schools to the value of both the Threshold and Interdependence Theory.

Case Study

A contentious region in southern Thailand demonstrates the perils of preventing mother tongue learning and forcing assimilation. After the Thai government passed an act, which was aimed at the Southern providences, that forced all schools in Thailand to conduct classes in Thai regardless of a school’s demographics, they faced serious repercussions in student achievement and motivation. However, after one year of a school piloting the Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE), educators saw a significant improvement in student achievement (Janchitfah, 2010).

An article titled “Supporting Children’s Mother Tongue in Our Schools” in the InTouch magazine published by the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation highlights several ways we can strengthen the mother tongue in our classrooms. I have listed a summary of their suggestions to the right.

Similar Themes

Children could be encouraged to do projects on similar themes in their own languages.

Dual Language Books

Read books and engage students in some oral work within same language circles or read dual language books on their own.

Involve Parents

Utilize parents to help setting up foreign language shared reading groups during reading time.

Paired Reading

Paired reading between different grade levels within same language groups.

Word Walls

When new vocabulary and elements of grammar are introduced in English, links between it and other languages should be explored.

Support Culture

Encourage a tolerance for allowing children to speak their own language during informal class time or in the yard.

Student Teachers

Allow children an opportunity to teach other classmates simple greetings and frequently used expressions.

Bilingual Immersion

Support of the mother tongue was an integral part of the curriculum at my previous school. However, at my current school, the mission of the school is different. The school aims to develop full bilingual students through an immersion program. This means students attend classes in English and in Chinese. While in that class they are fully immersed in the language. This requires teachers to collaborate so that content is mirrored while also supporting growth.

English teachers often have the hardest challenge. We will only see the students a short period of time before the child leaves. Since students will be using Chinese at home and during half the school day, it is important that we use our time effectively in order to help students achieve the standards. This pressure has caused English teachers to adopt a no Chinese policy while in their classroom, due to the limited time students will have to practice English authentically.

Although English is the language of instruction, we should also encourage the use of the mother tongue in our classrooms when necessary to support what was found in the research by Cummins and Bernhardt. Each child’s mother tongue should respect and valued instead of penalized and suppressed. The use of the mother tongue is extremely important for gaining a deeper understanding of the concepts we want to teach. It is important that children are able to communicate his or her understanding and learning no matter what language is used. Using English Second Language teaching strategies, teachers can achieve their English standards while also supporting and respecting a student’s first language.

Rise of Bilingual Education

Collier’s and Cummins’ research findings were strikingly similar, suggesting that it takes 5–7 years in education for bilingual pupils to become fully competent in a second language and to catch up with their native peers. However, the cognitive and enhanced skillset benefits make this journey a valuable journey that is causing an increased trend in U.S. schools. The article “Rising Popularity of Dual-Language Education” by the Hechinger Report, shared how school districts are adopting more bilingual programs to meet increasing demands by parents after legislation is allowing for this type of education to be available.


TranslanguagingThe position I am in now and a common question I hear among international teachers, is how do we achieve our English standards while also being a culturally-responsive teacher that supports the mother tongue? For many, like myself, we are limited to the number of hours we have to teach our students. In addition, our students will most likely not be immersed in English outside of the classroom or school. This makes it difficult to appease administration and the demands of the parents.

In addition to scaffolding effective lessons, planning for differentiation, and incorporating ESL teaching strategies; teachers can also use translanguaging. Translanguaging, sometimes confused with code-switching, is a pedagogical approach that uses bilingualism as a resource by allowing students to float from one language to another as needed or purposely in specifically designed activities. It also aligns with Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings culturally relevant teaching since the student’s background and culture is used to build bridges to new content and understanding. This method is the perfect blend of supporting student’s mother tongue while also providing a strategy for students to become bilingual through an immersion program.

There are a number of translanguaging strategies that support various age groups. It is worth downloading and taking the time to disseminate the wealth of information in Translanguaging: A CUNY-NYSIEB Guide For Educators by Christina Celic and Kate Seltzer. The link to their website is linked below.

However, you meet the needs of your student is important that administration is also unified with this mission and help to communicate the advantages to parents. Becoming fluent in a second language does not happen overnight – as stated previously it is around 5 to 7 years. As this progress is made it is important to continue to develop a student’s cognitive abilities in their mother tongue which they will then transfer to their second language.

Translanguaging Guides

CUNY-NYSIEB translanguaging guides offer dozens of teaching strategies for various grades
to support educators in a bilingual immersion program.

PDF Guides

Culture provides the tools to pursue the search for meaning and to convey our understanding to others and thereby has strong shaping influences on the communication styles prominent among different ethnic groups and their children. Through this conversation with my students, we have developed a class creed. This was only for a project, and we will need more time to fine-tune our message. I would like it to be more aligned with our school’s mission and shared values by including keywords. However, this is a great start that helps communicate our message.

International schools are communities that actively seek to foster diversity. American schools naturally have this diversity inside their public schools. Erling E. Boe, Professor of Education and Co-Director of the Center for Research and Evaluation in Social Policy at the University of Pennsylvania noted how neither G8 countries or nations participating international education surveys have a diverse student body as American schools. For all the complaints about American education systems, it is important to also note how diverse we are inside our schools in so many ways. How inclusive we are and how accessible we are making education for all. There is no other country or educational systems that are doing what we do – even international school in my experience. Obviously, as leaders of a unique system, we will be faced with challenges. However, other countries will sooner or later face these similar challenges. They will, fortunately, have the insight from what we are able to create and share our experience.

I would just like to end that many times this idea is not possible with the restraints of the curriculum, admin, class time, and parent expectations. However, I still push on and strive to improve my teaching so that I can find ways. Making my effort to exercise the gifts from God.

Culturally Relevant Teaching

“Culturally relevant teaching utilizes the backgrounds, knowledge, and experiences of the students to inform the teacher’s lessons and methodology” (Coffey, 2013). Teachers need to embrace all the change and difference from one school year to the next. This can be overwhelming but keeping the same goals and values is ideal while shaping the landscape of the classroom and keeping its comfort and vision is a task one must be constantly up to date on.


Coffey, A. (2013). Relationships: The Key To Successful Transition From Primary To Secondary School? Improving Schools, 16(3), 261-271. 10.1177/1365480213505181 Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/1365480213505181

Collier, V., & Thomas, W. (2017). Validating the Power of Bilingual Schooling: Thirty-Two Years of Large-Scale, Longitudinal Research. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 37, 203-217. doi:10.1017/S0267190517000034

Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic Interdependence And The Educational Development Of Bilingual Children. Review of Educational Research, 49, 222-251. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/00346543049002222

Cummins, J. (2000) Language, Power and Pedgogy: Bilingual Children in the Crossfire. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters

Cummins, J., Bismilla, V., Chow, P., Cohen, S., Giampapa, F., Leoni, L., … Sastri, P. (2005). Affirming Identity In Multilingual Classrooms. Educational Leadership, 63 (1), 38 – 43.

Feyisa Demie (2012) English As An Additional Language Pupils: How Long Does It Take To Acquire English Fluency?, Language and Education, 27:1, 59-69, DOI: 10.1080/09500782.2012.682580

Gay, Geneva. (2000). Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice.

Goldenberg, C., & Wagner, K. (2015, September 30). Bilingual Education. Retrieved from https://www.aft.org/ae/fall2015/goldenberg_wagner

Janchitfah, S. (2010, October 3). Teaching In The Mother Tongue. Bangkok Post. Retrieved from https://www.bangkokpost.com/learning/news/199427/teaching-in-the-mother-tongu

Porter, R. E., & Samovar, L. A. (1991). Basic Principles Of Intercultural Communication. In L. A. Samovar & R. E. Porter (Eds.), Intercultural communication: A reader (6th ed., pp. 5–22). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Wilde, M. (2015, April 2). Global Grade: How Do U.S. Students Compare? Retrieved from https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/u-s-students-compare/

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Apps That Improve Differentiation http://www.aimbrightstars.com/apps-that-improve-differentiation/ Mon, 12 Feb 2018 15:39:22 +0000 http://www.aimbrightstars.com/?p=24686 The post Apps That Improve Differentiation appeared first on AIM Bright Stars.


Technology offers teachers many advantages to enhance learning, and differentiation is what this post will focus on. Just as every student grows and develops at different rates, they learn in different ways and at different speeds too. Technology is making it easier to support all learning styles, while also controlling the pace of the lesson at each student’s level. Also, being able to support multiple intelligences boosts student engagement, allows technology to further enhance the learning experience.

Differentiated instruction is a teaching philosophy based on the premise that teachers should adapt instruction to student differences. Rather than marching students through the curriculum in lockstep, teachers should modify their instruction to meet students’ varying readiness levels, learning preferences, and interests.

Carol Ann Tomlinson

The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, 2nd Edition

These apps were chosen based on the SAMR model. Popularized by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the SAMR model helps to support technology integration into the classroom. I believe that technology should transform learning by modifying or redefining how learning occurs in the classroom. Otherwise, if you are just using technology as an enhancement that is acting as a substitute, the traditional method may be best as it is less distracting and quicker. I believe that these apps will help modify and redefine learning in your classroom by supporting better differentiation.

Click below to download a personalized lesson about Apps That Support Differentiation.


Below are two apps for each differentiation strategy. I have given an overview based on students using the app. However, all of these apps can be used by teachers as well!

  1. You may prefer the first app in each category which is easier to implement. This is ideal for those who are new to using technology in the classroom.
  2. The second app is a robustly featured app. This is ideal for those who are a tech-savvy educator.

Either path you take, you will be able to support better differentiation in your classroom.

Tech Integration

It is important you consider your standards and learning objective before implementing technology to help decide how best to use the following apps. Below are suggestions on how to best use each, but ultimately it is up to the needs of your students and your learning environment to decide how to best adapt each app.

Differentiation Apps 1

Video Responses

Video responses can be an optional way for students to present their thinking or a way for teachers to mix up their classroom. It is amazing how shy students find their voice by using video responses compared to reluctantly answering a question when their hand wasn’t even raised during class. All students have an equal voice and time to show their thinking or to express their thoughts.


Make learning social and visible. Amplify your all your student voices.



flipgrid differentiationFlipgrid is the leading video discussion app and the easiest to get started with. Learners of all ages and backgrounds are able to find their voice, share their thoughts, and listen to other opinions.

Teachers begin by sparking discussion by posting a topic or question for the class to react to. Posts can be shared only within the classroom or to the world. Students then record, upload, view, react, and respond to each other’s short videos. This interaction allows students to build and strengthen social learning communities.

The latest update also features a selfie styling feature so students can personalize their videos to express their creativity or emotions.


recap differentiationRecap is a free app that fosters learning connections for all students. Through prompts provided by the teacher or its community, students are able to explain their thinking in a video response. The app also provides immediate insight and analytics of all students. The video responses from students will provide you evidence of their thinking within a social-emotional context. Teachers can provide better formative assessments to support differentiation and personalized learning.

If students feel uncomfortable with recording their face, there is also an option to leave written or audio prompts instead of a video. Teachers also have the ability to make comments private (viewable only by the teacher) or public (the entire class can view all responses).

In peer learning, students will construct their own meaning and understanding of what they need to learn. Essentially, students will be involved in searching for, collecting, analysing, evaluating, integrating and applying information to complete an assignment or solve a problem. Thus, students will engage themselves intellectually, emotionally and socially in “constructive conversation” and learn by talking and questioning each other’s views and reaching consensus or dissent.

David Boud

Introduction: Making The Move To Peer Learning

Differentiation Apps 2

Class Activities

Provide a selection of activities for students to work on at their own pace or optional anchor activities when they have finished their work. These apps provide various ways for students to demonstrate their understanding and then receive the necessary feedback from stakeholders.



seesaw differentiationSeesaw is a personal favorite. It is very easy for teachers and students to use right out of the box. Although Seesaw is designed to be a digital portfolio, it has many features that allow it to be so much more.

One of best feature that was recently released is its ability to submit digital assignments to students. Students are able to read or listen to directions at their own pace and then complete the assignment using its simple and varied toolbox. It includes drawing, video, speaking, typing, and annotation tools. Once an assignment is submitted, the teacher can grade it and provide feedback in a typed or audio form. Teachers have the option of making assignments visible to other students and teachers which extends the audience reach and also allows for more feedback to be provided.


classkick differentiationCreate digital assignments that allow students to submit their work in various ways. With Classkick, students can write, draw, photo, or record audio as a way of completing your assignment. Your assignments can be listed in a step-by-step activity to allow students to easily complete work. Lessons can be general for the whole class or personalized for groups or individuals. Each student works at their own pace while the teacher facilitates the learning.

With the “raise my hand” button, students can anonymously ask for help or signal to other students to support them. This means students are able to take on the role of a mentor to support their peers.

As students submit work, teachers can provide real-time feedback. Classkick helps to remove barriers so that student receive support when they need it.

Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement.

John Hattie and Helen Timperley

The Power of Feedback

Differentiation Apps 3

Interactive Quiz

Quizzes will no longer be greeted with the sounds of sighs. These fun and interactive quizzes are actually enjoyed and requested by students. Teachers also enjoy the ease it can be created and how quickly they can receive the data. This allows for teachers to receive the information necessary to adjust their lessons to meet the needs of each of their students.



kahoot differentiationKahoot has found its way into classrooms and workshops around the world thanks to its engaging platform that makes learning fun. Kahoot has a very user-friendly interface that requires minimal directions. It is also a breeze to set up.

Teachers can easily create their own multiple choice quiz or use one created by someone else in the Kahoot community. Kahoot also recently added an ability to play simple educational games. Games and quizzes can be played with your class or linked with other classes around the world.

During the Kahoot, students or groups can see their score. There is an ability for trailing students to move quickly to the top, so no one is ever out of the game. The results provide an overview of total points scored. Although this does not provide specific data on wrong or right answers, it is an easy and fun way to mix up formative assessments in your classroom.


quizizz differentiationSearch the repository or create your own engaging real-time quiz. Quizzes can be anonymous submissions or a competitive game. Student play at their own pace within a game like environment that includes avatars and badges. Quizzes can also be assigned as homework.

The best part is how teachers can easily collect, analyze and share data. The reports that this app can generate are a huge benefit. I enjoy the ability to read results for specific questions. Teachers can use this information to guide their lessons and provide specific support to each student.

Quizizz does not need to be projected on to a big screen, and questions with answers listed below are shown on all student devices. Quizizz comes with a long list of game settings to help give teachers a lot of control on the different types of quizzes to create.

Learners need endless feedback more than they need endless teaching.

Grant Wiggins

Less Teaching and More Feedback?

Differentiation Apps 4

Interactive Ebook

Allow students to express their creativity in literacy. Ebooks provide an interactive product that is unique to their imaginations. It will challenge students to craft their message and to express their ideas deeper. Creating an Ebook allows so many choices while also support students at all levels.


Book Creator

book creator differentiationBook Creator is an open-ended activity that is waiting to be added to your anchor activities. Students are able to independently start creating interactive books or comics. You can simply provide a rubric as a guide, and they will do the rest. Some students make a very basic lined up story, while others enjoy the ability to be extra creative in their designs.

Books can contain pictures, video, colors, text, shapes, and audio. Once their multimedia book is made, it is easily shared to any other app or downloaded to be read on any device. Book Creator has also launched their online library for easier sharing.

Let students at young ages begin to discover the joy of creating stories. They will be able to make meaningful connections to the learning and have a platform to share their work with an authentic audience.

Book Writer

book writer differentiationBook Writer is a professional eBook app. It allows students to create an interactive book that can be published. There are templates to help students get started making a photo book, recipe book, diary, marketing booklet, and more.

Books can also be shared within their network to help give your students a large audience. Most teachers, however, just have students download the eBook to be shared in whatever way best fits their LMS.

This app is advertised for students 8 and older. However, for primary students we use BookCreator and for secondary we use Book Writer.

Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.

Sir Ken Robinson

TED Talk, 2006

Differentiation Apps 5


A presentation should not be a simple product completed in a matter of minutes. These apps are simple to use, but they allow students to produce a rich product that demonstrates their understanding of what they have learned over time. Teachers can assign these as options during an authentic assessment.


Shadow Puppet EDU

shadow puppet edu differentiationMade by the makers of Seesaw, I am surprised that Shadow Puppet Edu is not used more often in classrooms. It is a really simple presentation app that I have used to make digital newsletters for parents. Students as young as five can make videos to tell stories, explain ideas, or document their learning!

Shadow Puppet Edu provides an easy option for students to showcase their understanding. They narrate their presentation which can include text, photos, and videos. While they narrate, they can use pointers or stickers to help explain their thinking further. Puppet Edu also easily adds audio to the background with a click of a button. No editing skills needed.

The best feature of Shadow Puppet Edu is that it links to open source media directories. Students can easily add photos and videos for educational purposes without worrying about copyright infringement. Also, since this apps links to these directories, students do not need to learn how to export and import media.

Explain Everything

explain everything differentiationProvide students a blank canvas to explain everything (hence the name). Just like Shadow Puppet Edu, teachers can also use this app to provide a different way for students to receive content. Teachers use this app to create a lesson, and students can easily view the lesson at their own pace whenever they need to.

The real power is giving students control. Interactive whiteboards capture both the process and product of a learning experience. Students create their lessons, animated stories, presentations and how they work through problems; allowing them to become teachers.

There is a long list of list of tools and features with this app. This allows the app to be customized to match the specific assignment and align better with learning objectives. However, be prepared to answer questions on how to use this app as students become excited as they create.

You learn at your best when you have something you care about and can get pleasure in being engaged in.

Howard Gardner

Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Differentiation 6


Presentations and lectures no longer need to be a one-way dialog. Students can participate and feel empowered to do so. This keeps students engaged while the teacher is able to receive real-time feedback about what the students know or do not know.



mentimeter differentiationMentimeter is an easy-to-use tool that helps students have a voice during presentations. There is no installation of app or download required. That makes it very easy to use with any device. Many times during presentations it is difficult to get a response from students when you ask a question. This app helps to create engagement so that you know where your class is during the learning process. You can easily correct any misconceptions or immediately answer any pressing questions.

Use polls, quizzes, and word clouds to interact with your students and increase learning. Don’t let students drift off. Help build their attention span and active listening skills. The interaction that happens during a presentation by using Mentimeter makes it a frequently used app.


slido differentiationSlido is similar to Mentimeter. It also does not require any app to be download. Through a secure link, teachers can engage with their students. The best feature that is available in this app is the ability to crowdsource questions or suggestions from your class. Questions can be voted on so that the most important questions are at the top of the list.

I also like the ability to involve students in the conversation. Anyone with the link can also engage in discussions or comment on the presentation. This feature is perfect if you are watching a video or show in class. All of this data is available on their analytics dashboard.

Easily integrate Slido into any presentation. You can switch between your presentation and the interaction available with this app with their Slido Switcher feature. This is a very useful feature for having periodic checkpoints and regular polls.

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.

Stephen R. Covey

Differentiation 7

Digital Posters

Some of our students do not have high visual-spatial intelligence. However, we should still challenge these students to use a multi-sensory approach at demonstrating their understanding. Creating digital posters helps make this happen. Students of all levels are able to better express themselves by using these graphic design apps.



easelly differentiationEaselly provides students quick access to infographic templates to easily create custom digital posters. This can be a huge help for those who are not artistically inclined or are limited in their language abilities. With simple taps, students can focus on the content without barriers.

Students will need to carefully select the correct template that best matches the information and message they want to communicate. The professional graphics allow students to create maps, graphs, charts, diagrams, flowcharts, and timelines. Anyone and everyone can feel empowered to create a professional poster that they will want to show-off.

Sharing infographics allow students to share information with each other. Infographics help students visualize relationships between concepts, and used as a tool to synthesize learning.


canva differentiationCanva is a powerful graphic design tool that allows students to create and collaborate. A quick peek at their website, and you know the designers of this app know a thing or too about professional graphic designs.

Although Canva has a long list of features and possibilities, their drag and drop feature makes it easy to use. Teachers and students can create presentations, posters, documents and social media posts. Students learn how to communicate effectively through graphics. It provides an alternative way for students to express their understanding. They are able to bring their ideas to life.

Canva also includes a large database of graphics and templates to help students start creating. Students are also able to share and collaborate with others in the class. They can work together to build graphic, provide feedback, or present their work to the entire class in a digital gallery walk.

Arts support the neurobiological development of the brain in ways that enhance the social and academic performance of our students.

Eric Jensen

How Arts Change the Brain

Differentiation 8

Personalized Lessons

The last two are presented from the teacher view. Although, these can be used by students, I have found it best suited for delivering varied content to students. Technology is redefining what learning looks like and where the classroom can be. These two apps do a great job of redefining learning.



newsela differentiationNewsela is an “Instructional Content Platform” that supports readers at the level they are ready to learn in any subject. Interesting articles are seamlessly adapted to every student’s reading level. Teachers can create their own content or select lessons from their ever growing database. Students of any age are able to learn at their own pace in an online lesson that aligns with your standards and learning objectives.

This app also offers very powerful assessment options to ensure that students have learned the material. Assessments include quizzes, annotations, and writing prompts. Students are also able to learn new vocabulary words and how to properly pronounce it with their Power Words feature. By having this feature as they read, students are able to learn it in context and not through boring memorization.

Students are also able to take ownership of their learning thanks to this app’s ability to keep track of improvement over time automatically. Seeing results, students are empowered to read and to learn more.


nearpod differentiationNearpod is a leading app that brings personalized learning to your classroom. Teachers are able to create an engaging learning experience by providing interactive presentations, and real-time assessments. If you don’t feel like making presentations, there is a long list presentation already created that you can use. Nearpod has also integrated the ability to add VR, 3D objects, PhET simulations into your presentation.

What teachers like most about this app is that they can spend less time planning and more time teaching. Teachers can provide interactive lessons that allow students to learn at their own pace. Enable a 100% student participation and provide all students a voice. Students are able to interact with a lesson in a way that is meaningful to them. While teachers can view student answers individually or a class in real-time.

Kids learn in different ways and at different paces. Personalized learning is a teaching model based on that premise. Each student gets a “learning plan” based on how he learns, what he knows, and what his skills and interests are. It’s the opposite of the “one size fits all” approach used in most schools.

Amanda Morin

Personalized Learning: What You Need to Know

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Differentiated Instruction Supports All Learners http://www.aimbrightstars.com/differentiated-instructions/ http://www.aimbrightstars.com/differentiated-instructions/#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 02:01:39 +0000 http://www.repoulin.com/?p=24681 The post Differentiated Instruction Supports All Learners appeared first on AIM Bright Stars.


Same Destination, Different Paths

Students can take different paths to the same destination. Differentiated classrooms offer students a variety of choice to help meet their learning styles. This allows them to become self-directed and more engaged.



Interdependence and Collaboration

Removing the competitive mind frame of students. Transition the learning culture from individuality to one of collaboration. In addition to providing a more supportive learning environment, it is preparing students to develop necessary 21st century skills.


21CLD Skill

Planning Differentiation

Effective differentiated instructions are planned and are proactive. Strategies are available to meet the needs of all student to succeed in achieving learning objectives and standards. The teacher is responsible for connecting content, process, and product. Students, in turn, will respond to learning based on readiness, interests, and learning profile.


The knowledge, concepts, and skills that students need based on the curriculum. Differentiation content means providing various medium and formats for students to receive the material.


Differentiated process means providing various ways for students to make sense of the content. It is a formative assessment opportunity that allows students to process what they know or don’t know.


The most common form of differentiation. It provides choices and allows students to propose their own designs. Products can range in complexity, but it aligns in a respectful way for all students.

Learning Environment

Maker Space Learning Environment

A personal area of interest to me is creating learning environments. When I was first introduced to PYP and the Reggio-Amelia framework, I learned the power of learning environment. It was referred to the third-teacher. With a focus on 21st-century learning, schools have begun to redesign learning environments with buzz words such as makerspace, design thinking rooms, STEM/STEAM room, and the list goes on. These rooms are not only motivating students, but it is motivating teachers!

The conditions necessary for optimal learning include the physical layout of the room and the psychological elements. A flexible classroom layout allows for students to easily arrange in groups, pairs, or work individually. The room meets the psychological needs of safety and allows students to be receptive to learning. Successful learning environments go further by motivating and promoting inquiry.

The tone of any classroom greatly affects those who inhabit it and the learning that takes place there. Classroom environment in a setting that strives for differentiation is, if anything, even more of a factor in shaping success. A differentiated classroom should support, and is supported by, an evolving community of learners. What that means is that the teacher leads his students in developing the sorts of attitudes, beliefs, and practices that would characterize a really good neighborhood.(Tomlinson 2001)

Differentiated Instruction Strategies

Station Rotation

Station rotation allows a teacher to easily manage differentiation while providing students various content.

Collaborative Group Work

Students learn better from their peers (Boud 2001). Although collaborative work may take more time and planning, it allows students to work interdependently.



Provocations that promote inquiry draws students in and engages them in the learning at the beginning.


Interest Survey

Students conduct a survey on a topic that interests them. They must collect data through interviews and then present their information.

5 Senses

Students build working memories through multiple sensory input of the same content, their brains develop multiple connections leading to the same memory storage destination (Willis 2006). Graphic organizers, picture vocab, and manipulatives.


Student Relationships

Gather information about your students and know their strengths and weakness. Understand how they learn and what interests them the most. This should be ongoing throughout the year.


Individualized Feedback

Offer feedback that is unique to each student. This allows them to improve in the way that best meets them, while also knowing that you mean it.


Peer Mentoring

Assign peer mentoring to help with group work and increase accountability. Students are encouraged to support their friends and not to be competitive with learning.


A great management strategy that also supports differentiation through chunking and modeling. Students support the mini-lesson to gain practice and to see examples.

Differentiated Instruction Strategies Infographic

TeachThough gathered a list of 50 differentiation strategies to create “The Ultimate List: 50 Strategies For Differentiated Instruction”.  The list is derived from the guru of differentiation Dr. Carol Ann Tomilson’s book What Differentiation Is–And Is Not: The Definition Of Differentiation.


Support All Students

Differentiated instruction is effective for high-ability students as well as students with mild to severe disabilities.


Engaged Learning

With more options, students learn in a way that is most meaningful to them and take more responsibility for their own learning.


Improved Behavior

Boredom drives students to misbehave. Differentiated instructions allow students to be more involved in the content, process, and product.

Supporting Multiple Intelligences Through Differentiated Instructions

Students learn in different ways and problem solve using different approaches. Teachers help students through their learning journey through scaffolded lessons that offer options and accommodate learning preferences. Howard Garner proposed the theory of multiple intelligences in 1983 in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. His theory states that everyone has different strengths and weakness intelligence ‘modalities’ instead of just a single general ability intelligence. Considering a students intelligence strengths and weakness allows a teacher to plan for differentiation. They can present content in ways that are meaningful for all students, and students can, in turn, present their understanding in a way that is valued by the class.

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Seesaw Record Draw and Post http://www.aimbrightstars.com/seesaw-app-record-and-post/ http://www.aimbrightstars.com/seesaw-app-record-and-post/#respond Wed, 01 Mar 2017 02:56:57 +0000 http://www.aimbrightstars.com/?p=3992 Seesaw is a great educational app that helps students take ownership of their learning and create a digital portfolio to track their progress. In this lesson we used Seesaw to help identify the parts of the ear we labeled during an IPC Unit about hearing.

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In class this week we learned about the ear. We labeled parts of the ear and talked about how sound travels to our brain. It was interesting to see the students describe to each other how it works. I had my teaching partner, who is the technology coach to support me by teaching the kids to use see saw to record their learning about the ear.

After Mr.Rich’s lesson, the students went off independently to record their work on Seesaw. They upload their work so that their parents are able to see it too. I love when they are at home they talk about their learning with their parents. I enjoy seeing parents commenting and give feedback on their child’s learning.

I love to see my child’s work on Seesaw. I feel like I am in the classroom too!

Recording their learning on Seesaw a great tool for me because I can go back to see what my students needs are and what they are struggling on. I feel that I can plan my lesson better according to individual needs too.   Seesaw is a simple way to build digital portfolio and helps to communicate with parent about student learning.

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Kahoot Quiz Show Educational App http://www.aimbrightstars.com/kahoot-quiz-show-educational-app/ http://www.aimbrightstars.com/kahoot-quiz-show-educational-app/#respond Sun, 19 Feb 2017 23:46:09 +0000 http://www.aimbrightstars.com/?p=3828 Kahoot is the perfect app to create discussions, quizzes or surveys to any subject or topic. Use it as an assessment or a fun way to help students learn material. The app is designed with game-based pedagogy in mind.

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Kahoot is an online tool and app that allows you to easily create, play and share an educational quiz show for any subject. I have used this apps for kindergarten students and adults. All age groups find this incredibly fun and competitive. The best thing about this digital tool is it is FREE!

Developed in Norway, Kahoot is popular app in schools and businesses from America to Zimbabwe. It is like a quiz-show combined with a video game. The teacher can becomes the host or students can take the Kahoot! at their own pace. I like it best by displaying the real-time results live on the whiteboards so that students can see who is winning.

Taking Kahoot Further...

Set it up the game so that students interact with the game by asking questions during their play.
Thanks to the ability to add photos and videos, I am able to make the lesson much more engaging. An example is having students watch a short video that will contain the answer to the question. If they listen closely they will hear the answer first. Pictures work great to capture attention or to display an image the relates to the subject.
The game can be setup so that students work individually or in groups. Working in groups is a great way to help students learn to work as a team. However, be sure to setup expectations and rules at the beginning. Students will get excited and can start to fight for the iPad, get upset, and shout out. I like the energy that I get from the students using this app, but every time I do a group game the noise level rises considerably.

You can assign a time-limit for how long students have to answer each questions to help the game move along. With the time limit around 20 seconds, it provides enough time for the students to discuss while still making it through all the questions. If all the students answer the question it will move to the next question after displaying the leader boards.


The leader board can be disabled if you do not want students to see the score until the end. A reason you may want to keep it hidden is so students stay motivated throughout the entire game. I usually leave it on, because the students enjoy seeing the movement and points along the way.


You can let students know that they earn points for correct choices, and extra points for clicking faster. But be careful not to click too quick because a wrong answer is worst that answering slow.

Later you can task students to create their own. Assign a reading at home and have student create the quiz for other students to take based on the reading. Students will come up with creative questions and pay closer attention to what was assigned.

Gamification in Education

The gamification of learning is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments. The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning. Game-based educational content creates an emotional connection between the learners so that they learn much better together.”

No Just For Students

Kahoot is a great app and can be adapted for us adults as well. It is a great app to use during professional developments and meetings. You will see the same excitement from teachers as well. By introducing this app to other teachers, they will start to use it in their classrooms as well!

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Reading Strategy Using the Magic Wand http://www.aimbrightstars.com/reading-strategy-using-the-magic-wand/ http://www.aimbrightstars.com/reading-strategy-using-the-magic-wand/#respond Sat, 18 Feb 2017 12:49:04 +0000 http://www.aimbrightstars.com/?p=3873 Reading pointers are good for early readers as well as advance readers. Find out some creative ideas to make reading pointers with your students.

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I introduced the ‘Magic Wand’ to my class this week. I felt like I should have introduced this earlier but it only clicked when I was having trouble having the students point to the words as they are reading. What I’ve done is I found some unused colorful popsicle sticks and gave it a special name so that my students will remember it.
So…”Magic Wand” it is!

I love my magic wand. It helps me to read better.


Grade 1 Student

I like the word hunt game we play with the magic wand!


Grade 1 Student

Buddy Reading with The Magic Wand

Magic Wand Reading Strategy

Magic Wand as a Reading Tool:

  • Motivates students when reading
  • Easily re-direct students pointer when needed
  • Helps student focus
  • Keeps students hand busy
  • Keeps the child correctly distanced from the book
  • Students point to the words instead of the the teacher
  • Helps students keep track when reading
  • Playing word hunt and other games during readings

As students become better readers, they can use the Magic Wand to underline sentences to help keep their place. Eventually maybe it just becomes a book mark. If students spend more time on decorating it, they will have a stronger sentimental attachment to it, as it travels along with them on their reading journey.

Create your own Reading Pointers: Reading pointers don’t have to be expensive. You can even have your students make their own reading pointers. As a class, you can give the reading pointer a name; like how I name mine ‘Magic Wand.’

For my challenge readers, I also use the reading pointer. However, I will ask them to use it horizontally so that students can use it to hold their place on the line and move it down each row of words as they read.

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Classroom Management Songs http://www.aimbrightstars.com/classroom-management-songs/ http://www.aimbrightstars.com/classroom-management-songs/#respond Fri, 10 Feb 2017 09:39:52 +0000 http://www.aimbrightstars.com/?p=3786 Find out what songs to play in your classroom to improve your teaching and classroom management.

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I love music and always include playing songs in my classroom.  When my students enter my classroom I will always play a song in the background to help set the mood as I greet them as they enter. I find it a good way for students to feel good and get their minds in a positive mindset. This make them ready to learn.

Instead of playing a video with animation or movement (this will easily distract them), I display the lyrics of the song on the board. This allows them to learn the words of the song so they can sing along, and also helps to motivate them to read.

Sometimes I will have a task for students, such as search for a sight word ‘the’. When students see the sight word they will just wave their hands in the air so they don’t interrupt others. At the end of a song, students will tell me how many sight words they found.

I love the excitement I see when they sing along or asks me what the name of the song is. I believe that music helps put learners and teachers in a better mood!

Here are some of the songs my first graders really like:

  1.  One Call Away – Charlie Puth
  2. Over the Rainbow – Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole
  3. Count on Me – Bruno Mars

Here is an example of students singing a classroom management song. They are reading the lyrics and searching for sight words.

Here is a sample video montage of a day in Grade 1. At the start of the video you can see how we start our class. The song is called Proud of You.

One Call Away – Charlie Puth

Over the Rainbow – Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole

Count on Me - Bruno Mars


Do you have a classroom management song?

I would love to hear what song you use in your classroom to help manage students. If you don’t have one yet, which one do you think you would like to use?

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Audiation For Early Education http://www.aimbrightstars.com/audiation-for-early-education/ http://www.aimbrightstars.com/audiation-for-early-education/#respond Wed, 08 Feb 2017 13:24:43 +0000 http://www.aimbrightstars.com/?p=3521 Music is a valuable tool to help enhance the learning of our students. By incorporating additional methods to help learners experience more from music, we will also improve their overall cognitive ability. Audiation is a great tool to add to your lessons.

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Ask any early education teacher what resource is a must in their classroom, and they will undoubtedly say music. This has been true for me, especially when teaching ESL students. When using this valuable tool, it is important that we help children establish a firm musical foundation. This means incorporating audiation in our music programs.

Music To Enhance Learning

Musical development through singing is crucial for development. Since a different part of the cortex is used to sing than what is used to generate speech. Thus, the singing voice helps improve brain development at all ages and informs the learning process with a different modality. This is why when teaching in ESL and early education, singing is a valuable tool to learn to speak. Early childhood educators face a number of psychological and physiological challenges when learning to use their voices especially if its development has lain fallow for an extended period. Singing is a major part of a young child’s musical life so some skill in vocal training is essential for educators involved in this area.

What Does Audiation Mean?

First consider what imagination means. It is a visualization in our minds. Since there was no word that is similar to imagine for the auditory, they created a new word. In music education researcher Edwin Gordon coined the word audiation in 1975. Audiation is to sound in the same way that imagination is to images.

Audiation may involve mentally hearing and comprehending music, even when no physical sound is present. It is a cognitive process by which the brain gives meaning to musical sounds. Audiation is also more than musical form of auditory imagery. Developed audiation also includes the understanding of music to enable the conscious prediction of patterns in unfamiliar music and sound.

If you are still not clear about audiation, here is a great video from another passionate teacher. Danny Cruz is an elementary music teacher (or at least at the time he made this video) and breaks down audiation and the importance of teaching it to students.

Thinking is to Language, as Audiation is to Music

Audiation Examples

Although the term is abstract, the actual process is not beyond the depth of early learners. Many will naturally develop this skill on their own. However, as a teacher we can bring this skill to their direct attention and help enhance it. In addition, it adds a great way to mix up songs that children already know.

Recall A Song

Recall A Song

When children listen to a song and then they recall it later, they have to use their imagination to create the music. This is a simple way to build Audiation. If a child always hears the song then you only need to play it without the music during your circle time. Also, if you are walking to an area it is a perfect time to recall a song.

Transform The Song

This is taking the recalling a step further. In addition to recalling the song, they can then sing it another way. They can sing it higher or lower, faster or slower, like an animal, and so on. This is a fun activity that will bring life to any played out song.


My students love when I do this with a song. I will take a tune to a current song that we are singing and then use it to give directions. Children will take the cue and do the same. This helps them use English naturally and creative in addition to building their audiation skills.

Stop and Sing In Your Mind

This is a simple way of checking the entire groups ability. Sing a song all the children know. Then on your cue students will sing the song in their mind. On your cue they then sing aloud and all the students should be at the same part of the song. This may be a little difficult for some, so BINGO is a good song to help transition into.

Act Out The Sound

Whenever I teach a song I always add movement because it helps students learn English and remember the words. Taking this a step further, students can create their own movement to the song. There are great songs to help students imagine what the sound would look like.

With other songs we can act out the instruments from the sound. When we hear the drum, we play our imaginary drum, and so on for all the instruments. It works best if students have a general idea of what the instruments are and what they sound like. This could be an entire lesson on its own. You can have the actual instruments or pictures of the instruments. Have sound files ready that you can play. Have students close their eyes and imagine what the instrument is that made that sound. The sound files can then be played again matching the sound to the instrument.

Play The Song

We can all play music. We may not be Beethoven but we can still play. Using simple instruments like sticks, drums or maracas we can play to the beat of our favorite music. We supplement the sounds we create with the sounds in our mind to recreate our favorite songs.


This is one of my favorite activities. Don’t worry, if you haven’t mastered the art of whistling humming will also work just fine. Simply start out the first few notes of a song and have your children finish it. They will have to listen closely and then identify the song. They thing continue by singing the rest of the song. Usually they have to know the song really well, but if not they can just try and sing the melody or first few parts of the song before trying to guess another song.


More Audiation Examples

Above are some general examples that can be adapted and expanded upon to match your learners. If you have other great examples, please share it with us!

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Worlds Best Education Systems http://www.aimbrightstars.com/worlds-best-education-systems/ http://www.aimbrightstars.com/worlds-best-education-systems/#respond Wed, 01 Feb 2017 14:02:18 +0000 http://www.aimbrightstars.com/?p=3685 Education is considered important throughout the world, but it still remains that not every country does it the same and some countries are better at it than others. In the west we often assume that our own education systems are the best, but that may not actually be true despite an higher spending.

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Forty years from now, countries of the world will be governed by students who are in school today. Their thoughts and actions will be shaped by what they know and have experienced, learned in school, and their ingenuity. Thus it is important to see which country has the most successful education system in the world.

Every year, the World Economic Forum releases its Global Competitiveness Report on the state of the world’s economies. The data collected ranked countries according to the “12 pillars of competitiveness,” which includes macro-economic environment, infrastructure, health and primary education, and labor market efficiency.

Education is one of the most important things in determining the future success of a country and its citizens ability to create and employ in jobs. Without it our youth would have no guidance in a very difficult world. Unfortunately, education systems are not universal. Some are better than others – others much better.

Although the list varies from year to year, you will see the same top countries. It is important to research why these countries are excelling and why others are not. It is not about the country, so much as what the schools are doing. Once identify schools across the world that are excelling, it serves as a model.

Here is a video from 2014 that provides information about the Top 10 Education Systems and why:

Education Spending According to The World Bank

Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland spend some of the most money on education as a percentage of their gross domestic product, according to the World Bank. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has said that levels of education funding do not necessarily affect academic performance, but these Scandinavian nations all ranked in the top third, generally outperforming Asian nations where students are pressured to perform well.

Top 10 Best Education Systems

  1. Denmark
  2. Switzerland
  3. Norway
  4. Netherlands
  5. Sweden
  6. Australia
  7. United Kingdom
  8. Germany
  9. New Zealand
  10. Belgium

Top 10 Worst Education Systems

  1. Yemen
  2. Mauritania
  3. Chad
  4. Sierra Leone
  5. Mozambique
  6. Ethiopia
  7. Tanzania
  8. Pakistan
  9. Burundi
  10. Bangladesh

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