One of the toughest things teachers do is try to meet each child’s needs in the classroom. Given the wide range of abilities, this is a challenging task. This year, I’ve switched to teaching just reading and language arts. While I miss teaching other subjects, it has helped me focus more on my content. In the past, I was constantly switching between two, three or even four content areas. The variety was nice, but the planning was difficult.
Since I’m able to focus more on my content this year, I’ve been working on differentiating more. My struggling readers have been quite a challenge, since the textbook we’re using assumes they are reading at grade level. More than half of my students are reading below grade level, currently. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I had all struggling readers. Then we could teach the whole class in a way that would work for them. However, this is not the case. I have a few students reading above grade level and the rest reading at grade level.
So, to help those students whose reading is below grade level, I have started recording material on an iPod. Part of the time, I can use the audio that came with my textbook, but part of the time, I’m recording my own. Luckily, my daughter has an old iPod that she doesn’t use any more, so I have one to take to school. In addition, she went through a phase where she continually lost or broke many earbuds, so we started buying them cheaply. This means that I have 7 pairs, now, that I can take to school.
To record the material myself, I’ve been using Audacity. It is a downloadable, free program that lets you record your own voice, then save it to a file. You can find it here: http://downlomania.com/audacity?gclid=CO6PscyKtrMCFYs7MgodXDQAMg. This has been very handy, since I’ve been able to record passages, as well as spelling tests and worksheets. In class, I can hand the student or students the iPod and they can listen and get the material they need, in a way that works for them. For me to read the material out loud all the time would be impossible.
The students seem to like it, since the iPod is small enough to go unnoticed by most other students. They also seem happier and more confident in class now. This is only my second week doing this, so as I continue, I’m sure I’ll find both positives and negatives about this system. It seems to be working, though, and allows me to meet student needs by myself.
How do you handle the differing needs in your classroom?