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Posts Tagged ‘Harvard University’

One Size Does Not Fit All Differentiated Instruction: Teaching Every Child How He Learns Best

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

In a bustling fifth grade class Moshe is listening to a tape-recorded reading of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, while Shmuel is writing a poem about a fight between brothers. Next to Moshe and Shmuel, Yerucham is reading an account of a former African-American slave.

After several minutes, the teacher calls the class together and asks the students to answer the question: “What do we know about the problems in the United States during the Civil War?”

Moshe quickly responds, “President Lincoln talks about a great battle between the North and the South. He also mentions something about all men being created equal.”

After hearing Moshe’s answer, Shmuel is silent for a moment and then exclaims. “Well, that makes sense in terms of the poem I was writing. The brothers are in a big fight. But, in my poem, the brothers were fighting because one of them was very messy and one of them was always neat. What were the North and South fighting about?”

Yerucham, excited by how his slave account fits into the puzzle, reveals, “I was just reading about Harriet Jacobs and about how she was a slave. Before the Civil War, the South had slavery, but the North did not believe in slavery. Maybe that is the reason that the Civil War began.”

With those responses, the teacher then begins her lesson on the history of the Civil War, “Alright class, let’s look at this chart of proximate and immediate causes of the Civil War ”

Though Moshe, Shmuel, and Yerucham were all involved in different activities, the end result was a cohesive unit that involved listening, writing and reading about the Civil War. Utilizing different media is a technique often used in a teaching method called differentiated instruction.

What is differentiated instruction?

What Can Be Modified

In their book, Differentiated Instruction in the English Classroom, Barbara King-Shaver and Alyce Hunter explain that teachers can choose to differentiate their curriculum in three areas of modification: content, process and product. Content is what a student is to learn; process is how the student will learn the content; and product is how the student is to display what s/he learned.

Here is what content, process, and product look like in our fifth grade classroom in Brooklyn:

Content

If the curriculum is flexible, the teacher may modify what texts and concepts the students will study. In the case of our fifth grade class on the Civil War, the teacher chose to use Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and a former slave account.

Process

The teacher decided to have Moshe, Shmuel and Yerucham involved in listening, writing and reading activities. She then chose to have them discuss their separate activities with the whole class.

Product

Upon completion of the unit of study on the Civil War, the teacher must determine the parameters for the final product. The teacher may choose to have the students write an essay, create a diorama, write a poem or various other appropriate projects.

How Do You Decide To Modify?

Carol Ann Tomlinson, a pioneer of differentiated instruction and a professor at the University of Virginia, explains that teachers should look at student readiness, interest and learning styles when deciding how to formulate their classrooms and curriculum.

When this is done at the very start of the school year will enable teachers to set up the classroom in a manner appropriate for individual students. Pre-assessment or diagnostic testing is a wonderful tool for understanding what a student knows before the year begins. While some students might be very prepared for the material planned for the year, others might be deficient in precursor skills necessary to become proficient later in the year. A teacher who intends to support success for each learner needs a sense of each students starting point.

Simple back to school pre-assessments could include questions such as, “Do you need quiet when you study? What did you do over the summer? What is your favorite subject in school? Would you rather read a book or listen to a tape? Do you prefer Judaic subjects or secular subjects? How much time do you spend on homework each night?”

As Dr. Susan Demirsky Allan, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Michigan, explained, “Nothing is a magic bullet, but if you start from where the student is, looking at his or her potential, then the likelihood of meeting that student’s academic needs increases enormously.’

Why do we need differentiated instruction?

Speaking to teachers of young children, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) reminds us that it is the responsibility of schools to adjust to children’s developmental needs and levels rather than expecting children to adapt to an educational system. As I strongly advocate, “If he cannot learn the way we teach, we had better teach the way he can learn.”

In their book, Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design, Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe argue that, “Learning happens within students, not to them. Learning is a process of making meaning that happens one student at a time.” For this very reason, differentiated instruction is a successful tool in teaching individual students in their own individual ways.

Multiple Intelligences

In 1983, Howard Gardner, a psychology professor at Harvard University, proposed the theory of multiple intelligences to more accurately define the concept of intelligence. Gardner’s theory argues that traditionally defined intelligence does not sufficiently encompass the wide variety of abilities people display.

In his model, a child who excels at math is not necessarily more intelligent overall than a child who struggles with it. The second child may be stronger in another kind of intelligence, and therefore may best learn the given material through a different approach or may excel in a field outside of mathematics. In his book, Multiple Intelligences, Gardner explains that rather than relying on a uniform curriculum, schools should offer “individual-centered education,” with curriculum tailored to the needs of each child. This “individual-centered education” is another form of differentiated instruction.

How can we incorporate differentiated instruction into our classrooms?

There are several techniques that are easily incorporated into a regular classroom, even one with only two or three hours of English instruction a day.

Jigsaw

The jigsaw activity sets students up in groups reading or listening to different materials. The jigsaw is a learning strategy that divides the material to be studied into sections and makes individuals or groups responsible for learning and then teaching their section to the other students. Just as in a jigsaw puzzle, each piece, each student’s part, is essential for the completion and full understanding of the final product. Here is a sample jigsaw activity from the Civil War:

Gettysburg Address(Blue Group) Poem: My Brothers in Arms(Red Group) Harriet Jacobs’s Slave Account(Green Group) Textbook pages 1-5(Purple Group)
A Moshe Shmuel Yerucham Ari
B Avi David Dani Yaakov
C Josh Michael Ephraim Chezky
D Binyamin Yitzchak Meir Noach
E Aryeh Aaron Naftali Shimon

 

Instructions for activity: Please ignore the letters for now and read down the grid to formulate groups by color. In your group, as you read, you should be asking the following questions:

Blue: What does Lincoln say was the reason for the Civil War?

Red: Why are the brothers fighting?

Green: Where does Jacobs escape to? Why?

Purple: What were the immediate and proximate causes of the Civil War?

Each person in the group should have the same information, possibly a bulleted list of major points. After 15 minutes, you will switch to your numbered groups and you will be teaching your classmates the information you have just learned.

Literature Circles

A literature circle is a classroom equivalent of an adult book club. The aim is to encourage student-choice and a love of reading. Students have a certain amount of time to read a book and they decide as a group how much they will read for each session. During literature circles, students have clearly defined roles: acting as facilitators, making connections, doing simple research and creating relevant illustrations. Many teachers choose to tape-record the student discussions in order to review and supervise the conversations.

A great resource for teachers on this subject is Harvey Daniels’s text Literature Circles. Daniels’s book details strategies, structures, tools and stories that show you how to launch and manage literature circles effectively. It also includes twenty examples from teachers who practice literature circles in their own classrooms.

Classroom Setup

Once teachers have recognized which are the stronger or weaker students, they may arrange the classroom in a way that is conducive to differentiated instruction. When working with partners, if the classroom is set up methodically, the students can work in same-ability and mixed-ability groups.

Tic-Tac-Toe

The tic-tac-toe format can be utilized when students create a final product at the end of the unit of study. It allows students to choose their final assignment in a way that teachers can control. In a tic-tac-toe chart, students need to simply choose “three in a row,” – vertically, horizontally or diagonally. Alternatively, teachers may mandate that students are required to complete their three only vertically or diagonally. Here is an example of a tic-tac-toe chart:

Written Visual Oral
Research report

 

Poster Lesson presentation
News article

 

Graphic organizer Oral presentation
Information brochure

 

PowerPoint Radio interview

 

How can parents ensure that we teach to our children’s multiple intelligences?

As the school year begins, if we know that our children are strong in certain areas and weak in others, we can advocate that schools seek out students’ strengths, coach for success and monitor individual growth against goals. Additionally, parents can encourage teachers to use multiple assessments to evaluate student progress throughout the year. It’s simply important to remind ourselves constantly that if students cannot learn the way we teach, we had better teach the way they can learn.

An acclaimed educator and education consultant, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation,, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@verizon.net.

Meeting God At A Garden Party

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

The scene: Harvard University, April 25, 1977. I am standing at a turning point – not one that will be written up in even one academic journal, but one I can almost see while still feeling dizzy from all the turning.

It is the spring of my junior year here, and I’ve just gotten back from one of Harvard’s most exclusive garden parties. Somehow I was invited to the Porcelain Club’s big bash. Maybe it’s because my boyfriend, Christopher, has been doing a lot of “power-seeking” lately, making friends in high places.

I was thrilled to be invited, but also terrified that someone would discover the mistake that had been made. What would they do if they found someone Jewish at the garden party? Throw me out?  Harvard is very liberal now when it comes to clubs, but you can see that deep at the very center of things, it remains as “WASPy” as ever.

Why would anyone suspect me of being different, though, since I was already there? My name isn’t especially Jewish. And I don’t really look Jewish anymore. My nose is nice, my hair is straight, and I’m tan and thin now. All those years of dieting have been worth it. What a culmination; I could be as slim and rich-looking as every other woman there.

When I got to the party, all I kept thinking was, “This is it. I have made it.” I’d thought I had made it to the top before, but, wow, way up here you can really get light-headed. I was at the garden party people don’t even dream of attending. Me, a one-time chubby, frizzy-haired, middle-class Jewish girl from Queens. Me, brushing my bony shoulders past the sons and daughters of the most powerful people in the world. It was such a joy to revel standing there, classically poised in my white sundress. I fit it!

So I figured I’d just stroll on over and talk with some old chums – Caroline Kennedy and her cousin, Robert F Kennedy, Jr. Then I’d kind of glide over by the dainty tea sandwiches and chat for a bit with the Rockefellers and Moynihans. The only problem was that I couldn’t move. I was afraid even to breathe. Could I do it casually? And if I blinked, would this whole scene disappear? It looked straight out of some fantasy or The Great Gatsby. So I just stood there, thinking. How did I get to be here on this hedge-enclosed, perfectly trimmed lawn among these people? Then the answer hit me: by running away.

I started running away years back, whenever my relatives came over. Our cramped apartment would always smell sweaty as soon as they’d arrive. There was loud chattering and cheap cigar smoke. When they’d all get together for the Passover Seder, their deepest discussions (between huge mouthfuls) were about how fluffy the matzah balls were that year.

I slammed the door on all their mediocrity. Their lower-middle-class tentacles were trying to suck me in, too – but I wouldn’t let them. I was different. I was un-Jewish and airy. I was the kind of person who loved to run through meadows and forests and across beaches in the wind – barefoot, hair flowing, and in my beautiful patched jeans. And I was going to get out of their clutches and become something great. Something un-Jewish – rich, beautiful, famous, and skinny.

 

So five years later, there I was at the garden party, unable to imagine any place higher. And all I was doing was standing there, feeling relieved that nobody was noticing me.

Slowly, very slowly, I started moving from one group of people to another. I was dying to hear what the very rich and beautiful said to each other.

After a while, though, it began to dawn on me that everybody there was doing the same thing I was doing. Everyone looked like they were dying to hear words of significance. Everyone’s eyes were darting about, straying far from the people talking to them.

I did, at one point, find a singular group of people talking animatedly. They were discussing a Newsweek article, just as anybody could. Each moment felt frozen and too clich?d to be real. But then, I guess that’s how clich?s come about – by describing the way things actually are. There, atop the peak of fame and fortune, was nothing. The ice cubes clinking in the glasses everyone was holding seemed to have more warmth than the people holding them. Aunt Selma, come and sing the praises of fluffy matzah balls. It would be thrilling compared to this. Everybody at this elite party was bored through and through. And it was exhausting having to look expressionless for so long.

Suddenly I felt that a gigantic cloud had lifted. It was really odd that I felt that way because, actually, more and more storm clouds were suddenly filling up the sunny sky. “There honestly is nothing special about the big shots in the world,” I kept thinking. “I’ve been given the chance to see that they also have nostrils close up – but almost no breath of life inside. And a half hour ago, I would have sold my soul to be one of them.”

So, then, what was left to strive for? If there was nothing up here on this peak, was there nothing at all above it?

It sounds too unreal even to put in a movie, but right then the clouds burst. A terrific thunderstorm came pouring down on all the skimpy white dresses and tanned, bony shoulders. It came down on all the perfectly spread tea sandwiches. The whole shebang instantly became one big, sloshy mess. All the guests frantically ran off the manicured lawn to find shelter, so their naturally-styled hair wouldn’t get ruined. The privileged garden party had just collapsed before my eyes.

I skipped home alone, not bothering to find out where Christopher had run off to. It must have been years since I had gone skipping through the streets. But on this suddenly transformed, rainy afternoon, Cambridge was glistening for me. I skipped all the way back to my dorm, singing out loud, splashing in puddles, and thinking, “There is something more. Something more than being rich or famous or beautiful. Something even more exclusive than Harvard’s Porcelain Club. The next generation’s potentially most powerful had been at the party. And even they couldn’t stop the rain from falling.”

Mrs. Bracha Goetz is the author of eight children’s books, including What Do You See at Home?, What Do You See on Chanukah?, and The Happiness Box. In her newest picture book, The Invisible Book, a child learns about the invisible nature of many things that are real.  And even though the book is “invisible,” you can find it at Jewish bookstores and online at Judaica websites like Eichlers.com. For Bracha Goetz’s delightful presentations, visit www.host-a-jewish-book-author.com.

Sarah’s Miscalculation

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

       Rembrandt’s etching, Abraham Entertaining the Angels, is a pristine jewel of Biblical narrative. The artist depicts the exact moment the story reveals its true meaning. The guests have been comfortably seated and served refreshments by Abraham himself, shown humbly waiting on them in the lower right corner. His head is lowered in rapt attention as the majestic visitor in the center begins to speak. Sarah is listening carefully, just visible in the shadows of the doorway in the upper left. Hanging on every word, all are poised to hear the astounding prophecy of “and Sarah your wife shall have a son(Genesis 18:10)!

 

         But wait a minute- who is the youthful figure in the precise center of the image? He is ignoring Sarah and Abraham and the visitors, leaning over the doorstep ledge shooting a bow and arrow. It can only be Ishmael. What is he doing here? Nowhere in this section of the Torah text is he mentioned. Likewise in the Midrashim he is absent, except for a passing reference by Rashi in the preceding line, “and gave it (the calf) to a young man [Ishmael], and he hurried to prepare it.” But what does Ishmael have to do with this scene? What was Rembrandt thinking?

 

         Abraham Entertaining the Angels was created in 1656 by Rembrandt van Rijn ((1606-1669), a year that marked a devastating personal financial crisis for the aging artist. Three years earlier his creditors began to hound him ceaselessly about a 14-year- old debt incurred by the purchase of a new home. Finally he was forced to submit to a voluntary sale of all his possessions in his home in what is called “cessio bonorun,” similar to bankruptcy declared to satisfy his creditors. In July 1656 they conducted a full inventory of the contents of his house and in 1657, the contents were sold off at a two month-long auction.

 

 



Abraham Entertaining the Angels (1656) etching and drypoint by Rembrandt. Photo courtesy Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum


 

 

         Soon thereafter, his son Titus and his mistress Hendrickje formed a company whose sole purpose was to protect the artist from creditors and to ensure his survival. Rembrandt was not allowed to own his own paintings and was forced to subsist on funds doled out by his own family.

 

         Irrespective of the shame and personal anxiety, Rembrandt’s enormous creative output continued unabated. During this time his paintings on Jewish themes are among his greatest masterpieces: Bathsheba (1654 Louvre), Joseph Accused by Potiphar’s Wife (1655 National Gallery, Washington, DC), Jacob Blessing Joseph’s Sons, (1656 Cassel, Gemaeldegalerie) and Moses with the Tablets of the Law (1659 Berlin, Gemaeldegalerie), as well as at least ten portraits of Jews. One theme that seems to run through many of these works at this time, is the importance of domestic relationships. It is as if he was especially drawn to the Torah’s narratives of familial complexity.

 

         Rembrandt’s relationship with the Amsterdam Jewish community was always an important factor in his life, but at this time, his relationship with Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1657) becomes especially dominant. In 1655 he was commissioned to illustrate the rabbi’s “Piedra Glorioso (The Glorious Stone). It was to be “the total history of the Hebrew people, until the end of time and the time of the Messiah.” The book centers on Menasseh’s messianic interpretation of a passage in Daniel 2:31-36, the vision of the shattered statue of Nebuchadnezzar.

 

 



Abraham Entertaining the Angels (1656) detail of Sarah and her angel. Photo courtesy Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum


 

 

 

         Rembrandt illustrated the smashed statue, the stone that Jacob rested on and David slaying Goliath with a stone, all considered to be the same stone. Finally, his fourth image was a depiction of Daniel’s vision in 7:3-28 of the four beasts, the four kingdoms and the final ascent of the Messiah. It is obvious that in spite of all of Rembrandt’s deepening personal difficulties, he remained as deeply engaged in the intricacies of Jewish though and narrative.

 

         In Abraham Entertaining the Angels, Rembrandt utilized the subtleties available in the etching process to fully explore this complex narrative. By varying the darkness and thickness of the lines etched into the copper plate, increasing shadow with different directions of crosshatching and finely attuning delicate versus bold line, the artist fleshed out this scene as a narrative that occurs over time instead of a picture of one instant. The attentive Abraham is depicted in relatively few simple lines, much like the Ishmael figure. In contrast, the winged angel next to him – surely sent to comfort him – is pensive and half cast in shadow. Opposite him in the lower left corner is an angel in sharp profile, drawn in dark harsh lines, his hand in a fist poised to carry out his mission to destroy Sodom.

 

         The greatest contrast occurs between Sarah, plunged in the deep shadows of the doorway, and the central angel brightly lit seated right in front of her. His face and stark white beard are delicately delineated as he gestures forward to Abraham, into their future. Thus the narrative emerges from upper left to lower right; from the darkness of Sarah’s childlessness, through the brightness of a miracle to the fulfillment of G-d’s promise to Abraham. Nonetheless, the question remains to Rembrandt, what is Ishmael doing here?

 

 



Abraham Entertaining the Angels (1656) detail of Ishmael, Abraham and his angel. Photo courtesy Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum


 

 

 

         In order to understand, we have to go back to the very beginning of the story of Abraham and Sarah. The Torah introduces us to them at the end of chapter 11, verse 29; “and Abram and Nahor took themselves wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Saraiand Sarai was barren, she had no child.” In the repetition the Torah emphasizes that Sarai was barren by definition. And then within eight lines the Torah tells us “Hashem appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land. (12:7)” Therefore, the dramatic scene is set, how can Abraham have children whom G-d promises to inherit the land when his wife is barren?

 

         Sarah understands the problem quite well and, after living together for ten years, she decided to do something about it. She took her maidservant, Hagar, and “gave her to Abram, her husband, to him as a wife. He consorted with Hagar and she conceived(16:3-4).” While this should have solved the problem, it didn’t. Sarah hadn’t counted on Hagar’s corrosive jealousy and competitive nature once she had been intimate with Abraham. Their relationship was rocky from the outset and only deteriorated more, once Ishmael had grown into a wild and mocking youth. Certain, that Ishmael was not fit to inherit the legacy of Abraham’s G-d, Sarah was out of options. This impasse was what prompted G-d Himself to intervene and send angels to tell her and Abraham that a miracle would happen, circumventing nature itself; they would be able to have a child together.

 

         Ishmael is seen in the very center of Rembrandt’s etching because he is the central problem that the angels have come to solve. Sarah was mistaken, the future would not be fulfilled by Hagar’s child, no, G-d would decide that only a child of Sarah and Abraham would carry forward the Abrahamic covenant. Ishmael’s violence with his bow and arrow is being pushed aside, bypassed by the narrative that flows between Sarah, the luminous angel and the aged Abraham. And now we can see the narrative genius of Rembrandt, the insight of his aesthetic choices in his little masterpiece etching,Abraham Entertaining the Angels. The future was with Isaac.

 

         Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com.

 

         The above review is based on research, as well as numerous museum and publication sources. There exist approximately 100 original examples of these etching around the world. Fogg Art Museum at Harvard, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and many other major museums and private individuals have examples of this etching. Three of these etchings were sold at Sotheby’s, London within the last six years.

 

         Reproductions of these etchings can be seen in the book, Rembrandt: The Complete Etchings by K.G. Boon and at many sites on the Internet.


R. McBee

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sarahs-miscalculation/2007/09/05/

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