The Perfect Norm

How to Teach Differentially, Assess Effectively, and Manage a Classroom Ethically in Ways That Are

Sharon L. Spencer, North Carolina Central University
Sandra Vavra, North Carolina Central University

A volume in the series: Literacy, Language and Learning. Editor(s): Claudia Finkbeiner, Universitaet Kassel. Wen Ma, Le Moyne College.

Published 2009

Our goal in writing this book was to validate teachers for strong efforts in their life’s work. We often observe teachers’ frustrations with what they perceive to be a multitude of different “hot topics” in education that they must attend to now, but which they expect to come and go, like the last “hot topics.” So, we wanted to help readers see similarities between many of these “hot topics”—differentiation, multiple intelligences, culturally responsive teaching, “brain-friendly” strategies, authentic assessment, and ethical classroom management—which we feel are not “flashes in the pan.” And we trust that serious practitioners will not oversimplify the findings of neuroscientists and their application to education. Reading studies and books by scientists, a number of which are user-friendly, can help ensure that teachers separate the hype from credible information. We have seen this professionally judicious approach in the work of graduate students (Kolinski, 2007) in adopting “brain-friendly” strategies.

We have intentionally packed both theoretical/research-based and practical information in this book because professional educators want to know why they should use certain approaches, models, and strategies. In turn, as professionals, we should be able to explain why we teach the way we do–not to justify, but to educate others about our knowledge-based, reflective, decision-making processes and the impact on student learning. Thus, it is important to read Chapter 1 because it lays a foundation.

Each succeeding chapter (2–6) has unique and compelling twists and turns—chock full of ideas to use or to adapt. It is possible to gain lots of ideas, processes, and strategies from reading and implementing (or adapting) even one of the unit chapters, or a part of it. While some of the units are explicitly about literacy, others focus on content using reading, writing, speaking, and listening as critical in the learning process. Thus, literacy skills are reinforced and strengthened. Additionally, some of our colleagues and public school partners have given us feedback that they wanted to implement some of the units and activities themselves. So, feel free to use this book for self-exploration and professional development.

Acknowledgements Foreword, Patricia Ruggiano Schmidt Preface 1 A Case for Differentiation and Much More 2 The Fabric of My Life: Using Poetry, Prose, and Graphic Novels to Help Students Reflect Upon Their Identities 3 Choices That Change Our Lives: Using Realistic Fiction and Nonfiction to Help Students Reflect on Difficult Decisions 4 Community and Culture: Understanding Ourselves and Others in the Global Community 5 A Journey from Innocence to Experience: A Course in Young Adult Literature for Future Teachers 6 Convince Me: A Syllabus for a Freshman Composition Course Focused on Writing Arguments About the Authors

"The authors provide an excellent resource for educators. While some of the practical experiences are oriented toward secondary and undergraduate assignments, teachers at every level will gain practical and helpful insights into creating and ethically and culturally sensitive classrooom that is geared to diverse student learning levels and that provides appropriate and effective assessment." Karyn L. Wiseman Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia