Student-Centered Lesson Planning: Engaging English Students

Student-centered lesson planning

Maintaining student journals serves as a critical tool for educators to gain direct insights into the individual preferences and experiences of their learners. In examining these personal narratives, teachers can identify patterns and variations in learning preferences across the classroom. The introduction of student journals not only captures the voices of the students but also directs the adaptation of teaching methods to accommodate diverse learning styles.

*This article is part of the DI and UDL Action Research Project. To see the project outline, click here.

This work is from a Grade 9 destreamed course with a broad spectrum of abilities and interests among the students. Anecdotally, they mirror the characteristics of cohorts from previous years, except that there appears to be a dip in engagement during lessons. This causes problems when it comes time to do the work. However, gauging the extent of this change in classroom dynamics is challenging without concrete evidence, as the decrease in engagement is more of a perception than a quantifiable fact.

The following sections provide a closer look at student journals as a reflective exercise, detail the various learning preferences uncovered through journal entries, and offer guidance on how educators can interpret and act on this information. By leveraging the candid feedback students provide, educators can refine their instructional strategies to foster a more personalized and effective learning environment.

Student Responses

Student Responses

Students were asked to write a reflective response to the following questions:

How do you prefer to learn? What do you prefer to learn? Can you give an example of when you felt that you had a great learning experience?

You can tell from their answers that they have a wide range of interests and learning styles. I think that, more importantly, you can see the diverse range of writing abilities. This will be nearly as informative in forming my DI strategies.

Just listening and make sure to not forget. How to drive a quad or a exavator. It was fun i could drive around in a pit and do tricks and do other things and with the excavator i was able to just well drive it and take out a small little mountain that was made from a storm that a tree fallen.

I prefer to learn by doing hands- on activities. I find that doing that will really help me learn it faster and make me better understand what’s going on and how to do it instead of me just guessing. I prefer to learn anything that’s somewhat interesting to do like cooking, baking and other school activities, even out of school. I had a great learning experience when my dad takes me out hunting everytime i go i learn something new. he taught me how to use a gun how to fish how to do really anything outdoors and each time i go i have so much fun.

What and how do I Like to learn? I like to learn about interesting things like history, I also like to read often, I find that those things are fun. Can I give an example of when I had a good learning experience? No, I cannot think of any time that I did.

The way I like to learn is more visually. The reason I prefer visual learning is because I don’t fully understand when people are going on big rants about stuff. For example, when im being taught math, im not strong in that at all and when the teacher is telling me what X = without writing our anything or without showing us something, im even more lost. I think i’ve been a visual learner since I was little because i remember in about grade 3 we learnt with blocks and that made me realize a lot more and I actually enjoyed math. I prefer to learn stuff like paragraphs and things like that because I feel like I can just write and write forever. I think my best learning experience so far was in grade 7 when my math teacher Mrs.Dubie helped me get my grade up from a 56% to a 74% and that was because she really took her time to explain a question without an annoyed face if you were stuck on it.

Today I will be talking about all my learning experiences. Most of the time I like to learn by writing down stuff. For example, in science, the teacher makes us write a paragraph of something that includes the atmosphere or something about the food chain about a couple times a week and I find that it helps me understand what we learn in class. I also like to re-write the things that we have learned in the day again when I get home cuz it makes it more implanted in my head. Also one of the things that I find I like learning about is history. For example I like to learn about how dinosaurs looked and I like looking at the biographies of different geologists. I just find the past interesting and how we are who we are today. It’s just interesting in my opinion. One of the most interesting things that I’ve learned so far is not about history though. One day I wasn’t feeling too well to the point I started crying and when I went to get help for someone to stop me from crying I realized that nobody knew exactly how to help someone. In all my experiences with people trying to help me it’s either they give me a hug (does not work for everyone), or they tell the person that’s sad about their personal experiences. All of my friends did one or the other and maybe both. I understand that there might be some people that understand how to take care of someone but in the world we live in today I find that there aren’t as many as we think. That’s just my opinion. I know that other people might think otherwise though but I’m just saying, it’s how I feel.

I prefer to learn as a visual learner. For example, I like to have the criteria in front of me so that I can follow along and make sure that I have everything it requires before submitting my work. I also like videos to watch and practice tests/questions. I play alot of sports so learning about them and how to get better at them is one thing I really enjoy doing. I felt a good learning experience when I first learned to skate because it was fun and I got the hang of it pretty quickly. Also when I was introduced to science it was great because I could ask basically any science related question and the teacher/science north employee could answer it. I’ve never really liked math so i have never taken my free time to study it or really put 100% into it, another reason why I don’t like math is because it gets harder and harder, like all the way up until grade 5 was good and then there were letters and decimals and too many things that i just stopped trying in math.

I never really had a fun time learning anything, but kinda what i enjoyed learning in school was rowing, at my old school in the niagara region we would have this after school program that on thursdays would go to a nearby university to do some rowing, there people showed us how to row and it was genuinely just a fun experience, rowing is so fun cause you use sticks to move in water and you have to be synchronized with either your other arm or your partner’s arms it’s also a good exercise, i mostly just enjoy learning things that are hands on cause when you look at something in math or science you’re just reading about something that serves 0 real purpose to the real world and writing about it, I can’t really think of anything other than rowing that i actually enjoyed in school.

I prefer to learn visually. Last year my English teacher would give examples of a student’s work years before or one of his own and I thought it really helped me get a better understanding of what I was doing. I like to learn stuff in science. I find it really cool how so many things work and experiments and overall science is just a really fun class to learn. I find I have great learning experiences in volleyball. For example my first year playing I was very shy and quiet and had not much confidence then it affected what team I made the next year so I had to get over the shyness and be more confident because you’ll never improve if you’re always hating on yourself.

The way I am best at learning more is a balance of all three of Hands on, Visual, and auditory. Out of the three I prefer visuals since I’m good at picking up patterns and can make sense of them quickly. I also like using hands on like drawing since it helps me better visualize it in my head and also so I can add a better image to words for example such as onomatopoeia instead of just memorizing BOOM! or BLAM! I could put a mushroom cloud to it or a punch. With auditory I am good at listening but I do tend to trail off and not focus from time to time so it’s not my most dominant learning style. I felt that I had a great learning experience in 8th grade when my teacher tried to make an effort to make things work for everyone. For example they might have multiple ways of completing a task like instead of writing a journal each week we’d have the option to either draw an event that happened to us, maybe make a video etc… Personally, I prefer to learn by using expressions of creativity or imagination.

I think one of my best learning experiences was in grade 8 whe i was in a split class with the grade 7s and the teacher i has she was just amazing, she let me open up to her helped me learn im a visual learner so she helped me alot with that too and helped with explaining things a bit better.

My prefer way to learn is either hands on or drawing, its much more easy for me to learn that way. I like to learn about math since I’m not very good at it, so I like to learn as much of it as I can. I think my best learning experience was when I finally figured out how to do precents.

The way i like to learn is the teacher would give an example of what we would be doing for the Class while we take notes to help us on the a sheet on that subject then the class is over.

For the most part, I’ve always had a great learning experience, I am having a great learning experience during and even before high school, I like all of my classes my favorite is art because I like to draw and I’m really good at coloring with pencil crayons and I’ve discovered my liking for painting in art class, I’m starting to get the hang of it and I’ve learned that it’s important to take your time and not rush through an art piece because you can make mistakes or the picture might not come the way you want it to, but if you take your time and not rush, you will definitely end up with a beautiful work of art and it might even become your potential masterpiece. I enjoy learning in school as much as I enjoy doing anything at all. What was your favorite class when you were at school? Sometimes I like your class and learning and participating and I do really well in this class and all my other classes, I’ve always done well in school, and I know that I will continue to be the best student that I am right now, because I know that I have the potential to do anything with my good learning skills.

I don’t have a preferred way to learn, I just… learn. In any way. I like learning about my job. Yeah, that’s right, I have a job. I am a game developer. I have a couple games that you can play right now! Just click here! Every day is a great day when I work on my games. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad day in which I worked on my games. I mainly use turbowarp to make my games. Turbowarp is a 2D game engine.

I prefer to learn on paper with a partner i don’t have a specific learning experience but i like to learn with hands on experience it makes it more interesting for me and it makes it more fun to work with a partner.

I always preferred to learn hands on and feel as though I do learn and work best when it’s hands-on . I prefer to learn anything that is involved in the trades, like woodworking or welding, where its all hands on and needs your focus because without it you could very easily cut off a finger or burn yourself . An example of when I had a great learning experience was in shop class with Mr. smart and how we would take only 15 mins learning about what we would be doing and then spent the rest of the class working on motors and physically touching the motor .

The way that I would prefer to learn is using a chromebook and here is why. Firstly, I find it easier to find pictures for things like a poster or collage. Second, I find it faster and easier to write a sentence, paragraph, or story. Lastly, I find it easier to keep track of my work and not lose it, I also just find it easier to work on a chromebook since I can find things much easier I can look up things to help me with my work and it also helps me with having enough space and time to write what I need.

Analysis

Analysis

I used AI to generate an analysis of the responses, which provided some unsurprising, but beneficial information.

The diverse responses from the Grade 9 students regarding their learning preferences highlight a spectrum of cognitive styles and interests, which are as varied as their abilities in expressing themselves. The quality of their writing ranges from simple and straightforward to more complex and reflective narratives.

Several students exhibit a preference for kinesthetic learning, as they recall positive experiences with hands-on activities, such as operating machinery, hunting, or engaging in sports. This suggests that incorporating practical, active tasks could enhance their engagement and understanding in an English class, potentially through project-based learning or interactive assignments.

Other students express a strong inclination towards visual learning, favoring demonstrations and visual aids over lengthy explanations. This indicates that strategies like using imagery, videos, or graphic organizers might be particularly effective for these learners. In an English classroom, visual storytelling, comic book analysis, and film studies might resonate well with them.

A few students showcase a preference for learning through written language, with activities such as journaling and note-taking aiding their comprehension and retention of information. For them, English class could be enriched by opportunities for creative writing, structured essays, and research projects that allow for deep exploration of topics.

Auditory learners, though not as prominently represented in these responses, might benefit from discussions, oral presentations, and storytelling, suggesting that debates, reading aloud, and podcast projects could be particularly engaging for them.

Overall, the analysis suggests a need for a multifaceted approach to teaching English, one that incorporates hands-on, visual, auditory, and written elements to cater to the varied learning styles within the classroom.

Conclusion

The insights gleaned from the student responses provide a valuable roadmap for structuring the upcoming unit in the Grade 9 English class. It is evident that a one-size-fits-all approach will not suffice; instead, a diversified strategy that honors the individual learning preferences is essential for maximizing engagement and educational outcomes.

For the kinesthetic learners, the upcoming lessons will incorporate interactive elements such as role-playing exercises that parallel literary themes and character analysis, as well as hands-on projects that might involve constructing visual representations of plot developments or thematic concepts.

Visual learners will benefit from the integration of multimedia resources, such as film adaptations of literary works, visual storytelling activities, and the use of graphic organizers to map out story arcs or character relationships. The inclusion of visual art in project work, such as storyboarding or creating visual essays, will also be key.

Auditory learners will be engaged through the use of storytelling, oral interpretations of texts, and group discussions that encourage verbal articulation of ideas. Podcasting assignments or debates on literary themes could also serve this group well, offering them the opportunity to learn in their auditory comfort zone.

For those who thrive on written expression and reflection, structured writing assignments will remain a staple. These tasks will be designed to encourage critical thinking and personal connection to the material, ranging from analytical essays to personal journals that reflect on the themes within the literature.

Furthermore, the curriculum will strive to make literature relevant to the real-world experiences of the students, drawing parallels between the historical and scientific elements found in texts and the students’ interests. This relevance will be enhanced through research projects and discussions that bridge the gap between the curriculum and the students’ individual curiosities and passions.

By tailoring the upcoming English unit to address these diverse learning preferences, the aim is to create a rich, multi-dimensional learning environment where each student can connect with the material in a meaningful way. This adaptive approach is not merely a response to the student feedback; it is a proactive step towards a more inclusive and effective educational experience that seeks to engage every learner in the classroom.

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