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Differentiated Instruction in the Religion Class

The Religious Education classroom is becoming more pluralized and secularized each year. How can we, as religion teachers in a Catholic school setting, reach all learners and make Catholicism relevant to their lives using differentiated instruction

Margaret Poniatowski

on 12 May 2014

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Transcript of Differentiated Instruction in the Religion Class

Differentiated Instruction
in the Religion Class

Profession of Faith
Family Life
It is always a good idea to know where the students are at when teaching Family Life topics, whatever the grade level. I will be focusing mostly on grades 9-10 and this is an age where a lot of issues need to be addressed, especially in the areas of personal relationships and sexuality. So it only makes sense to begin with a KWL chart.

KWL charts
are graphic organizers designed to guide and assist learning. They allow each student to share their knowledge, ask important questions and explain their learning. Students may be nervous to ask personal questions without concealment so it may be useful for teachers to also have a drop box somewhere in the room for students to ask anonymous questions.
According to the Ontario Catholic Secondary Curriculum Policy Document, one of the overall expectations for the Profession of Faith strand is to "describe Mary as a model of discipleship" (37). In order to meet this expectation teachers need diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment strategies in order to adjust their teaching to reach all learners and to provide all learners with an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge. Potential strategies include:

Diagnostic: Pre/Post Assessment Chart

Formative: Exit Cards

Summative: Choice Board
Prayer and Sacramental Life
What is Differentiated Instruction?
How Can It Be Applied To The Religion Class?
Jigsaw/Expert Groups
For Christian and moral you can use a Jigsaw to allow students to teach each other the unit. Jigsaws can work at any grade level because they involve any lesson that has readings to be done, or content that can be broken down into parts, teachers can divide readings or tasks among a few "expert groups" and then have the groups teach each other the concepts afterward. In the article Moral Teachers, Moral students by Rick Weissbourd he talks about how many character education efforts in schools now focus on everything from community service to teaching students virtues, building good habits, rewarding positive behavior, and developing students' capacity for moral reasoning. This works very well with the Grade 10 Religion course as you can break up students into expert groups and have them choose one of the virtues to explain to the class. In a traditional "Jigsaw", the "expert groups" are shuffled so that each jigsaw group contains at least one expert on each part of the lesson. If we have students in the class be the expert on one of the virtues (prudence, justice, commutative justice, social justice, distributive justice, temperance, fortitude). I would take the activity one step further and have students choose how they want to teach their virtue and be an expert to the class. The students can provide graphic organizers and students can write down the major ideas from each “expert group” as they present.The students have the opportunity to work with a group to learn pertinent material which can be a departure from traditional 'teacher-centred' learning, as students teach themselves a concept and then become 'teachers' for the rest of the class. This engages students with the course content by providing the opportunity for movement (kinesthetic learners) and discussion
This activity requires little extra preparation. Any required reading can be used for this activity. Break up reading (by topic, chapter, etc.) in advance (to choose groups) or allow students to choose their own groups. I have done this using the textbook as a source but taking the students to the library to use the Netbooks or iPads would be another great way to generate interest and promote research. This activity can take 15 minutes or an entire class, depending on depth of the activity. I think this could be a week long project that could teach an entire Unit if you wanted it to be student centered.
There are no extra material requirements.
For example:
Students in expert group A learn part 1
Students in expert group B learn part 2
Students in expert group C learn part 3
Students form groups of 3 with one A, one B and one C and teach each other what they learned in their expert group.
If the students are not doing a presentation they would rotate through a carousal type activity and have to explain their virtue to the group they are with. Might be beneficial to ask students to have a hand out or give out a graphic organizer so the other students in the class could copy down the important points. I think the teacher could also do a summative assessment afterwards by taking the notes created by each group and formulating test questions.
Christian Moral Development
Preparation/Extra Material Requirements:
Differentiated instruction is based on the premise that, since students differ significantly in their interests, learning styles, abilities, and prior experiences, then teaching strategies, materials,
and pace should vary accordingly.
In your classroom, this means:
• supporting diverse learners by instructing in ways that recognize that:

− students learn best when they are actively involved in and physically interactive with
their environment;
− students develop a deeper understanding when they are encouraged to construct their
own knowledge;
− students benefit from choice, both as a motivator and as a mechanism to ensure that
they are working at an optimal level of understanding and development;
− students need time and encouragement to reflect on and communicate their
Successful differentiated instruction facilitates all types of learners. As a teacher, aim at
developing a combination of teaching strategies that are responsive to all students’ needs.
You can do this by:

• using a variety of groupings to meet student needs;
• providing alternative instruction/assessment activities;
• challenging students at an appropriate level, in light of their readiness, interests, and
learning profiles.
Diagnostic Assessment
Profession of Faith Strand:
Mary As a Disciple
Pre/Post Assessment Chart

What It Is:
- A quick pre-unit and post-unit assessment -- all on one sheet of paper.
- On the first day of the unit students are given a chart with 5-10 multiple choice or true of false questions related to the unit.
- Students complete the left hand side of the chart before the unit (diagnostic) and the right hand side of the chart at the end of the unit (potentially formative)

- Teacher can identify prior knowledge.
- Students witness first-hand how much they learn.
- Less pressure than a formal assessment (i.e. test)
Formative Assessment
Profession of Faith Strand:
Mary As A Disciple
Exit Cards

What It Is:
- Quick assessment tool for teachers to help them become more aware of student understanding of concepts taught.
- Exit cards are written student responses to questions posed at the end of class or learning activity. It is their "ticket out the door".

- They are not marked (evaluative) -- they are used as a formative assessment to better understand what students do understand and what they are struggling with. Teachers can alter their teaching accordingly.
- Helps teachers determine the students readiness for learning a new concept.
- Can use the "difficulties" at the start of the next class or to guide extra help sessions with that student.
Summative Assessment
Profession of Faith Strand:
Mary As A Disciple
Choice Board

What It Is:
- A summative evalutaion where students can select a task in one of three categories -- oral, written, visual ( or one from each category depending on the depth of the task).

- It allows students to select their task which should hopefully encourage them to be more engaged with the creation of the project.
- It works to the theory of Multiple of Intelligences.
- It provides diversity for students and teachers.
KWL Charts for Diagnostic Assessment
Four Corners and Think-Pair-Share
for Family Life Topics
Classroom structure can be a very important aspect of teaching. For example, placement of desks and arrangement of computers can have an effect on how the students are learning. Teachers must consider the activities that will be delivered throughout a unit and structure that class accordingly. When it comes to differentiated learning, the structure of the classroom activities is also extremely significant. A few strategies that can be used in Family Life are the following:

Four Corners:
Teachers can choose basically anything to label the four corners of the classroom. For example, the teacher may ask an opinionated question and can label each corner with a different answer, such as agree, strongly agree, disagree, strongly disagree. There are many Family Life topics that students will have differing opinions on and may not be sure about in the beginning, such as healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, sexually transmitted diseases, the meaning of the word ‘love’, the virtue of chastity, conflict resolution, etc. This is a great opening for discussion to a lesson. Having the students in groups with others that share their opinion will allow them to be more comfortable expressing themselves.

After having students read or study a particular Family Life topic, Think-Pair-Share allows them to think and reflect on their learning. The students are placed in pairs and asked to discuss the course material. Then, each pair is asked to share their thoughts with the rest of the class.

Ontario Catholic Secondary Religious Education Curriculum Policy Document. (2006). Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Differentiated Assessment for the Summative Task

Choice is a Wonderful Motivator!
Consider giving students some choice when they are doing guided or independent work.

Choose How to Work
• Allow students to choose the order of completion when they have multiple tasks to do.
• Allow students to choose whether to work alone or with a partner for some tasks.
• Allow students to choose which tasks to complete from a list of possibilities.
• Provide students with a wide variety of resources including technology, books, magazines, etc.

(Taken from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/teachers/buildingfutures/files/pdf/differentiated7and8.pdf)
- Rubrics for this task can be co-constructed by using the input of the students.

- The purpose of this is to deepen student understanding and engagement!

“Setting criteria with students does not take up valuable instruction time – it is instruction!”
Dr. Anne Davies
1) Survey the attitudes of 10 people, of all ages, about their beliefs on different Family Life topics. Provide them with a simple chart to fill out. Then, share the results with the class and draw conclusions from your findings.

2) Make a soundtrack for Family Life Education. Choose 10-15 songs, purposefully, that go along with different topics throughout the strand. Present the list to the class and be prepared to explain the reasons why you chose each of the songs.

3) Act out one of the suggested conflict role-plays, and show the class how to handle it using Gospel and Church teachings.
Group C - Oral
1) Cut out of magazines, newspapers, etc. to create a collage of items that represent the family life cycle. You may use words as well as pictures.

2) Create a quality, coloured advertisement of one important lesson that was learned about shaping interpersonal relationships (eg. communication is key to a healthy relationship)

3) Design a personal coat of arms. Include at least 4 symbols that represent your personal values (in light of the Gospel and Church teachings). Use Colour!
Group A - Visual
Choose ONE activity from EACH of the following groups
Sample Summative Task for grades 9-10
Family Life
1) Devise your own 10 Commandments that articulate the qualities which are essential to the building of healthy relationships. (small paragraph or list)

2) Choose a scenario from a list provided to you. Please respond with appropriate advice and show how one’s decision should be guided by the Christian virtue of chastity.

3) Research one of the Family Life topics further. Then, create song lyrics based on an important message. Lyrics should be the length of a typical song.

4) Create a 10-question quiz about a Family Life topic. Think about important details that students should know and remember. Include an answer key.
Group B - Written
Gospel Assignment

Your task for this summative assignment is:
•Identify the “Good News” of the message of the Gospel
•Write a Gospel in contemporary language
Your Gospel is to include:
•An infancy narrative
•A parable re-told in modern language and setting
•A miracle
•10 significant events from the life of Jesus
•A sermon or story that reflects the message of the “good news”
•An expression of the divinity of Jesus, including some of the titles associated with Jesus
Your Gospel may take the format of:
•A comic book with illustrations
•Bit strip
•A children’s story
•A booklet with pictures
•A video or dramatization
•A website or PowerPoint presentation
Events from the life of Jesus
Review the Books of the Bible- Jeopardy Game
Using the clues given, determine the name of the book of the bible suggested by each. For this game students will be divided in three big groups. In this game one of the students will be the host of the game. He/she will reveal slowly the clue first for higher value. Groups may steal the answer from another group. If none of the groups is able to find the correct answer the host the clues revealed and the amount of money will be decreased.
We know that not all students learn the same way and differentiated instruction applies equally to the religion class just as it does to any other subject area. Giving students multiple outlets to express their learning will create a much richer learning environment.
Religion lessons can be tailored to the appropriate grade level. It is a good idea to try as many different teaching strategies so that all students have a chance to succeed. Games, songs, quizzes, art, skits, puzzles are all great ways to engage students in religion. Differentiated assessment is equally vital. Students should be given multiple opportunities to express their learning in various different ways, such as presentations, tests, poetry, visual art etc… Helping students develop on their faith journey can be a fun and very rewarding experience, as long as each student has an opportunity to excel in their own personal way.
All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talents.
John F. Kennedy
Differentiated instruction is effective instruction that is responsive to learning preferences, interests and readiness of the individual learner.
When we teach we must keep adolescents’ learning manners in mind, we must plan differently for instruction and create responsive environments for students’ cognitive, social, and emotional development in learning.
Differentiated instruction involves flexible grouping, resources, and materials that meet the varied needs of students in a class, as well as opportunities for students to learn in conditions which they prefer.
Providing students with choice that is focused and well thought out allows them to maximize their learning capabilities
Differentiating the product refers to the way in which a student shows what he or she has learned (writing report, display of photos, video presentation, oral presentation, oral testing, visual display etc.)
In a differentiated classroom:
Students differences are studied as a basis for planning
Assessment is on-going and diagnostic to understand how to make instruction more responsive to learners’ needs.
Focus on multiple forms of intelligences is evident
Students are frequently guided in making interest-based learning choices.
Many learning profile options are provided
Many instructional arrangements are used
Multi-option assignments are frequently used
Time is used flexibly in accordance with students need.
The teacher facilities students’ skills at becoming more self-reliant learners.
Who we teach?
How we teach?
What we teach?
How students demonstrate their learning?
Where we teach?
Important Points:
•Illustrations may be original, or from clip art
•All sources must be referenced
•Any copyrighted material must be cited
•As with any assignment, neatness, spelling, and grammar count

Read the Bible passage assigned to your group and create a comic strip or a skit with four scenes to present to your peers. The audience will explain the message of the Bible passage how they interpreted from you. They will also evaluate the product. Each member of the group must summarize, in written form, key points using few words to show the understanding of the message
Students are divided into eight groups. The teacher creates eight stations. In each station the instruction folder and a chart paper shall be placed. Each group will be assigned one station and write down as many points as they know regarding to their specified topic. Groups will rotate in each station and complete all other charts until they return to the station at which they began. The following eight topics will comprise the gallery:
1.Literal Vs. contextual interpretation
2.Literary forms in the Bible
3.Inerrancy and inspiration
4.How to locate and note scriptural passages
5.When the bible was written and what it contains
6.Definitions of terms that pertain to the Bible
7.A biblical map of region during the days of Jesus and a biblical time chart
8.The development of the Gospel
Gallery Walk (UNIT REVIEW)
Personal Prayer
Liturgy of the Word
In our busy lives it is often difficult to take a moment to pause, breath and be thankful for the many gifts that God has given us. This is only amplified for our students who are far too often peer pressured to think that ‘prayer’ is not ‘cool’ and therefore becomes taboo.
The following are activities used to engage the learner and give them choice with regards to their relationship to God and the importance of taking those few minutes to be with Him in prayer.
First lets take a quick look at the following chart which outlines types of prayer. These can be used as guides when working through any of the following activities. Perhaps giving students a specific prayer-type will assist them in this time of reflection.
This portion of the Prezi will be on the strand of Prayer and Sacramental life found in the secondary school curriculum. Many of these activities can be adjusted accordingly to accommodate different grade levels by simply altering them to fit grade level expectations. Let's begin by taking a look at the overall expectations from grades 9-12 under the strand Prayer and Sacramental Life.
Prayer Journal Activity
Coming together to thank God for God's gifts
Differentiation Possibilities
Prayer Journal
Mandala Activity
A prayer journal is a tool students can utilize throughout their lives in order to keep track of answered prayers. This enables students to see how the power of prayer can increase their faith capacity as they see how God answers their prayers.
Prayer and Sacramental Life Expectations:
Believe in the power of prayer (gr.9)
Recognize how the whole person (mind, body and spirit) is involved in prayer (gr.10)
Know and recognize the diverse forms of prayer (gr.11)

Create a prayer journal to be used in and outside of class throughout the semester.

Must Include:
At least 20 pages.
A title page/ Cover design
Should be a personal representation of the creator and their spirit!
Prayers must be dated, and checked off if evidence of prayer is fulfilled.-
Indication of the ‘kind’ of prayer is also required (This will either be given to you in class by your instructor or will be figured out by the individual student in their own time)
Materials Required:

A new or old note book, paper, coloured paper, pencil crayons, markers,
old magazines, Bible, hymnal, glue, scissors etc..

The prayers will not be shared or read by the teacher. Only a selection chosen by the student will be read by the teacher for asses
ment purposes. The number of prayers will also be counted. A student may wish to share their prayer with the class/teacher on occasion.
- Adapt it to be a prayer soundtrack instead of prayer journal
-Could be collages, drawings more visual than written word
-Collection of found prayers instead of ones students create themselves.
Students can choose either to colour or create/draw their own Mandala using the materials provided in class.

The word Mandala is sanskrit for circle. However, not all Mandala’s need to be circular. Mandala’s are typically utilized in Buddhist and Hindu religions but you may be surprised to learn that they are also quite present in Christianity. For example in the Celtic cross or rose windows often found in Gothic Churches.

For this activity the objective of using a mandala is to create a sacred space for which students feel comfortable praying silently. This in turn will help them to focus on their prayer; whatever it may be that day.


-The mandala should be have at least 2 colours (not including black and white)

Symbolism utilized must be clarified. This can be either orally upon submitting the Mandala or written on the back. (number of points, colours used, placement of shapes etc..)

-Prayer intention must be labelled on the back of the Mandala

-Work independently in silence promoting quiet reflection
If students are not keen to draw or colour the Mandalas, they can research them online; find a few examples and explain the symbolism in their own words.
Often times the idea of being silent can pose a difficulty for students. Encourge those who have difficulty being silent to listen to music while they draw/colour. Perhaps even provide them with specific listening options (Taize, Gospel/ Worship music)
Students may also wish to create their mandala on a computer instead of hand drawing it. If you have access to technology by all means use it!

Students will create a liturgical celebration on a topic of their choice to be presented in class. Some examples are; Remembrance Day, Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, Graduation, a Memorial service etc... The choice must be approved by the teacher.
Each Liturgy must include: One Old and one New Testament Reading, One Hymn, Intercessions and a brief Homily(2-5 min max)

-For this task students will choose a reading befitting of their theme.
-Students should be able to present their reading clearly using good articulation, pacing and volume.
-There should be evidence of good preparation- confidence and understanding of content while reading.
-Each student will be required to include a rationale for their reading choice(either orally upon submission or written).
Old Testament Reading / New Testament Reading
For this task a student in the group will choose a hymn/song with liturgical ties. This means that it does not need to be a song solely found within the common Catholic Hymnals-CBW/Glory and Praise etc... They can utilize almost any worship song as long as it is appropriate to the theme of their liturgy.
The student must have a sample of the song either via performing it themself or a recording. They must provide the lyrics and a rationale for their choice (either orally upon submission or in written format)
Hymn Choice
Guiding Rationale Questions:Why did you come to choose this reading/hymn?How does this reading/hymn fit with the theme of your Liturgy?What specific examples within the text/lyrics make this an appropriate reading/hymn?
For this task a student will write 8-10 intercessions. These do not have to be completely self created. Students can research and choose the most befitting intercessions for their topic. Of the 8-10 intercessions one must be specific for the school community, one must be for the greater Catholic community, and one must be on their theme.
Final culminating task
For this task a student will write a Homily, connecting the Old testament reading and the new Testament reading to their theme. The student must include a clear perspective on their theme and its relevance in today’s society. The homily should be presented clearly with good articulation, vocal projection, pacing and confidence. It should be between 2-5minutes.
Differentiated Assessment
It is very important for students to have some input into their final culminating mark. In doing so you allow the student to take more ownership of their work. For this task a Group, Peer and Teacher assessment will be completed. The group assessment is a rating scale on 4 significant questions. The peer assessment is a checklist to be completed during/after the liturgical presentation and the teacher assessment is a co-constructed rubric which both the students and teacher will create together in preparation for the assessment.
This rubric is a general outline to be used in class. As mentioned a co-constructed rubric needs to be worked on together.

Ask the students:
What would a level one look like vs. a level 4?
What components make up a level 3?

Doing a placemat activity or some role-playing activity would be effective. It is important to come up with this criteria together so there is no question as to what the expectations are.
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