Building on Student Diversity: Profiles and Activities


Joy R. Cowdery, Linda Ingling, Linda E. Morrow & Vicki A. Wilson

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Part I: Profiles and Cumulative Folders

    Part II: Activities

  • Dedication

    To my family and students. To my former high school students for any insight and respect I have for teenagers and their resiliency. Especially to my sons for their contributions to this work: to Aaron for his insight and honesty, to Benjamin for his knowledge of Spanish and Latino life, to Dylan for the remarkable pterodactyl drawing from second grade that I attributed to Malcolm. To my family for their patience in sharing me with the work I love. Especially to my husband, Joe, for all his love and support in everything I attempt.


    To Goodwin S. Rogness III, who was the wind beneath my wings. To the students who were the inspiration for Leslie and Yu-shin.


    To the high school students I had the privilege of teaching, especially Phil. You showed me what perseverance in the face of adversity looks like and what can happen when teachers provide opportunities for all students to be successful. I promised you we would capture some of the challenges in a book someday. To my family, Roger, David and Lori, Nathaniel and Anne, whose unconditional love and appreciation of diversity across settings, time, and experiences have enriched my life beyond measure. And finally, to Eliza and Jack, for the hope that each new generation brings.


    To the teachers who discover the gifts that lie within us all. To my first teachers, Dr. Kenneth N. Wilson and Rita W. Wilson. To Greg.



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    As teachers of students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds, we firmly believe that everyone can learn. As former classroom teachers, we put this belief into action by designing classrooms and learning activities that promoted the intellectual, emotional, and social growth of each of our students. Now, as professors who prepare college students to become teachers, we struggle to develop the dispositions and teach the strategies that will help our students promote the growth of each of their future students.

    In the past, we relied on short case studies and field experiences to teach our students about the challenges of teaching children from a wide variety of backgrounds and with a wide range of abilities. How much more beneficial it would be, we thought, to have a group of children that all our students knew who could help us show them how to create powerful learning experiences in classrooms and schools that were respectful and supportive of all. So we began to write stories—stories about children we made up from the knowledge and experiences we had had as parents, teachers, and professors. And we began to develop activities that would allow our college students to learn about these special children and their potential for growth as whole persons.

    As we began to use these stories in our classes, the children became an integral part of our teacher education program. They showed our students what it was like to be “different.” They showed our students how to create a caring school environment, to accommodate for special learning needs in instructional activities and assessments, and to interact with families and communities. They showed our students that all children, even those who are most challenged and challenging, have faces, names, and lives outside the classroom.

    In this book, which evolved from our writing project, we introduce you to six prototypical children—Casey, Sarah, Malcolm, Raul, Leslie, and Yu-shin—who have a wide variety of backgrounds and abilities. If you are a teacher candidate, they will help prepare you for working with real children in real classrooms. If you are a professor in teacher education, you will find that the stories of these children can bring your classroom instruction to life, from initial classes in diversity, through general methods and content-specific methods courses, and even into student teaching or clinical practice seminars. Because all of your students know all of these children, there is a common basis for instruction and discussion. If you are a dean or department chair, or the accreditation director, you will find that the activities in this book contribute to meeting Standard 4 of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), specifically Element 1: Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of

    Curriculum and Experience in relation to diversity. All of the faculty in our teacher education department have been using these stories and activities in undergraduate and graduate education classes for more than 3 years and recognize their contribution to the effectiveness of our candidates in understanding and building on the diverse backgrounds and abilities of students. This book can be used alone or can complement other textbooks in multicultural education, special education, family and community collaboration, general methods, specific-content methods, and student teaching or clinical practice seminars.


    The book is organized with an introduction to the setting of the stories, followed by

    • Part I: Profiles and cumulative folders of students
    • Part II: Activities

    Chapter 1 includes a profile of Midland, U.S.A., a small town in which the children live, as well as profiles of the schools they attend. These descriptions help place the children in a community context and provide insight into their own and their families' lives. The three activities included in this chapter provide experience in thinking about the children in relation to their families and communities. For courses in which family and community backgrounds are central, faculty will want to begin with this section. For other courses, setting may be less important, and faculty may wish to have their students skip this section and move right into the children's stories.

    Part I includes Chapters 2 through 7, the children's stories and their cumulative folders. The children include Casey, a European American child from an impoverished background with a specific learning disability in reading; Sarah, a working-class European American child identified as intellectually gifted; Malcolm, an African American child diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder); Raul, a Mexican child who is an English Language Learner in kindergarten and the early grades who recognizes in high school that he is gay; Leslie, who is in a wheelchair because of an automobile accident; and Yu-shin, an English Language Learner in middle school and high school who is reluctant to adopt the language and culture of his new home.

    The children's situations are captured at three points: early childhood (prekindergarten through Grade 3), middle childhood (Grade 4 through Grade 8), and high school (Grade 9 through Grade 12). Raul is an English Language Learner in early childhood but experiences cultural dissonance throughout his school career. Yu-shin is an English Language Learner in middle school and high school. The English Language Learners are profiled at the time they enter Midland schools.

    For this book, we have attempted to produce prototypes, not stereotypes, and have used both the relevant literature and our own experiences to develop characters who are interesting individuals as well as representative of the groups we wish to illustrate. The characters themselves are purely fictional and do not represent any one of the many children we have worked with over the years. Where characteristics of known persons and places have been used in developing the stories, names and circumstances have been changed to protect their identities.

    One of the unique aspects of this book is the inclusion of cumulative folders, or permanent record files, for each of the children profiled. In our experience, teacher education candidates and even entry-year teachers have little experience in working with the tool most likely to provide information about students and their specific learning challenges—the cumulative folder or permanent record file. In developing these folders, we have included examples of real-world documentation, including grades, medical records, results of standardized tests and state assessments, parent-school communications, and student work. And although these records are not complete—some of the children would have folders as thick as this book—they will give teacher education candidates insight into the kinds of information available to teachers and practice in using this valuable primary resource.

    Part II includes Chapters 8 through 12, the activities designed to be used with the children's profiles and folders in Part I. The chapters highlight the following areas:

    • Getting to Know Your Learners
    • Designing Environments That Support Your Learners
    • Developing Lessons to Meet the Needs of Your Learners
    • Gathering Data to Improve Instruction
    • Communicating With Families: Activities

    The activities employ a variety of instruction strategies, including reflective journaling, group discussion, role playing, and preparation of letters, posters, and other products of communication. Explicit instructions are given for classroom experiences, and rubrics for assessment of learning are included for many activities.

    The activities have been piloted in our institution and have been revised and improved with the insights and experiences of our colleagues and students. In our experience, these activities have helped candidates to understand the lives of children whose experiences are far different from their own, to incorporate student backgrounds into curriculum in order to maximize motivation and academic success, to adapt learning activities and assessments that better meet students' abilities and disabilities, and to include families and communities in the learning process.

    The profiles in Part I are intentionally not “cases” or “case studies,” in that they do not contain specific dilemmas for discussion and analysis. They are simply the stories of students. It is the activities in Part II that present teacher education candidates with the directions for how to interact with the profiles—and the students—through reflection, discussion, and action. And because the profiles are not bound by specific problems, faculty are encouraged to use the stories of the children in ways that are useful in their own courses, in any activity in which having a collection of children to “put a face” on diversity might be useful. It is our intention that Casey, Sarah, Malcolm, Leslie, Raul, and Yu-shin become students in your simulated professional development school, much as they have in ours. We hope that they will help your teacher candidates learn to understand and build on student diversity in ways that value every child and ensure that every child is both successful and challenged in the learning process.

    Many people have contributed to this project, and we would like to acknowledge the following and thank them for their assistance: to Dr. Kaye M. Martin for her help in conceptualizing the project; to Dr. Sandy Long for her contribution to the development of Malcolm's cumulative folder and for sharing her expertise in special education; to our colleagues in

    teacher education at Muskingum College who used the “Raul Project” and offered corrections and suggestions that made the activities more useful and the stories more real; to our students at Muskingum College who piloted the activities, offered their insights into the profiles and activities, found the typos and inconsistencies in our stories, and encouraged us by sharing with us their revelations and their passion for teaching; to our conference colleagues who made suggestions that improved the effectiveness of the project and encouraged us to publish our work; to the editors at Sage who made excellent suggestions for improving the final project; to our peer reviewers for their helpful feedback: Patricia J. Wall, University of Portland, Elaine Foster, Grambling State University, Jean Ann Foley, Northern Arizona University, Patricia G. Maiorino, University of New Haven, Gail P. Gregg, Florida International University, Sheryl Conrad Cozart, George Mason University, Miroslava B. Vargas, Texas A&M International University, Denise Blum, California State University Fresno, Mary Curran, Rutgers State University of New Jersey, Winston Vaughan, Xavier University, Terrence O. Harewood, University of Indianapolis, and Anonymous Reviewer, Temple University; to Marilyn Spragg Jenrette, MD, for verifying Leslie's medical records; to Rachael Hrisak and Heather Frese for allowing us to borrow their early work for Sarah's folder; to Susan Larson for helping to develop documents for Sarah's folder; to Megan and Brett Butler for their childhood experiences as gifted children; to Dr. Donna Adornetto and Lori Morrow for assistance in developing Casey's individualized educational program; to Aaron, Benjamin, and Dylan Cowdery for their contributions to the prototypes of our fictional students.

  • Glossary

    Accommodation A change made to teaching methods, student activities, teacher or student materials, or student assessments that addresses specific learner differences. When an accommodation is made, the goals and/or objectives of the lessons remain the same.

    ACT A four-year college admissions test given to juniors and seniors that assesses their English, science, social studies, and mathematics skills.

    Adaptation Any change made in a lesson that is designed to improve the likelihood that the lesson will address specific learner differences.

    Adaptive behavior Behavior that enables an individual to better meet the specific requirements of his or her environment. In an academic setting, the term refers to behaviors that are needed to be successful in social settings and in carrying out daily living activities. For example, a 10-year-old child with “adaptive behavior deficits” still might have difficulties dressing himself or herself or talking to adults other than his or her parents.

    Adderall A prescription stimulant medication that has been recently added to those used to treat ADHD.

    Advocate An individual (n.) or process by which (v.) someone pleads the case for, encourages, or supports individuals or groups in their attempts to reach their goals.

    Apgar A noninvasive clinical test designed by Dr. Virginia Apgar in 1953 that is performed on a newborn, with a score given for each of five signs or behaviors at 1 minute and 5 minutes after birth. Apgar is an acronym for Activity (Muscle Tone), Pulse, Grimace (Reflex Irritability), Appearance (Skin Color), Respiration.

    Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder A neurobiological disorder defined in the DSM IV that is characterized by chronic patterns of inattention and/or impulsivity and hyperactivity that last at least 6 months, are inconsistent with age-level expectations, are observed in at least two settings, and have a significant negative impact on educational performance.

    Auditory discrimination Being able to perceive the difference between two sounds or sound patterns. For example, a child with an auditory discrimination problem may not be able to hear the differences between a short e sound and a short i sound.

    Clonidine A prescription medication often used to treat high blood pressure. It also has been found effective in treating ADHD, although it is not currently approved by the FDA for this use.

    Cognitive behavior modification A therapeutic approach that focuses on teaching individuals to monitor their own behavior by using principles of operant conditioning as they become aware of that behavior.

    Conners Rating Scales Checklists with versions for both parents and teachers that allow them to rate an individual's inattentive, impulsive, and/or hyperactive behaviors; often used as one of several diagnostic tools to identify ADHD.

    Differentiation An approach to planning curriculum and instruction that increases the likelihood that the needs of academically diverse learners will be met. Historically, the term was used in describing the processes needed to adapt lessons to meet the needs of learners who were talented and gifted, but the term is now used to refer to the processes needed to adapt lessons to meet the needs of all learners.

    DSMDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the handbook used most often in diagnosing mental disorders in the United States and internationally. The latest version, the DSM IV, was published in 1994.

    Dyslexia A term used to describe a pattern of behaviors exhibited by individuals of average or above-average intelligence who, though they have been provided with appropriate reading instruction, have not been able to learn to read or read fluently. Dyslexia is currently thought to be based on difficulties in mastering sound-symbol relationships due to some combination of genetic and/or neurological auditory and visual processing deficits.

    Encopresis A medical term for the unintentional passage of stool that has no clear cause; fecal incontinence.

    Enuresis A medical term for the involuntary discharge of urine; incontinence of urine.

    Evaluation team report (ETR) The report completed by the multifactored evaluation team that summarizes the results of a variety of assessments used to determine whether or not a child has a disability that can be identified under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) 2004.

    Fine motor The use of small muscles, such as those that permit movement of the fingers, to accomplish such tasks as cutting and printing.

    Goldstein Behavioral Observation Checklist An informal assessment in which patterns of behaviors can be documented historically, it has been used as an observation option in the diagnosis of ADHD.

    Gross motor The use of large muscles, such as those in the arms and legs, that permits individuals to walk, carry or catch items, and so on.

    Hydrotherapy The use of water as a therapeutic tool for enhancing movement, strengthening muscles, and minimizing stiffness and pain; often used as a form of rehabilitation.

    Individualized education program (IEP) The plan for instruction and accommodations tailored to the specific needs of each and every student, age 3 through 21, who has been identified with a disability under IDEIA 2004. The initial IEP is developed from the evaluation team report as part of an IEP team meeting that includes parents, a building administrator, and relevant teachers. It is rewritten whenever there are changes in services and/or placements or once a year, whichever occurs first. The IEP serves as the “road map” for the individual child's education.

    Intervention assistance team (IAT) A group of teachers (usually both general and special education teachers) and a building administrator to whom other educators bring specific challenges they are facing with individual students. The IAT works with educators to help them identify other ways in which they can work with the student, gather additional information from guardians and other relevant adults, and provide support to the teachers as they try to provide more successful instruction. According to IDEIA 2004, some type of prereferral activity, such as that completed through an IAT process, is required prior to referring a student for a multifactored evaluation for potential identification as a student with a disability.

    IQ (Intelligence quotient) A somewhat dated, though still commonly used, term to refer to the quantitative measurement of an individual's intellectual capacity, ability, or learning potential. Most often it refers to that individual's capacity to learn academic types of concepts and skills, although more current theories of intelligence include ways of measuring learning potential that extend beyond academic areas.

    Modification Changing the learning goal and/or objective and/or changing the difficulty of the content to meet the needs of learners who either do not have the prerequisite knowledge and skills for the stated learning goal and/or objective or have already mastered that goal and/or objective.

    Multifactored evaluation (MFE) The name of the assessment process that occurs when legal guardians have given consent for a team of educators to determine whether or not their child has a disability recognized by IDEIA 2004. The multifactored evaluation always includes multiple measures that are conducted by professionals with sufficient expertise to use the relevant assessments. The MFE must be preceded by documentation of prereferral intervention steps that were not sufficient for the student to be successful.

    Multisensory approaches Teaching methods that simultaneously appeal to more than one sense and that help learners with strong sensory preferences to benefit from the lesson. For example, a multisensory lesson might include lesson components that require the use of the visual, auditory, and tactual senses.

    Postsecondary options Opportunities that students may have to continue their education and/or training after graduating from high school. IEPs written for students with disabilities, age 16 through 21, must include some reference to postsecondary options in their transition plans if they are appropriate for those students to consider.

    PSAT A precollege admission test typically given to high school students during their junior year, although students identified as talented and gifted initially may take it during their junior high years. Performing well on the test may qualify students for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

    Pull-out program Usually a special education placement where it has been decided that a student's least restrictive environment for a particular special education service is in a setting separate from the one in which he or she would be with his or her peers who do not have disabilities. In general, this type of a program is considered more restrictive than providing services in an inclusive setting.

    Ritalin A prescription stimulant medication, chemically related to an amphetamine, that acts as a mild stimulant of the central nervous system and is used in the treatment of ADHD.

    Round-robin A reading practice in which students take turns reading orally. It can be a challenge to students who have either a difficult time paying attention or reading difficulties. It is usually not recommended practice past the earliest years of reading instruction.

    SAT A 4-year college admissions test given to juniors and seniors that yields a score in the subject areas of English and mathematics, as well as a combined score.

    Schoolwide positive behavioral support A systems approach to discipline that emphasizes the prevention of problem behaviors through instruction and consistent reinforcement, data-based decision making, and more intensive behavioral intervention if preventive approaches are not sufficient.

    Social behavior Interpersonal behavior; behavior patterns exhibited in social settings. In schools, the term often refers to expected patterns of behavior at certain ages and stages that children exhibit as they interact with teachers and peers.

    Social skills assessment The use of a variety of measures (checklists, interviews, role plays) to determine what behaviors individuals can and will use in social settings.

    Sound-symbol relationships In reading, the understanding that letters (the symbols) each represent one or more sounds that, when combined, make up words.

    Specific learning disability (SLD) Also referred to as “learning disability,” a disorder in one or more psychological processes used in the production or reception of language that has a significant impact on educational performance and is not due to sensory deficits, for example, hearing or vision problems; mental retardation; emotional disorders; or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantages. Academic areas in which the specific learning disability may have a significantly negative impact are reading (word recognition and/or comprehension), mathematics (calculations and/or reasoning), written or oral expressions, or listening comprehension.

    Talented and gifted (TAG) An identification that refers to individuals with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential to perform at extremely high levels when compared to their peers in one or more of the following areas: intellectual capacity, creative and/or artistic endeavors, leadership potential, or specific academic disciplines.

    Think-aloud A teaching strategy or method where the teacher first models a process, orally describing the steps taken or components considered, then slowly transfers that process to the students until the students can silently think through the steps of the process independently.

    Transition plan The portion of a student's IEP that focuses on measurable postsecondary goals and services needed to prepare the student for those goals; must be included by the time a student is 16 years of age, if not sooner.

    Unbiased terms The systematic use of language that minimizes the likelihood that a particular group either (a) will not have had experience with the word(s) and thus be at a disadvantage or (b) will be prejudiced by the connotation of particular words.

    Universal design for learning (UDL) A plan for creating goals, methods, materials, and assessments that address learner differences. This plan is developed from information obtained through the preassessment of learners and builds in any needed changes prior to the time the lesson is taught.

    Visual discrimination Being able to perceive the difference between two visual images. For example, a child with a visual discrimination problem may see a b but interpret it as a d.

    Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children(WISC) A widely used individual intelligence test, standardized for children ages 6 to 16, that yields three overall scores: a score that reports the composite of verbal subtests, a score that reports the composite of performance subtests, and a full-scale score that reports an overall score of intellectual potential. The mean score is 100 and the standard deviation is 15. Versions still in use include the WISC III and the WISC IV, with the WISC IV published in 2003.

    Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Ability One major component of the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery. This component is designed to measure general academic and thinking skills needed to be successful in school versus achievement in specific academic areas.


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    About the Authors

    Joy R. Cowdery, EdD, is Assistant Professor of Education at Muskingum College. She holds an EdD in Educational Leadership/Critical Pedagogy, an MA in Communication from West Virginia University, and a BA in English, Speech, and Drama from Marietta College. She has taught English and communication in high school. Currently she teaches diversity education and secondary language arts methods at Muskingum College and serves as an adviser for Kappa Delta Pi national education honorary. She is a Praxis III assessor for the Ohio Department of Education and serves as a member of the Ohio Department of Education accreditation teams. She belongs to and presents at numerous professional organizations. Areas of professional interest are multicultural education, social justice, and rural poverty.

    Linda Ingling, PhD, is Associate Professor of Education and Chemistry at Muskingum College. She holds a BS in Biology from Westminster College, Pennsylvania; an MEd from the University of South Carolina; a BS in Chemistry from Clarion University, Pennsylvania: and a PhD in Chemistry from Duquesne University, Pennsylvania. Her experiences in education include teaching biology, chemistry, physics, and assorted math courses at the middle and high school level as well as chemistry at the college level. She is a member of the American Chemical Society, the Science Education Council of Ohio, and the Ohio Association of Teacher Educators. She currently teaches courses in math and science methods for grades kindergarten through 12th grade.

    Linda E. Morrow, PhD, is Professor of Education and Special Education Program Advocate at Muskingum College. She holds a BA in Psychology from Muskingum College, an MEd in Special Education from Ohio University, and a PhD in Teacher Education, with minors in educational psychology and reading, from Ohio State University. Her experiences with children and families in southeastern Ohio include teaching high school students with specific learning disabilities, parent education, social work, and youth ministries. She is a member of the State of Ohio Advisory Panel for Exceptional Children, the Ohio Special Education Personnel Development Advisory Committee, and the Center for Improving Teacher Quality project, and served on the Ohio Department of Education's Ohio Teacher Education Licensure Advisory Commission from 1998 to 2002. She currently teaches graduate courses in special education. Her research focuses on schoolwide positive behavioral support and adolescents with reading challenges. She lives with her husband on a farm and has two grown sons and two grandchildren.

    Vicki A. Wilson, PhD, is Professor of Education and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in Teacher Education at Muskingum College. She holds a BA in English from the University of Dayton, an MBA in Business/Government Relations from American University, and a PhD in Educational Administration, with a minor in educational research, from the University of Southern Mississippi. Her experiences in education include teaching middle school in inner-city Tampa, Florida, coaching teachers in math and language arts in rural Mississippi, and teaching scuba diving to hearing-impaired adult students. She served as the President of the Ohio Association of Private Colleges of Teacher Education from 2003 to 2005 and on the Ohio Department of Education's Ohio Teacher Education Licensure Advisory Commission from 2001 to 2005. She currently teaches a course in educational issues for student teachers at the undergraduate level and directs research projects at the graduate level. Her scholarly interests include gifted education and educational research.

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