Inspiring Middle and Secondary Learners: Honoring Differences and Creating Community Through Differentiating Instructional Practices


Kathleen Kryza, S. Joy Stephens & Alicia Duncan

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: Inspiring Middle and Secondary Learners

    Part II: Activities and Designs to Inspire Middle and Secondary Learners

    Part III: Evaluating and Committing to the Inspiring Classroom

  • Dedication

    To our students:

    Thank you for all you have taught us and for being our inspiration.

    To our fabulous families:

    Thank you for your love and support. Thank you for believing in us.

    The authors will be donating a portion of their proceeds from this book to Challenge Day, a non-profit organization whose vision is to see that every child lives in a world where they feel safe, loved and celebrated.

    Mission Statement:

    Challenge Day provides youth and their communities with experiential workshops and programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth and full expression.


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    List of Figures


    A recent business magazine editorial suggested that “If we hope to fill our innovation pipeline with world-class knowledge workers, then we need to invest in an education system that can produce them. A competitive, knowledge-based economy will require the support of specialists in sales and marketing, HR, law, and general business management.” This may be true, but is that all? Don't we deserve more than this from our educational system? Is it not time to aspire to an education system that does more than simply turn out highly trained people who can execute commercial tasks? After loving and being loved, the second greatest human need is to inspire and be inspired. Should this, then, not be the most important goal of education?

    For many leaders, running companies, countries, churches, schools, and organizations has been distilled to a mundane pattern of task mastery, leading to a life more akin to the perfection of a Newtonian assembly line. But Newton's theories are history. Life is not made up of discreet, Newtonian, “billiard ball” objects. As we now know, it is a quantum world, consisting of an exquisite interplay between an infinite number of energies. Leadership is about relationships. In particular, it is about inspiring relationships.

    My work with the leaders of organizations is often remedial—I find myself working intensely with very intelligent and brilliant leaders who, on the other hand, are sometimes so dysfunctional that they couldn't run the Mad Hatter's tea party, let alone General Motors or France. I so wish I could have worked with these same people earlier in their lives, while they were going to school, for example. Perhaps there I might have helped them to calibrate their life goals differently, thereby enabling them to play out their lives in a more inspiring way that consequently inspired others and made the world better.

    Fear has been a prevalent and inappropriately used weapon in teaching for years. “Here is the system. Here is the curriculum. Jump these hurdles in the right order and at the right height, and I will give you a prize.” In these teaching settings, fear became the base operating system. Failure to “follow the rules” was failure in a hundred other ways. Motivation manipulates the behavior of others through material, physical, and emotional bribery It is based on fear (punishment and reward) and ego (this is about me—I want to look good). But it cannot be sustained because, in the end, fear exhausts us.

    A teaching friend of mine used a different, inspiring system. He would say to his university class on the first day, “At the end of this semester there will be an exam in which you will be asked a number of questions that will stretch you. My job, between now and then, is to teach you and help you to grow so that you can answer them. I intend this to be a successful partnership.” This is teaching that comes about through inspiration, which, in turn, can only come from a loving heart. Inspiration is about serving the other, about loving others so much that, in the phrase of Thomas Aquinas, we will their good. Stand and Deliver and Coach Carter rolled into one.

    Imagine, too, if we taught students to reflect on why they are here on this planet, what they will stand for, and how they will serve the world with their gifts—what I call Destiny, Cause, and Calling. All great leaders have known the answers to these questions. This is what made them great—and so inspiring. We have the opportunity to make a difference in the world by making a difference in the hearts of students—not just in their minds.

    Inspiring Middle and Secondary Learners takes these concepts and brilliantly expands them into concrete methods that help teachers to engage their students, inspire them, involve them, and—what I love best—invite them to be personally accountable for learning. The emphasis is on inspiring and honoring students and inspiring them to learn for the rest of their lives. Who wouldn't be great after passing through an educational system that honors and inspires individual learners?

    Ah, now that's the kind of school where I would not have been a holy terror!



    Our decision to collaborate and write this book came from our mutual passion and desire to inspire ALL middle school and secondary students to honor themselves, to honor other learners, and to become lifelong learners. After months, days, and hours of conversations during hikes in the woods, long dinners, morning coffees, and long distance calls, we were compelled to go beyond the talk and take action. We decided to write a book that will show teachers the big picture as well as step-by-step instructions for how to nourish the hearts of students within a rich and diverse learning community, open students’ minds to the joy of learning, and thus create inspired learners. Diversity extends beyond cultural, linguistic, and academic diversity; understanding diversity shows appreciation for the uniqueness of each individual learner.

    We invite you to come join us on this journey. We are still on the path, not at the destination. And to paraphrase Albert Camus, “Sometimes the journey itself is enough to fill one's soul.” The new understandings we have developed in the process of writing this book have truly transformed how we view our work as educators. As a result, we are different teachers, we are deeper thinkers, we are different neighbors, stewards, and humans. For us, the journey has become a passion, and we feel compelled to share what we are discovering with you.

    As we travel on this journey, we are rethinking the way we teach, the way we view and speak to our students, the way we see our classrooms, and the way we interact with each other. It's more than a rethinking, really; it is a shift in vision and focus. In this era of high-stakes testing, it is a journey that reminds us we are teaching kids, not curriculum.

    What will you encounter as you journey through this book? You will learn about the research and theories that support best methodologies for reaching middle and secondary learners, as well as tried and true, pragmatic, and doable steps for translating theory into practice in your classroom. (Teachers who use the best methodologies for reaching the adolescent learning brain are best preparing their students, not only for tests but also for life!) Using these step-by-step strategies, activities, lessons, and designs will make learning engaging and meaningful for your students while also allowing you to teach and reach your state standards.

    But, more important, we believe this journey will allow you to uncover or rediscover yourself. You will recall the beliefs that lead you into teaching, beliefs that may have been buried by years of frustration over a system that requires more and more from us. When you rekindle your beliefs, and give yourself permission to grow and teach using practices that inspire you, you will inspire others in ways yet to be revealed.

    So come join us. Remember, it's a journey, not a destination, and the rewards will fill your soul!

    Kathleen, Alicia, and Joy


    As Sir Isaac Newton said, “I have seen further than most only because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” Our thinking for this book is based on the current educational research in metacognitive strategies, learning styles, multiple intelligences, differentiated instruction, constructivist thinking, brain research, and choice theory. We see ourselves as interpreters between the world of philosophy and the reality of the classroom. We would like to thank the great educational thinkers of today from whom we have learned so much about helping students grow as learners. We are indebted to William Glasser, Carol Ann Tomlinson, Patricia Wolfe, Eric Jensen, Lucy Calkins, Nancy Atwell, Howard Gardner, Thomas Armstrong, and Susan Weinbrenner, David Sousa, and The National Research Council (for the wonderful book How People Learn).

    In addition, Corwin Press gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    Patti Hendricks, NBCT, English Teacher Sunset Ridge Middle School, West Jordan, UT

    Mansoor Kapasi, Mathematics Coach Urban Education Partnership, Los Angeles, CA

    Kathryn McCormick, NBCT, 7th Grade Math Teacher Gahanna Middle School East, Gahanna, OH

    Sammie Novack, Vice-Principal Washington Middle School, Bakersfield, CA

    Dr. Nancy Reese-Durham, Education Consultant Department of Public Instruction, Raleigh, NC

    About the Authors

    Kathleen Kryza consults internationally for her company, Infinite Horizons. She has more than 20 years of experience in motivating and reaching children, educators, and others through her teaching, consulting, coaching, and writing. Her expertise is in working with students in special education, gifted education, alternative education, and multicultural education. She has a master's degree in special education and is an adjunct professor in Special Education at University of Michigan—Dearborn. Kryza is an active volunteer for the Challenge Day programs in Washtenaw County She resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with her partner, Roger, and their “kids” Rennie (the dog) and Sasha (the cat).

    Alicia Duncan is a consultant, program coordinator, and teacher trainer for the Waterford School District in Waterford, Michigan. She shares her expertise across the state of Michigan and throughout the nation in reaching and teaching English language learners, gifted students, culturally diverse learners, and inclusion students through differentiated instruction. She has a master's degree in ESL teaching methodology. She resides in Waterford, Michigan, with her husband, Noel, and their gifted (and challenging) feline companions, Henry and Harold.

    S. Joy Stephens teaches two beautiful children (on a 24-hour basis!) to honor themselves as unique individuals. She has taught middle and high school students of all levels and abilities in differentiated science, math, and foreign language classrooms. She is a presenter and trainer in practical strategies for differentiating classrooms and inspiring students. She has a master's degree in biology. She resides outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Mark, and two inspiring children, Alex and Susie.

  • Opening the Door: Creating an Inspiring Legacy

    “Hold on to people, they're slipping away.


    Now is the time for us to take bold steps as middle school and secondary educators. We are losing too many of our students to apathy, boredom, and failure. By high school, as many as 40% to 60% of all students—urban, suburban, and rural—are chronically disengaged from school (Klem & Connell, 2004). Now more than ever, our students need us to honor them as individuals. They deserve to learn in a safe and inviting community. They have a right to be taught information that is relevant to their world. So let us open our classroom doors, enter our classrooms, and be inspired by the faces of the learners who surround us. Be joyfully curious about our students as people as well as students. Be open to all the possibilities they bring to our learning community. Be willing to take risks and make mistakes to make learning come alive in our classroom.

    We create the legacy we leave for our students. Will we create a legacy of inspiration or a legacy of complacency? The choice is ours. We can choose to experience the joy of knowing our students, the richness of learning in a community, and the power of connecting students’ lives to the depth of our content, or we can choose to cover content and teach as if one size fits all. If we choose to pass along a legacy of inspiration, we lead our students to discover their own greatness. Because they have seen themselves as contributors in our inspiring classrooms, they will see themselves as contributors in creating a better world. And the world will be a better place. What greater legacy could we possibly leave?

    Material removed from this electronic book due to restricted rights.


    How to Use the Resources:

    The resources are designated by an alphabetical and numerical component. The alphabetical component represents a group of similar resources. For example, B.3 and B.5 are student surveys. The numerical component signifies the sequence within the group of similar items and helps navigate the reader through that section.

    • Overview
      • The Big Picture
      • Goal Setting
    • Student Surveys and Questionnaires
      • Multiple Intelligences Survey
      • Sternberg Processing Preference
      • Learning Styles Inventory
      • General Interest Inventory
      • Specific Content Knowledge and Interest Inventory
      • Learning Preferences Questionnaire
    • Resources for Working With Groups
      • Group Contract
      • Group Processing Sheet
      • Group Behavior Chart
    • Bibliography for Vital Know-Hows
    • At-a-Glance
      • Anchor Activities
      • Ways to Chunk, Chew, and Check
    • C U KAN
      • Examples of Understandings
      • Learning Target Template
      • Planning Guide Template
    • Example Lesson (Environment) Written in Each Dynamic Design
      • C U KAN for ALL Lesson Designs
      • Choice Design
      • RAFT Plus
      • Tiered Lesson
      • Contracts
      • Learning Stations
      • Compacting
    • Lesson Templates
      • Tic-Tac-Toe
      • Cubing
      • Destination Dice
      • RAFT Plus
    • Lesson Planning Guides & Example Handouts
      • Designing a Student Contract
      • Student Work Contract
      • Work Log
      • Planning Learning Stations
      • Curriculum Compacting Guidelines
    • Assessment
      • Quality Work Rubric
      • Exit Cards
      • Criteria for Quality Work
      • Rubric (detailed)
      • Rubric (simplified)
    • Further Reading
      • General
      • Varied Level Texts
    D. Vital Know-Hows Bibliography
    Biancarosa, C., & Snow, C. E. (2006). Reading next—A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report to the Carnegie Corporation of New York (
    2nd ed.
    ). Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved May 7, 2006, from
    Billmeyer, R., & Barton, M. I. (1998). Teaching reading in the content areas: If not me, then who?Aurora, CO: McREL.
    Daniels, H., & Zemelman, S. (2004). Subjects matter: Every teacher's guide to content area reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Harvey, S., & Goudis, A. (2000). Strategies that work. York, ME: Stenhouse.
    Horowitz, R. (Ed.). (1994). Classroom talk about text: What teenagers and teachers come to know about the world through talk about text. San Antonio, TX: International Reading Association.
    Jensen, E. (1998). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    National Research Council. (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
    Rothstein, E., & Lauber, G. (2000). Writing as learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    Schoenbach, R., Greenleaf, C., Cziko, C., & Hurwitz, L. (1999). Reading for understanding: A guide to improving reading in middle and high school classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Sejnost, R., & Thiese, S. (2001). Reading and writing across content areas. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    E.2 Ways to Chunk, Chew, and Check Learning


    (That's how the brain learns best!)

    Chunk (Input): Vary the ways students acquire new information.

    • Read the book or other, outside text
    • Do a role play
    • Play a game
    • Watch a video
    • See a presentation or demonstration
    • Do an experiment
    • Use technology or other media
    • Class discussion
    • Use tiered content—Content offered at varying readiness levels

    Chew (Process): Vary learning activities or strategies to provide appropriate methods for students to explore the new concepts. It is important to give students alternative paths to process the ideas embedded within the concept.

    • Do the questions
    • Students design questions and share with each other
    • Walk and talk about questions or prompts presented by the teacher
    • Talk partners—students turn and talk to deepen understanding
    • Total physical response—students learn or create movements to help them recall
    • Tiered activities where students work at different levels of support, challenge, or complexity
    • Centers that allow students to explore the key understandings in a variety of ways
    • Developing contracts (task lists written by the teacher and containing both in-common work for the whole class and work that addresses individual needs of learners) to be completed either during specified agenda time or as students complete other work early
    • Offering manipulatives or other hands-on supports for students who need them
    • Using graphic organizers, maps, diagrams, or charts to display comprehension of concepts covered (vary the complexity of the graphic)
    • Offering students a choice in how they want to process understanding of new vocabulary (draw, map, act out, etc.)

    Check (Output): Vary how students show understanding and transfer of the learning.

    • Take a quiz or test
    • Tiered products or tiered quizzes or tests
    • Product choice (i.e., song/rap/poem, skit/video, presentation, etc.)
    • Using rubrics that match and extend students’ varied skill levels
    • Allowing students to work alone or in small groups on their products
    • Formative ongoing assessments with students involved in self-assessing
    K.1 Further Readings
    Chapman, C., & Freeman, L. (1996). Multiple intelligences centers and projects. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    Cohen, E. G. (1994). Designing groupwork: Strategies for the heterogeneous classroom (
    2nd ed.
    ). New York: Teachers College Press.
    Erickson, H. L. (2000). Stirring the head, heart and soul: Redefining curriculum and instruction (
    2nd ed.
    ). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    Glasser, W. (1993). The quality school teacher. New York: HarperCollins.
    Gregory, G., & Chapman, C. (2002). Differentiated instructional strategies: One size doesn't fit all. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    Jensen, E. (2000). Different brains, different learners: How to reach the hard to reach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    Jensen, E. (1998). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Kingore, B. (2002). Rubrics and more!Austin, TX: Professional Associates.
    Kottler, E., & Kottler, J. A. (2002). Children with limited English: Teaching strategies for the regular classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    Silver, H., Strong, R., & Perini, M. (2000). So each may learn: Integrating learning styles and multiple intelligences. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms (
    2nd ed.
    ). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Tomlinson, C. A. (2004). Fulfilling the promise of the differentiated classroom: Strategies and tools for responsive teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Weinbrenner, S. (1996). Teaching kids with learning difficulties in the regular classroom. Minneapolis: Free Spirit.
    Weinbrenner, S. (2001). Teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom. Minneapolis: Free Spirit.
    Wolfe, P. (2001). Brain matters: Translating research into classroom practice. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    K.2 Varied Level Texts

    Lerner Classroom

    Leveled nonfiction books & teaching guides

    Social Studies, Science, Reading/Literacy K-8


    Leveled nonfiction for grades K-8

    National Geographic

    Nonfiction & content-based fiction

    Reading Comprehension, Expository Writing, Differentiated

    Theme Sets


    Time for Kids

    Nonfiction & fiction in the content areas


    Pearson AGS Globe

    Middle and high school high-interest and varied reading level text resources



    Asher, J. (2000). Learning another language through actions. Los Gatos, CA: Sky Oaks Productions.
    Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services. (2005). First impressions. In The interview itself. Retrieved May 6, 2006, from!elpgeg
    Biancarosa, C., & Snow, C. E. (2006). Reading next—A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York (
    2nd ed.
    ). Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
    Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S. E. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the craft of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L. B.Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning, and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaser (pp. 453–494). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
    Jensen, E. (1998). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Klem, A. M., & Connell, J. P. (2004). Relationships matter: Linking teacher support to student engagement and achievement. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 262–273.
    Pearson, P. D., & Gallagher, M. (1983). The instruction of reading comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 8, 317–344.
    Secretan, L. (2004). Inspire: What great leaders do. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.
    Secretan, L. (2006). One: The art and practice of conscious leadership. Ontario, Canada: The Secretan Center.
    Sousa, D. (2006). How the brain learns (
    Third Ed.
    ). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Tomlinson, C. A., & McTighe, J. (2006). Integrating differentiated instruction + understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

    Corwin Press

    The Corwin Press logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin Press is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK-12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin Press continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”

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