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FINDING INTEREST AND RELEVANCE

ENGAGING ABORIGINAL STUDENTS IN READING AND WRITING ACTIVITIES


THROUGH MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES

A Project Report

Submitted to the Faculty of Education

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements

for the Degree of

Master of Education

in Curriculum and Instruction

University of Regina

by

Grace D. McLeod

Stanley Mission, Saskatchewan

July, 2009

© 2009: G. D. McLeod
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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Coming to the Question 1

The Study 4

Finding Out More: Reconnaissance 5

From the Experience of Others 5

The Literature Review 5

Initial Action for Project 20

Critical Steps: Methodology 21

Action Research 21

The Participants 23

Data Collection 23

Data Analysis 27

Ethical Arrangements 27

Critical Friends 29

Learning from My Practice: Action Research Cycles 30

Assessing Student Needs 30

Using Multiple Intelligence Surveys 32


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Activity-Based Learning in Reading 33

Activity-Based Learning in Writing 36

Generic Novel Study Unit Plan 38

Project-Based Assessment 41

Discussion of New Understandings 42

Impact of Project on My Understandings 42

Impact of Project on Participants 45

Impact of Project on Others 47

New Insights into Action Research as Professional Development 47

Action Research and Teacher Professional Development 47

Action Research and Self-Understanding 48

Possible Changes for Next Time 48

Conclusion 52

References 53

Appendices 57

Appendix A: Sample Consent Form 58

Appendix B: Activity Rating Scale - Teacher Form 60


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Appendix C: Interest Questionnaire 61

Appendix D: Reading Strategies Questionnaire 63

Appendix E: Unit Feedback Questionnaire 65

Appendix F: Activity Rating Scale - Student Form 67

Appendix G: Sample Choice Board 68

Appendix H: Sample Rubric 69

Appendix I: Student Interaction 70

Appendix J: Sample Student Work 71

Appendix K: Cultural Camp Activities 72

Appendix L: Sample Graphic Organizer 73

Appendix M: Generic Novel Study Unit Plan 74

Appendix N: Major Project Assignment Matrix 75

Appendix O: Student Activities for Novel Study 76

Appendix P: Sample Final Project for Novel Study 79


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COMING TO THE QUESTION

Finding interest and relevance in learning have been important themes in my journey towards

meaningful learning and the main reasons why it was an important project for me to pursue:

How can I help Aboriginal students engage more actively in their learning through the use of

Multiple Intelligences? My main question developed from other questions: How do I make

connections from what students learn so that it is interesting and relevant to their lives? How do

I get students interested in what they are learning? How do I make learning relevant to students’

lives? How do I make learning relevant to their circumstances? How can I approach the

community to help with the application of their learning? My concern over these questions came

from my students’ lack of motivation as to what they were learning.

For the past three out of four years of experience, I have been a grade nine homeroom teacher

(my first year teaching was in a grade one class). In my three years of experience teaching grade

nine, I found that there is no particular way of teaching students, because when it comes to the

reading, writing, and mathematical skills, there will never be a class where all students learn

everything the same way; there is no such thing as the perfect lesson or the perfect program.

In my first two years of experience of teaching grade nine, I found that students enjoyed being in

my classroom (for the most part anyway). However, I had come across students that did not

have the motivation to learn. This was especially true for note-taking and independent learning

activities. When it came time for Language Arts or Math, you could see the expression on a

student’s face, as though they were saying “Okay, let’s get this over with” or they would actually

say, “I don’t want to do this”, or “why do we have to do this?” There was a lot of tension in

class whenever we did anything that did not interest the students.
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I first discovered the lack of motivation in student learning during my first year teaching grade

nine students. I began to see that my students were doing the work for the sake of finishing their

work and I was teaching for the sake of completing required areas of study. I started to use

management skills when students got off task for any reason. I started to focus too much on my

management skills and getting students to finish their work. I found myself thinking that as long

as they finished their work they were fine, without realizing if what they were learning was

meaningful to them. For example, when my students were learning about Shakespeare’s Romeo

and Juliet (Page & Petit, 2005; Roy, 1987), they did not show any interest. We spent so much

time reading and interpreting the play that all we had time to do was end-of-scene questions and

end-of-act quizzes. I was not doing my part anymore. I started to question myself, “what good

is teaching when students are not motivated to learn? How meaningful will this learning be to

them if they are not interested?” These questions led me to think about times when I believed

learning was meaningful to my students.

Earlier on, before Romeo and Juliet, we had done a novel study on S.E. Hinton’s (2005) The

Outsiders. My students loved the story line because they could relate to the narrator’s point of

view: the life of a fourteen year old boy who struggles with identity and societal norms. My

students loved the novel so much that they were still talking about it months after we had

finished studying it. One of their favourite lines from the novel was “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay

gold...” (p. 148). They loved saying that line to each other so much that I used Frost’s (1923)

“Nothing Gold can Stay” as an introduction to our poetry unit (cited in Hinton, 2003, p. 77). I

came to the conclusion that students must find relevance in what they are learning so that they

can see how it connects with their lives.


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During my second year teaching in grade nine, I had started including material that I thought

would be of interest to the students in Language Arts. I used thematic units to incorporate short

stories, poems, and novels that encompassed a certain theme, such as the themes suggested in

English Language Arts: A Curriculum Guide for the Middle Level (Saskatchewan Learning,

2006). For the most part, the students were interested in their learning, yet there were still

students that struggled with the assignments I would then give after reading a particular story or

part of a novel. For these students, I would give more time for them to work on their

assignments during library period or offer after-school tutoring (which they did not like at all). I

also had students that did the assignments in record time and were not interested in doing any

extra work that was not required for other students. I would let early finishers go on the

computer for free time (which distracted students that were still doing assignments).

I began to question myself: What good is teaching when students are not motivated to learn?

How meaningful and interesting will this learning be to them if it is not appropriate for their

level of learning? This was when I decided that interest and relevance alone cannot make

learning meaningful for students. What students are learning must also be at an understandable

learning level to motivate the student to want to learn more. If I could somehow make learning

interesting, relevant, and understandable, then it would be meaningful for them. If students are

engaged in meaningful learning, then they will have the motivation to want to learn more.

My interest for motivation and meaningful learning developed from my own love of learning.

My original question was: how do I inspire students to follow their own dreams? My question

further evolved into: How do I make connections from what students learn so that it is

interesting and relevant to their lives? After another year in grade nine, my question had further

evolved to include students at different levels of achievement: How can I make learning
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meaningful for students that are at different levels of achievement so that they are motivated

through interests and relevance to their lives? After much research, my research question

evolved to: How can I help students engage more actively in their learning through the use of

Differentiated Instruction? I am a firm believer of meaningful learning and I want to make sure

that every student in my classroom has an equal opportunity to thrive to their fullest potential in

whatever subject area they are learning.

After reading literature on differentiated instruction, I was overwhelmed with this approach to

instruction, yet I still wanted to use it. I decided to narrow my project down to using Multiple

Intelligences to differentiate my instruction. Through the conceptual frameworks of

Constructivism, Differentiated Instruction, Multiple Intelligences, and Student Engagement, my

main purpose for my action research project is: How can I help students engage more actively in

their learning through the use of the Multiple Intelligences?

THE STUDY

This action research study was conducted in a grade nine classroom, situated within a northern

Saskatchewan community where the majority of the community consists of Aboriginal people.

For my project, I explored a particular aspect of my practice: engaging Aboriginal students in

reading and writing activities through Multiple Intelligences. I began with examining my

concern related to motivation and meaningful learning through a literature review. Through my

reconnaissance, I found what I believed to be the appropriate theoretical frameworks for my

action research study: Student Engagement, Constructivism, and Differentiated Instruction using

Multiple Intelligences. As I progressed through my action research study, I made observations

and collected data, which provided material for analysis and reflection with the help of my
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critical friends. My analyses and reflections led to new understandings about myself and my

practice. As I came across these new understandings, I acted upon them and experienced the

action research cycle of action, observation, and reflection over and over again.

FINDING OUT MORE: RECONNAISSANCE

FROM THE EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS

My reconnaissance began when I started gathering information on motivation and meaningful

learning by speaking to educators and reviewing literature related to my study. Most of the

educators that I spoke with provided me with the teaching strategies that they had used in

classrooms, which they believed helped to motivate students for learning. These strategies

included positive reinforcement, incorporation of games during lessons, and students working in

groups. Other suggested strategies were providing incentives for students that finished their

work and/or threatening to remove the said incentives. I have found, from previous experience,

that providing or removing incentives may motivate students to “work,” but learning may not be

as interesting or meaningful for students.

THE LITERATURE REVIEW

As I perused through countless journal articles I was fortunate enough to find certain articles that

offered suggestions on how to make learning meaningful to students. I looked at various topics

mainly to give me an overview of what I expected to find and to see if there were any other

topics and/or issues that were connected to my question. Similar to what the educators had said,
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most of the articles I had read emphasized that teaching strategies played an important role as to

how a student learned.

Lumpkin (2007) suggested that “Action-based or experiential learning teams and problem-based

learning are more successful than lectures in helping students see the relevance of what they are

expected to learn as well as in helping them remember and apply what they are learning” (p.

159). By using experiential learning, students have the opportunity to experience first-hand what

they are learning. Furthermore, according to Jaramillo (1996), when students are engaged in

problem-based learning, they have the opportunity to socially negotiate meaning by eliciting

different perspectives about a problem (p. 139).

One article by Helterbran (2005), “Lifelong or School-long Learning: A Daily Choice,” was of

particular interest to me since it suggested ways to make learning meaningful. He stated that

“Applicability beyond the classroom gives students an opportunity to ‘test’ their knowledge and

skills in a fashion not replicable in the classroom itself” (p. 263). Helterbran further suggested

that “Opportunities for applicability can take many forms... service learning, community service,

mentoring, tutoring, or providing a performance, seminar, or exhibit for a local library, museum,

or parent group” (p. 263). These types of action-based experiential learning activities provide

meaningful learning for students because they get to see first-hand what they can do with what

they have learned and possibly make a change for the better as well.

These initial articles were very appealing to me, but I did not want to simply make learning

meaningful for students; I wanted learning to be meaningful for students. In other words, I knew

there was something more to it than just using the right teaching strategy for a certain lesson. I

needed a theoretical framework to work with so that I would not get side-tracked by a potpourri
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of ideas. Reading scholarly articles that reviewed works and thoughts of educational theorists

had given me further insights as to where I wanted my project to go, and also had given me an

idea as to what type of theoretical framework would best fit my perspectives and beliefs about

education and meaningful learning. With the help of a fellow educator, I started looking into the

learning theory of constructivism.

Constructivism is a learning theory that had developed through the contributions of such

theorists as Piaget and Vygotsky. As these two theorists differ in thought, and taking into

account that there is no clear definition of constructivism, I will facilitate a much broader

definition by Cheek (cited in Kumar, 2006), where it is explained that “constructivism

encourages learners to actively process knowledge, link it to previously assimilated knowledge,

and make it theirs by constructing their own interpretation” (p. 248). The point here is that

learning is meaningful to students because they use their previous knowledge to construct or

reconstruct their world as they know it. So, how do you encourage different learners to actively

process knowledge, link it to previously assimilated knowledge, and make it theirs by

constructing their own interpretation? I believe that Differentiated Instruction provides an

answer to this question.

In “A Rationale for Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom,” George (2005) states

that “differentiation provides a variety of ways for all students to feel affirmed, challenged, and

successful: flexible grouping, appropriately challenging tasks for individuals, and emphasis on

personal growth as one criterion for success” (p. 188). What particularly caught my attention

was the following statement: “Differentiating instruction, difficult as it may be, is the choice for

teachers who will not accept a classroom where growing numbers of students are increasingly

less successful” (p. 190). As part of the “nature of the learning process,” it is noted that
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“interests that are needs driven, in their turn, give rise to motivation to learn; humans are

motivated, primarily if not exclusively, to learn what matches their individual interests and,

therefore, helps them meet their deeply felt needs” (p. 191).

In Anderson’s (2007) article, “Differentiating Instruction to Include All Students,” it is noted that

“teachers who differentiate believe that every child is unique, with differing learning styles and

preferences” (p. 50). Anderson makes the following excellent point: “Of the utmost importance

to the teacher who differentiates is providing a learning environment and opportunities that

exclude no child” (p. 50).

Does differentiated instruction really work? An article by Lewis and Batts (2005) seems to

suggest so. In this article, administrators at a particular school helped teachers implement this

approach by providing “ongoing staff development, suggested instructional videos, assigned

readings, observed colleagues’ successes, and highlighted the consequent rise in student

achievement” (p. 27). The process was a lengthy and exhausting one for the teachers involved

but in the end teachers felt it was worth the time and effort. As one teacher said, “Even though it

takes a lot of time upfront to plan for a differentiated classroom, the benefits have been proven”

(p. 31).

So how does one start a Differentiated Instructional approach? In Rock (2008), it is suggested

that teachers need a guide to transform teaching from “undifferentiated into differentiated

instructional practices” (p. 34). The following are steps from REACH (which also serves as an

acronym): (1) Reflect on will and skill. Here, teachers assess their own skills and current

knowledge. For example, teachers should ask themselves “what practices do you prefer or tend

to rely on most often?” (p. 34); (2) Evaluate the curriculum. Here, teachers look at the content
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that is to be taught, based on curriculum guidelines. “Moreover, they are filtered through the

interests, abilities, and educational needs of the children in the class” (p. 35); (3) Analyze the

learners. The idea here is to “gain specific information about each child” so that you can

differentiate based on readiness, interest, and learning profile (p. 35); (4) Craft research-based

lessons. It is suggested in this article that “the best way to achieve this goal is to plan, match,

and teach.” When plans have been made to match students’ with their readiness, interests, and

learning profiles, it ensures that “students are able to enter at their performance level” (p. 36).

This can be done by varying the research-based lessons; (5) Hone in on the data. “Data-

informed decisions about the students’ learning” need to be made through pre-assessments,

formative assessments, and summative assessments (p. 37).

In “Grading and Differentiation: Paradox or Good Practice,” Tomlinson (2005) answers the

following question: How do I grade differentiation? Tomlinson explains how grading and

differentiation can be compatible with one another. Tomlinson emphasized that “there is no

single ‘recipe’ for differentiation”, but “...there are certain heuristics or guides for differentiation,

which, if followed, are likely to assist teachers in developing defensible and effective practice to

the needs of diverse learners” (p. 263). With that in mind, I believe that rubrics would be most

beneficial when grading differentiated learning because students would be able to see ahead of

time on what they are being graded. Rubrics also provide objectivity for grading.

Based on one of the principles highlighted by Tomlinson (1999), differentiation applies to

content, process, or product according to student readiness, interests and learning profiles. The

following are the Principles of a Differentiated Classroom:

• The teacher is clear about what matters in subject matter;


• The teacher understands, appreciates, and builds upon student differences;
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• Assessment and instruction are inseparable;


• The teacher adjusts content, process, and product in response to student readiness,
interests, and learning profile;
• All students participate in respectful work;
• Students and teachers are collaborators in learning;
• Goals of differentiated a classroom are maximum growth and individual success;
• Flexibility is the hallmark of a differentiated classroom. (p.48).

What is student engagement? According to Connell, Wellborn and Newmann (cited in

Osterman, 2000), engagement “is a multidimensional variable including [behaviours], emotions,

and psychological orientation” (p. 339). When students are engaged in learning, they “are

interested in learning, enjoy challenges and persist in completion of tasks” (p. 339). The teacher

can do a lot to help a student become engaged in learning, such as varying the content, process,

and product for the lesson, but that does not mean that they have to do it alone. “Parents, peers,

and teachers play relatively independent roles in young adolescences’ lives and the effects of

having multiples sources of support on motivational and academic outcomes are primarily

additive rather than compensatory” (p. 339).

With differentiation, I believe that meaningful learning could be achieved by motivating the

students through modifying the content, process, and/or product of learning. However, after

reading articles and books on differentiated instruction, I was overwhelmed with the magnitude

of the idea so decided to focus my project on the use of Multiple Intelligences to differentiate my

instruction. My decision for choosing Multiple Intelligences to differentiate instruction was

strongly influenced by Campbell (2008):

Because differentiated instruction can include so many strategies, it is not easy to grasp
exactly how to differentiate. I think MI [Multiple Intelligences] is the best framework
available for designing differentiated lessons. It is a multi-modal approach that allows
students to work on the same skills and concepts but from multiple entry points. This
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approach increases the likelihood that teachers will be able to help students succeed. (p.
2)

The long-established view of intelligence, where intelligence has been measured by a number

(the intelligence quotient; otherwise known as IQ) to represent a person’s cognitive abilities, has

been redefined by the concept of Multiple Intelligences (Gardner, 1983). This concept suggests

that “intelligence is expressed in multiple forms” (Campbell, 2008, p. 3).

According to Gardner (cited in Campbell, 2008):

...human intelligence consists of three components: a set of skills that enables an


individual to resolve genuine problems encountered in life; the ability to create an
effective product or offer service that is of value in one’s culture; and the potential for
finding or creating problems that enables an individual to acquire new knowledge. (p. 3)

The Multiple Intelligences consist of eight intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial,

bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic” (p. 19). Other scholars

have used slight variations when referring to the eight intelligences. For example, Tomlinson

(1999) and Gregory (2005) use the terms “verbal-linguistic” instead of linguistic; “visual-spatial”

instead of spatial; and “musical-rhythmic” instead of musical. Nevertheless, the meanings

behind each of the intelligences are the same.

So, how does one use Multiple Intelligences in the classroom? Again, much like differentiated

instruction, there are many ways in which they can be used in the classroom. Campbell (2008)

suggested using learning centres where each learning centre represented one of the eight

intelligences. Learning centres, along with other ways of using the multiple intelligences in the

classroom, could be used as follows:

• Six or more learning centres each day;


• Three to five learning centres each day;
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• Learning centres once weekly;


• Whole class moves together to different classrooms;
• Whole-class instruction in multiple ways;
• One intelligence emphasized;
• Self-directed learning: students’ choices based on individual strengths; and,
• Apprenticeship programs. (2008)

Multiple Intelligences can also be used as a strategy to design curriculum, such as using a

“Thematic Planning Matrix” (p. 142). When using such a matrix, teachers are able to include all

eight intelligences into their planning. To aid in planning Multiple Intelligence lessons and

activities, a “choice board” can be utilized, entirely or partially, to create activities related to

Multiple Intelligences (Gregory, 2005). Each choice given can also be isolated for

demonstrational purposes and as a whole-class activity.

So, how do Constructivism, Differentiated Instruction, Multiple Intelligences, and Student

Engagement complement Aboriginal pedagogical approaches in Language Arts? Very well,

according to the literature on what motivates Aboriginal students. In Collected Wisdom:

American Indian Education, Miller Cleary and Peacock (1998) stated that “a very strong intrinsic

motivator for schoolwork is a student’s own curiosity, but it is only when the world of the

student has some overlap with curricular content that we can tap the student’s curiosity” (p. 223).

These ‘intrinsic’ motivators, identified by the authors, are: student choice; a connection to real-

life interests; tapping into cultural interests; and inquiry (p. 223-230). According to these

authors, student choice in what and how they learn “bring two kinds of intrinsic motivation to

their work” identified as self-determination and natural curiosity (p. 224). For example, students

get to choose “process” and “product” activities based on Multiple Intelligences (Tomlinson,

2001). The authors point out that making connections through real-life interests is “even better

than giving them choice” (p. 225). Using cultural aspects to connect students to curriculum is
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another intrinsic motivator that the authors call “tapping into cultural interests” (p. 227). The last

intrinsic motivator these authors mention is inquiry: “Curiosity is based on questions that a

human has about their world, and to fully use the inclinations that humans have toward curiosity,

school curriculum can be organized so that students can search for answers to their own real

questions” (p. 228).

In “Finding Yourself in Reading and Writing: Cultural Inclusion in the Classroom,” Richmond

(2002) reports on a course taken by pre-service teachers focused on new ways of looking at

literacy. According to Rogers (cited in Richmond), new literacy “explores cross-cultural

comparativeness, written registers, local genres, ethnographic and discursive accounts, and

literacy events and practices.” Richmond’s findings, within the process of discovering ways to

incorporate culturally relevant material in reading and writing, had the following effect:

If a young student could see and hear him or herself in a text, then he or she might
develop a personal identity with the character or events, and in this way, find solutions in
his or her own life. The potential for identification is strengthened when the character and
the dialogue reflect a cultural consciousness in essence. (2002)

Using culturally relevant material in the classroom ties in with the constructivist approach to

learning where learners are given the opportunity to connect new learning with what they all

ready know.

In “Strategies for Facilitating Success of First Nations Students,” Hampton and Roy (2002) focus

on creating a “more positive learning environment for First Nations students in [their]

classroom” (p. 1). Although this study was conducted primarily in a university setting with Arts

students, the results could likely be utilized in any educational setting. The study resulted in five

themes: (1) The professor/student relationship is the foundation for facilitating success of First

Nations students; (2) Including First Nations content in curriculum is a tool for facilitating
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student success; (3) Teaching methods; learning is a shared endeavour and cooperative

experience; (4) Teaching style; ‘You don’t take a class, you take a person’; And finally, (5)

Understand the life of a First Nations postsecondary student (Hampton & Roy, 2002, pp. 1-28).

Based on what I found, the perceptions of Aboriginal pedagogical approaches in Language Arts

and creating a positive environment go hand in hand with the learning theory of Constructivism

and the principles of a Differentiated Classroom. I now want to go on further by explaining

some terms that I will use in this project.

Defining the Terms

Aboriginal

According to the Government of Canada (2009) the term Aboriginal peoples refers to:

...a collective name for the original peoples of North America and their descendants. The
Canadian constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal people: Indians (commonly
referred to as First Nations), Métis and Inuit. These are three distinct peoples with unique
histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.

The term Aboriginal will be used as an identifier for participants involved, including myself, as

this study was implemented within a northern Saskatchewan community where the majority of

people are of First Nations and Métis ancestry.

Community

As stated by Bopp and Bopp (2006), a community refers to “any grouping of human beings who

enter into a sustained relationship with each other for the purpose of improving themselves and

the world within which they live” (p. 13). For the purpose of my action research project, the

term “community” will have two reference points: students as a community of learners, and; the
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greater community in which the participants reside. Outreaches were made to include members

of the greater community who shared common interests and goals with that of our classroom

community. The following are connections that were made of my practice to the greater

community: Differentiating Content - An Elder come into the classroom to demonstrate survival

skills; Differentiating Process - Family and community members assisted students’ learning

through interviews conducted by students about the origins of their community. Students then

analysed the interviews for similarities and differences; Differentiating Product - During an

annual cultural camp for grade nine students, community members assisted students with

culturally land-based activities, such as hunting, snaring, netting, fishing, fish filleting, cooking,

and berry picking. These activities were then used in class to help students create short stories.

Differentiated Instruction

From the words of Carol Ann Tomlinson (2001):

At its most basic level, differentiated instruction means ‘shaking up’ what goes on in the
classroom so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense
of ideas, and expressing what they learn. In other words, a differentiated classroom
provides different avenues to acquiring content, to processing or making sense of ideas,
and to develop products so that each student can learn effectively. (p. 1)

According to differentiated instruction, a teacher can differentiate the content, process, or

product based on student readiness, interests and learning profiles.

Differentiating by Readiness

Differentiating by readiness means adjusting materials, activities, and product appropriately for

various students’ needs to equalize their chances of being appropriately challenged in the

classroom (p. 46).


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Differentiating by Interests

Differentiating by interests can be done in two ways: (1) drawing on existing student interests,

and (2) expanding student interests. When drawing on existing student interests, teachers

encourage students to look at a unit of study through “the lens of that student’s own interest”

(p.53). Expanding student interests refers to “helping students discover new interests” (p. 55).

Differentiating by Learning Profile

A “learning profile refers to ways in which we learn best as individuals” (p. 60). Differentiating

by learning profiles helps “individual learners understand modes of learning that work best for

them, and to offer those options so that each learner finds a good learning fit in the classroom”

(p. 60). There are four main parts to the learning profile: a student’s learning style preference,

intelligence preference, culture-influenced preference, and gender-based preference (pp. 60-62).

The two parts that are of particular interest for my study are Intelligence Preference and Culture-

Influenced Preferences. For the purpose of this study, “Intelligence Preference” will be later

referred to as “Multiple Intelligences.”

Content

Content refers to “what we teach or what we want students to learn” (p. 72). A few ways that

content can be differentiated is by looking at the students’ readiness levels, interests and learning

profiles:

• Differentiating Content by Readiness... matching the material or information students


are asked to learn to a student’s capacity to read and understand it.
• Differentiating Content by Interest... including in the curriculum ideas and materials
that build on current student interests or extend student interests.
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• Differentiating Content by Learning Profile... ensuring that a student has a way of


‘coming at’ materials and ideas that match his preferred way of learning. (p. 73)

Process

A process is a “sense-making activity... focused on a portion of something essential that students

need to know, understand, and be able to do as a result of a particular study” (p. 79). Ways that

process can be differentiated by readiness, interests, and learning profiles are as follows:

• Differentiating Process by Readiness... matching the complexity of the task to a


student’s current level of understanding and skill.
• Differentiating Process by Interests... giving students choices about facets of a topic
in which to specialize or helping them link a personal interest to a sense making goal.
• Differentiating Process by Learning Profile... encouraging students to make sense of
an idea in a preferred way of learning. (p. 80)

Product

A product is an assignment that “should help students – individually or in groups – rethink, use,

and extend what they have learned over a long period of time – a unit, a semester, or even a

year” (p. 80). Products can also be used to assess student learning. Products can be

differentiated by students’ readiness, interests, and learning profiles. Examples of products

could be an essay, a model, an illustrated book, a PowerPoint presentation, or a song.

Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligences is a learning theory based on the work of Howard Gardner (1983).

According to Gardner (cited in Campbell, 2008), there are eight intelligences:

• Linguistic Intelligence is the ability to think in words and to use language to express
and appreciate complex meanings. Linguistic intelligence allows humans to
understand the order and meaning of words, and to apply meta-linguistic skills to
reflect on their use of language;
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• Logical-Mathematical Intelligence is the ability to calculate, quantify, consider


propositions and hypotheses, and carry out complex mathematical operations. It
enables us to perceive relationships and connections, to use abstract, symbolic
thought, sequential reasoning skills, and inductive and deductive thinking processes;
• Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence is the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety
of physical skills. This intelligence also involves a sense of timing, and the perfection
of skills through mind-body union;
• Spatial Intelligence is the ability to think in three dimensions. Core capacities of this
intelligence include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, graphic
and artistic skills, and an active imagination;
• Musical Intelligence is the capacity to discern pitch, rhythm, timbre, and tone. This
intelligence enables one to recognize, create, produce, and reflect on music, as
demonstrated by composers, conductors, musicians, vocalists, and sensitive listeners.
Interestingly, there is often an affective connection between music and the emotions,
and mathematical and musical intelligences may share common thinking processes;
• Interpersonal Intelligence is the ability to understand and interact with others
effectively. It involves effective verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to
note distinctions among others, a sensitivity to the moods and temperaments of
others, and the ability to entertain multiple perspectives;
• Intrapersonal Intelligence is the capacity to understand oneself, one’s own thoughts
and feelings, and to use such knowledge in planning and directing one’s own life.
Intrapersonal intelligence involves not only an appreciation of the self, but also of the
human condition; and,
• Naturalist Intelligence has to do with observing, understanding and organizing
patterns in the natural environment; for example, in plant development, animal
behaviour, cloud formation, and rock structures. (pp. 3-4)

Multiple Intelligences can be used to differentiate content, process, and product based on student

readiness, interest, and learning profile (Tomlinson, 1999; 2001; 2003).

Culture-Influenced Preferences

“Culture affects how we learn” (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 62). Culture-influenced preferences refer

to preferences made in learning based on a particular culture. For the purposes of this study,

culture-based preferences will be related to the Cree culture of the larger community.
19

Choice Board

A choice board is a three-by-three cell table of activities where students get to choose an activity

based on Multiple Intelligences. With the exception of the centre square (which may read “Free

Choice”), each square on the table represents an activity suited for a specific intelligence.

Choice boards can be used to “enable students to tap into areas of strength and comfort and also

prescribe opportunities to stretch in areas that need attention” (Gregory, 2005, p. 56).

Literature Review Summary

I have viewed and analyzed a variety of articles that focus their attention on meaningful and

relevant learning. In most of the articles, teaching strategies played an important role as to how a

student learned (Helterbran, 2005; Lumpkin, 2007). I have looked further into the conceptual

framework of meaningful learning through constructivism through educational theorists such as:

Dewey and his view of children as individuals and members of society, and how they grow to be

contributors of society (Flinders & Thornton, 2004; Glassman, 2004); Freire and his discussions

about the importance of dialogue and how powerful the word is that it can transform the world:

“It is not our role to speak to the people about our own view of the world, not to attempt to

impose that view on them, but rather to dialogue with the people about their view and ours”

(Freire, 1970, p.129); and finally, Piaget’s (Jadallah, 2000), and Vygotsky’s (Jadallah, 2000;

Jaramillo, 1996) contributions to the constructivist theory. These educational theories have been

a stimulating experience for me because they built upon my prior knowledge of what I believe to

be meaningful learning.

Learning about the concepts related to the learning theory of constructivism has not only

reinforced my beliefs about education, it has given me a stronger stance and better grasp of what
20

I want to convey about learning: it must be relevant to the student or it will not be meaningful.

The theory of constructivism has also made me realize that there is more to teaching than

dressing up a lesson with an interesting looking teaching strategy. There has to be genuine

interest on the part of the student and teacher in what is being learned. This interest usually

stems from a prior knowledge of what they have already known about a concept before they

continue to build upon the learning.

After reading articles about constructivism, I found the concept too broad to base my action

research on it. I looked further into the notion of differentiated instruction. Scholarly articles

that I have read led me to the works of Tomlinson (1999; 2001; 2003) and others. Again, I was

overwhelmed with the scope of differentiated instruction, yet I was still drawn to it. Within the

conceptual framework of Differentiated Instruction, I discovered Multiple Intelligences. I

decided to make my action research study more manageable by narrowing it down to focus

mainly on using Multiple Intelligences as a means to differentiate content, process, and product

through student readiness, interest and learning profile.

INITIAL ACTION FOR PROJECT

My initial action for my project was to gather as much information from my students as possible.

Before I began with my first unit, I needed to find out which teaching and learning methods

would meet the students’ needs. And so, began my preliminary records of assessments, interest

questionnaires, and reading strategies questionnaires.

For my first unit in Language Arts, I used the suggested Language Arts curriculum theme “All

That I Am” (Saskatchewan Learning, 2006). I chose this theme because I believed that it would

help me get to know my students’ preferences in terms of interests and learning profiles. For this
21

unit, I also incorporated a broad to narrow approach where we studied literature which

represented who the students are as members of society and as individuals. Literature included

in the unit was selected for its ability to encourage a sense of belonging in students, in terms of

nationality, being Canadian, living in Saskatchewan, and finally living and growing up in a

northern Cree community. Through this literature, and other forms of learning such as

interviewing community members and participating in a cultural camp, students were able to

construct their learning through their identity and representations of their identity found in the

literature. I chose this unit because I believed it would give relevance to the students’ learning

processes.

CRITICAL STEPS: METHODOLOGY

ACTION RESEARCH

Before I describe the logistics of my action research study, I would like to explain what action

research is. According to Holly, Arhar, and Kasten (2005), action research is “a type of applied

research that contributes to the generation of principles and theories and at the same time action-

oriented” (p. 31). To put the term action research into perspective, the three general types of

research, basic research, applied research, and action research will be defined. The term basic

research refers to knowledge that “is conceived of as separate from practice” and “it is less

concerned with the application of the ideas to the concerns of people” (p. 30). In other words,

basic research is mainly an examination of other studies and/or related documents. Another

form of research is applied research, where “researchers can use principles and theories but

supplement them with informal discovery methods for the purpose of generating practical
22

results” (p. 30). Therefore, applied research refers to validating principles and/or theories by

way of informal experimentation or investigation. Action research is much more similar to

applied research than basic research and yet, it goes further given that:

1) It is conducted mainly by insiders (practitioners) rather than outsiders.


2) It has an explicit value orientation and doesn’t espouse ‘objectivity’ in the traditional
sense.
3) It is geared toward the improvement of the practitioner-researcher as well as practice.
4) It is self-critical inquiry, undertaken by the participants themselves. (p. 31)

Action research also has four characterizing elements that set it apart from other forms of

research as well:

1) Ethical commitment... commitment to professional practice and to the democratic


principles that [undergird] it.
2) Cycle of reflective practice... trying out our ideas, observing, and documenting
ourselves and the consequences of our actions. As the process continues, we try out
other ideas and continue the cycle of acting, observing, and reflecting, which
ultimately takes us to other questions and new cycles.
3) Public character... it must be shared with others.
4) Collaboration... listening to those around you (especially your students) in seeking out
different kinds of information (data) and support (collaboration)... all members
participate in a research process that is mutually beneficial. (p. 40)

The process of action research is not a short one. Action research begins with a concern which

turns into a question; a question that you pursue in order to improve yourself and your practice.

Once you have found a question, you begin an extensive, yet focused, search of the literature on

the topic(s). Through this reconnaissance phase, you seek what others have done and as well

read literature that you believe will help you improve yourself and your practice. From this

reconnaissance comes a possible action that seems promising. Once you put your action into

effect, you collect data to determine what kind of impact your action has made. If further action

is needed based on your findings, the cycle of action, observation, and reflection starts over

again.
23

I chose action research for my project because through the action research cycle of action,

observation, and reflection on the consequences of action, I have been able to: conduct research

within my classroom setting; include what I feel is of value into my practice; improve myself and

my practice; look into my practice with a self-critical eye; make an ethical commitment to

improve my practice; reflect upon the actions taken through observation, and; share and

collaborate with others that have participated in the research (p.31).

THE PARTICIPANTS

The participants for this action research project included 18 out of 19 First Nations’ students

enrolled in my grade nine classroom at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year. Upon

enrolment, students were given consent forms (see Appendix A, p. 58) and as a result, a total of

18 were allowed to take part in this project. Students in this particular grade nine class were pre-

assessed and identified as having varying reading, writing and mathematical skills. Of the 19

student registered in my classroom, four students were identified as having a learning disability

and three students identified as having multiple learning disabilities. Because of the learning

needs of these seven students, a full-time tutor was assigned to my classroom along with an

additional tutor during Language Arts and Mathematics classes. Due to low attendance, some

students did not participate in questionnaires and evaluations.

DATA COLLECTION

I remained organized by keeping dated copies of data collected in an electronic journal so that it

would be easier to analyze later. The data collected was extensive and showed evidence of the

impact Multiple Intelligences and other instructional strategies have had on student

learning/engagement and on my personal/professional growth. The following forms of data


24

collection, that have been adapted from Wolcott (cited in Holly, p.141), has been used to provide

evidence of the impact of Multiple Intelligences on student learning/engagement and on

personal/professional growth: Experiencing Through my Own Senses; Inquiring into the

Experiences and Thoughts of Others, and; Examining Documents and other Data Sources.

Experiencing Through My Own Senses

• Anecdotal Records: These records were used when students were observed during

meaningful activities. Observations focused on student reaction to activities, in terms of

body language, facial expressions, and any verbal comments made for the duration of the

activity.

• Rating Scale: Used as reflection-on-action to highlight areas of importance such as

student reaction. Rating Scales were used at the end of some activities (see Appendix B,

p. 60).

• Electronic Journal: This journal housed self reflections, notes of all observations and

personal interpretations, copies of student work, recorded meetings with critical friends,

and storage for other miscellaneous data. All sections were dated and organized in files

according to their type.

Inquiring into the Experiences and Thoughts of Others

• Questionnaires/Surveys: Before the first unit was planned and implemented, information

was gathered from students by way of Interest Questionnaires (see Appendix C, p. 61)

and Reading Strategies Questionnaires (see Appendix D, p. 63). Not only did the

questionnaires show the students’ interests, it also showed their disinterests and possibly
25

why they were not fully engaged in learning. Unit Feedback Questionnaires (see

Appendix E, p. 65) were also used and asked students about the impact the Language

Arts unit had on them, such as which activity they enjoyed the most/least, and rated the

unit overall in terms the variety in activities offered and level of challenge they

experienced in the activities.

• Student Interviews: Informal student interviews were given from time to time to hear

what the students’ had to say about a certain activity. These interviews were short and

offered insights for adjusting activities in the unit.

• Community Members/Parent Interviews: Although a part of my initial project, interviews

were not conducted for community members/parents because there were no

parents/guardians that actively participated within the action research project. There was

one instance when a parent had volunteered to come in as a guest speaker, but it did not

work out as the parent had another commitment. At another time, I had asked a

community member to come in to play a song for the students, but he/she had declined to

do so. There was, however, an Elder that came in to speak to the students about survival

as a part of our novel study. Unfortunately, there was no interview with the Elder to

follow up on this activity.

• Rating Scale: Students had the opportunity to evaluate some activities. These

evaluations offered insights as to what students liked, what they did not like, how

interesting and/or relevant it was to them, etc. (see Appendix F, p. 67).

• Student Journals: Journals helped in the understanding of students’ perspective in terms

of what they liked or disliked about the school day in general, how they made sense of
26

their learning, and if they saw any connections from learning to their life. These journals

also gave an insight as to what interests a student may or may not have in terms of

learning, and what was meaningful to the student.

Examining Documents and Other Data Sources

• Student Work: Including assignments and projects, student work was used to document

student learning and growth through portfolios.

• Personal Experience Methods: Methods such as recalling significant others, critical

incidents, and interviewing family and friends, were used to gather data from students

about their own personal experiences and helped students make connections to subject

matter (Holly, 2005, p.166). The bulk of these personal experiences were documented in

the students’ journals.

• Photographs: Photos taken were used to capture student work and activities within the

action research project.

• Student Portfolios: As a way of organizing data collected such as student work and

assessments, portfolios kept: preliminary, ongoing (formative) and final (summative)

records of assessments, student questionnaires regarding interests, Multiple Intelligence

inventories, and samples of student work. Through the use of these portfolios, the focus

group was narrowed down and modifications were made for the content, process, and

product based on student readiness, interests, and learning profile (Tomlinson, 1999, p.

11). Scanned copies were also made of data collected and inserted into the electronic

journal.
27

DATA ANALYSIS

Analyzing the data was an ongoing process where I read data collected to understand my

students, their work, their world, and myself (Holly, p. 193). I read for evidence related to

student engagement and multiple intelligences. I looked for patterns or lack of them in the data,

and categorized ideas so I could easily retrieve them later when I wanted to look at a specific

idea. Data was electronically filed according to topic and were also filed into each student’s

electronic portfolio.

My analysis was entered into my electronic journal to record my reflections and any findings in

regards to speculations, theorizing, and how I made sense of things. I used what I learned from

my data to plan for further data collection and action (p. 193). For example, some of the

readings from student journals offered me some ideas for project direction.

To ensure that interpretations were reasonable, collective, and not just my own interpretation,

critical friends aided in the analysis as well. Critical friends voiced their opinions in regards to

student learning and my changed practice. It must be noted that these meetings were informal

and did not require all of them to be present at the same time in light of their own busy

schedules. The bulk of the meetings were conducted after school in my classroom.

ETHICAL ARRANGEMENTS

The following ethical guidelines (Holly, 2005, pp. 176-177) were provided to the participants

involved in the action research: written permission, involvement of participants, ensuring

confidentiality, ensuring anonymity, and informing the participants of the right to withdraw.

Written Permission
28

All participants, including students and their parents, were informed about the research I

conducted. Written permission from parents and oral permission from students for their

participation in my action research project were obtained. A consent form was created that

provided the following information: topic, purpose, description, procedures, participation,

contact information, and an area for agreement.

Involvement of Participants

I encouraged the full participation of those involved and also ensured the absence of coercion for

all participants. I encouraged collaborators to help with the design of the project, data collection,

and interpretation of data collected. I shared information with participants and sought their ideas

in all areas of discussion. All points of view were documented and reported through student

journals and questionnaires, so that readers/audience members could form their own judgements.

Ensuring Confidentiality

To build relationships of trust and respect, any thoughts and feelings expressed in discussions

with students or collaborators (and/or in student journal entries) were kept private and were not,

and will not, be used against participants (extending also to any opinions voiced and suggestions

made). It was also made known that in the event a student revealed information leading to the

belief that “the student is suffering from some sort of abuse or neglect or is engaged in illegal

activities”, it would be my responsibility to report it to the proper authorities (p.177).

Ensuring Anonymity

Participant identity was kept anonymous and confidential in documentations such as data

collection and reporting. The Electronic Journal contained pseudonyms for confidentiality
29

purposes, in the event that the journal got misplaced. However, in the event that student work

was to be displayed within the school, the use of names was appropriate.

Informing Participants of the Right to Withdraw

Participants were informed that they had the choice to participate in certain areas of the project

such as questionnaires and interviews. However, when the study included teaching activities that

were part of the regular teaching process, withdrawing from the project was not an issue.

CRITICAL FRIENDS

I had the privilege of having three colleagues as my critical friends. The first critical friend had

assisted me during the write up of the project proposal and where we thought my action research

would and should go. As this person is a graduate student from another university, I believed

that his theoretical and practical knowledge was an asset to my project. The second critical

friend, the Special Education teacher, assisted me with planning for the special needs students in

the classroom. I felt her input was vital for my project because she knew a few of the students in

my classroom from previous years. The third critical friend I worked with was my classroom

tutor. Her input and suggestions were very important and valuable during the study because,

unlike the other two critical friends, she was in the classroom with me on a daily basis. I

maintained close contact with these three people and discussed my research with them as it

unfolded to help me think through my planning, reflection and action.


30

LEARNING FROM MY PRACTICE: ACTION RESEARCH CYCLES

As a result of the action research study, the following multiple cycles of action, observation, and

reflection were documented: Assessing Student Needs; Using Multiple Intelligent Surveys;

Activity-Based Learning in Reading; Activity-Based Learning in Writing; Generic Novel Study

Unit, and Project-Based Assessment.

ASSESSING STUDENT NEEDS

The first cycle of this action research made use of baseline data records such as preliminary

records of assessment, interest questionnaires, and reading strategies questionnaires. Initially,

preliminary records of assessment were to be used, solely, to narrow down a manageable focus

group. The initial focus group was to be comprised of students that were identified, on their

preliminary records of assessment, as having the lowest reading skills. Within the first couple of

weeks, it was not possible to focus on the original set of students due to their poor attendance.

Out of the five students chosen for the focus group, three had an attendance average lower than

what is considered ‘regular’ within the school policy, which is 85 percent or higher. Due to low

attendance, I considered it no longer feasible to collect data from students that were not

considered regular attendees. It also occurred to me that I could not assume that these five

students were unmotivated or uninterested in what they were learning. Other factors could have

come into play as to why these students had low reading skills; for example, their record of low

attendance. So, in light of my new findings, a new plan of action was required. With the help of

my in-class tutor, a new focus group was developed based on new criteria: low reading and

spelling skills, regular attendance, and evidence that showed low motivation and/or low interest

in Language Arts through student questionnaires and surveys.


31

Student interest and reading strategies questionnaires were cross-referenced to see which

students were identified as to having low motivation or low interest in Language Arts. When

students identified certain aspects on the Interest Questionnaire that provided evidence of low

motivation or low interest in Language Arts, they were considered good candidates for the focus

group.

For example, due to some answers, a student named Dennis (pseudonym) was identified as

having low motivation and/or low interest on three instances in the Interest Questionnaire. When

answering the following statement, “School would be better if...” Dennis answered “We had

hardly LA” (LA referring to Language Arts). When answering another statement, “I am in this

class because...” Dennis answered with “I’m not a good speller.” In the last statement, “I do not

like _____ because ____________________” Dennis filled in the statement with “LA” and “it’s

very confusing,” respectively.

On the Reading Strategies Questionnaire, Dennis was identified again, on three questions, as

having low motivation and/or low interest in Language Arts. When asked “Do you think you are

a good reader?” Dennis answered “No.” When asked “Why or why not?” Dennis answered

with “because I get confused.” When asked “What causes you the greatest difficulty when you

try to understand what you read?” Dennis answered “I don’t get them.” When asked “When you

are reading and you have difficulty, what do you do?” Dennis answered “I just sit there.” After

looking at the other students’ questionnaires, we thought that Dennis would make a good

candidate for the focus group. Three other students followed a similar pattern as Dennis’

questionnaire. With a new set of criteria, we were able to focus on students who needed

motivation and interest to learn in future Language Arts classes. With a new focus group intact,
32

more emphasis was made to keep track of these students’ engagement and interest in future

activities.

The process of finding a focus group for this action research study was excruciatingly time

consuming. After coming up with a focus group, I started to stray from my original group of

four because I found out later on that all students in the classroom needed equal attention, in

terms of responding to their needs and devoting time for the analyses of their engagement and

work they submitted for assessment purposes. I had to consider the fact that most of what we

were doing in Language Arts was new to all of them and the observations and findings would not

be fully complete if they were only attributed to four students. Therefore, I started observing the

whole class as my focus group.

USING MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCE SURVEYS

To find out how my students learned best, I used a multiple intelligence inventory called “How

Are You Intelligent” (Gregory, 2007). Accurate data could not be collected from this inventory

due to the variance in how the students had filled out the survey. For example, some students

would only circle one statement from each intelligence category which did not give any

information on the students’ strengths and weaknesses based on the eight intelligences. Analysis

of these findings showed that I may not have given enough instruction on how to fill out the

inventory. Because of my findings, or lack of any, I opted to use another type of inventory, one

that was suggested to me by a colleague, called “What is My Intelligence Profile?” (Creative

Problem Solving Institute, 1997). Judging by the way the students had filled out the initial

inventory I made certain that students were given step-by-step instructions on how to fill out the

second inventory.
33

Before I had given out any Multiple Intelligence inventories, I had presumed that I would rely

heavily on the inventories taken by the students to create my lessons and unit plans. With the

inventories, I was going to place students in “neat little groups” to make my classroom more

manageable. Even though I had replaced the initial inventory, I found that students were all over

the place in terms of strengths and weaknesses based on Multiple Intelligences. For instance,

Nicole (pseudonym) was identified as having three, fairly close, strengths based on the

inventory. Other students followed a similar pattern of multiple strengths. However, the use of

Multiple Intelligence inventories was a good indicator that proved the ‘multiple’ in

‘intelligences;’ that is, each person may have multiple strengths in terms of the intelligences. It

was also a good indicator for the students to see, for present and future reference, what their

strengths and weaknesses were in learning. Because of these findings, I did not want to place

students into specific groups. I needed to see how Multiple Intelligences would work for my

students first, before I added anything complicated such as grouping according to Multiple

Intelligences. I found that the intelligent inventories were not quite as helpful for me, for the

time being, as they were for the students, so I allowed the students to make their own choices

based on their personal preferences.

ACTIVITY-BASED LEARNING IN READING

I began my first Language Arts unit with choice boards (see sample choice board in Appendix G,

p.68). With the choice board, students could choose an activity to follow a specific reading

assignment. Each activity was based on one of the eight multiple intelligences. Before students

chose an activity to serve as their assignment, a demonstration was given to them either through

explicit instruction or as a whole class activity. It ended up that the first lesson took two class

periods before students did their activities individually or in groups because instruction for each
34

activity took a lot of time to go through. I had used the choice board for two lessons, where

students had the option of doing three activities to represent themselves in the poetry. I assigned

three activities because most of their Multiple Intelligence inventories revealed that they had

strengths in three intelligences. Also, students could choose the one assignment they wanted to

submit for evaluation. Because students were submitting various assignments for evaluation,

rubrics were used throughout the action research study to ensure objectivity in grading (see

Sample Rubric in Appendix H, p. 69).

For the first choice board, students had to choose an activity related to the poem “I Am a

Canadian” by Redbird (cited in Nelson Education Ltd, 2000). Immediately, all the students were

drawn towards an assignment they were interested in doing. Some students took longer to finish

while others finished earlier. I was glad that students had three activities to do because it gave

the earlier finishers something else to do while others were finishing up their first assignment.

The down side to this was that some students only had the time to complete one assignment. The

three activities took approximately three to four days to complete. I found I had too many

activities happening at once but it was a good indication as to what type of activities my students

were more inclined to choose. I also found that students interacted with one another more often

and that there was plenty of laughter and conversions happening (see student interaction in

Appendix I, p. 70). When we came to the second choice board, I came across my first obstacle:

an unengaged student.

After we had read “If You’re Not from the Prairie,” by Bouchard (2002), we started the second

choice board assignment. Derek (pseudonym) had created a poem similar to that of the one we

were studying and named it “If You’re Not from the Bush” (see sample student work in

Appendix J, p.71). When it came time for him to choose a second activity, he did not choose
35

from the other choices of activities offered for the assignment. The first time I asked him,

“Which activity do you want to do?” He said, “I don’t know.” At that point I did not know what

to say. At that time I told Derek to think about it for a while. A few minutes later, I went back

to him to ask if he had made up his mind yet. He kept saying “I don’t know which one to pick.”

I then asked him, “Well, which one looks the most interesting to you?” Again, he said, “I don’t

know.” I felt a little frustrated because I assumed the students would automatically gravitate to

an activity that would match their learning profile; I assumed wrong. I reminded him of the

activities he chose (a rap song, collage, and a mapping activity of places he had and/or wanted to

visit in Canada) for the first poem we had read to see if it would spark his interest to do similar

activities for this poem. After Derek’s “I don’t want to do those again,” I finally gave in and

chose an activity for him to do based on the fact that he liked searching on the internet: a

comparison of the Prairie region with our Boreal Shield.

After my encounter with Derek, the tutor and I decided that the choice board may be better suited

for project assignments rather than the processing/activity phase of a unit. It also seemed more

appropriate to give such a variety in choice after each type of activity had been individually

introduced to the students. We came to this conclusion in light of two reasons: The

demonstration process takes a long time to get through eight distinct activities, and the future

possibility of one or more students not being able to choose from too many choices. I made note

of these findings in consideration for my next (and future) units.

My initial experience with choice boards compelled me to limit choices in future activities. In

some lessons, students would have three intelligence-based choices; for other lessons,

intelligences would be isolated. I found it much easier to teach and manage one to three

activities in one lesson than teach eight different activities in one sitting.
36

ACTIVITY-BASED LEARNING IN WRITING

In the past, I had always used reading as a writing strategy. After reading several stories, I

would give the students an opportunity to develop their own stories following the same theme as

the stories we had read in class. This current project gave me the opportunity to do something

different. Given the opportunity to differentiate content, I used the annual grade nine cultural

camp as a basis for writing.

As part of the Cree Culture class, grade nine students take part in an annual five-day cultural

camp located two and one half hours north of our community during the third week of

September. Community members volunteered to come with the grade nine students as resource

people. They taught and exposed the students to a variety of land-based activities, such as

setting up camp, maintaining camp (clean up around the camp, chopping wood, keeping the fire

going, etc.), hunting, snaring, netting, berry picking, and fish filleting (see sample cultural camp

activities in Appendix K, p. 72). After our week long exposure to culturally land-based

activities, I was anxious to get back to class to see how I could incorporate these kinesthetic-

bodily and naturalist activities into the Language Arts.

In the past, when my grade nine students and I come back from these cultural camps, I would

give them a journal assignment to capture their week at cultural camp in terms of best and worst

experiences. This time around, I decided to use a writing assignment to incorporate our cultural

excursion experiences.

We started by brainstorming activities done during cultural camp and then narrowed down our

sample topic to one activity from the week. We then used a graphic organizer (which appeals to

spatial and logical-mathematical intelligences) using an overhead projector to lay out the
37

elements of our story about the activity the students chose: cleaning up around the camp (see

sample graphic organizer in Appendix L, p. 73). After completing our graphic organizer, we

created a rough draft of our story. Even though all the students in our classroom that participated

in the cultural camp had the common experience of cleaning up around camp, it did not mean

that everyone shared the same perspectives on the topic. Because of this we had a difficult time

starting our rough draft.

There were too many different experiences to include in the story. Instead of including all

experiences I told the students to save their own experiences for their individual stories. For our

example story, however, we all decided to include a compilation of ideas to make a fictional

story. Each student had to come up with a line to be included in the rough draft. Once we

completed the rough draft, the students had a good idea what they wanted to write about.

Before the students started on their stories, one of them asked an insightful question. He said,

“Teacher, can we write a story like the one we just did? Like a fake one? I thought “Wow, what

a great idea!” So, the written assignment was adjusted to include the choice of creating a story

based on actual events or the creation of fictional events derived from student experiences. It

was so wonderful to see such a variety of stories written by students (stories could not be

included in the Appendices, because students used real names when writing their stories). This

activity was successful due to the prior knowledge contained in the culturally land-based

activities the students experienced during cultural camp. With new insights into activity-based

learning and its impact on student interest, I created my next unit, a novel study using the

Language Arts Curriculum Guide theme “Surviving and Conquering” (Saskatchewan Learning,

2006).
38

GENERIC NOVEL STUDY UNIT

By the middle of November, I told the students that we would be doing a novel study around the

theme of survival, which was chosen based on their experience with land-based activities,

findings on their interest questionnaires on outdoor activity preferences, and the majority of

student Multiple Intelligence inventories revealing strengths in naturalist intelligence. To make

it easier for the students to choose a novel, I narrowed down the choices for the students to four

novels: Island of the Blue Dolphins by O’Dell (1987); Julie of the Wolves by George (1972);

Brian’s Winter by Paulsen (1996), and; The Winter People by Bruchac (2002).

Before I gave a brief synopsis of each novel to the students, I eliminated Island of the Blue

Dolphins as the other novels were set around the winter season. Given that it was the middle of

November, I thought the integration of outdoor activities for the novel study would best suit a

novel with a winter setting. After giving a brief synopsis of the three novels, students came to a

consensus on Brian’s Winter. Their decision appeared to be heavily influenced by their previous

reading experience of Paulsen’s other novel, Hatchet (1987).

In my years of experience teaching grade nine, I had become accustomed to using novel and

teacher-made guides to help me plan a novel study. Much to my disappointment, Brian’s Winter

did not have an accompanying teacher guide in our library. I started looking online for ideas

based on the novel. I came across some online teacher-made guides, but then I thought to

myself, “Why do I need these?” It seemed like every time I started a novel study, I would rely on

other people’s work and not recognize the fact that it might not be suitable for my current

students. I took this opportunity to see how I could use the novel as a basis for future novel
39

studies. I thought that since I was going to make a unit from scratch, I may as well make a

generic model to be used for any novel study and to suit the learning needs of any student.

To help me generate a model, I used Campbell’s (2008) “Thematic Planning Matrix for Multiple

Intelligences.” With my new generic novel study unit plan (see Appendix M, p. 74), I was able

to implement reading and writing activities using Multiple Intelligences wherever it seemed

suitable to do so. In addition to creating a generic novel study template, I had also used the

thematic planning matrix to generate a major project assignment matrix (see Appendix N, p 75).

Using the project matrix, students had the choice of seven projects, and the option of working

with a partner or group, for their major assignment. Students also had the option of submitting

another idea not offered by the project matrix.

As I introduced the unit, I told the students that we would be reading their chosen novel for the

next four to five weeks before the Christmas events began in our school. The students looked at

each other, nodded their heads, and sort of laughed at me when they said, “There’s no way we

can finish a novel before Christmas.” I asked them how long they thought a novel study would

take; they said “it takes about two months to read a novel.” Although I knew the answer, I asked,

“Why would it take two months to read a novel?” The students responded by saying that it

usually took them two to three days to complete one chapter because of all the questions they

needed to answer and the vocabulary they needed to learn before starting a new chapter (from

previous experience in other grades). They also told me they were usually assigned about 15

questions to answer and it took some of them a little longer to answer the questions. I

understood the students’ concern because I, too, have done this type of question and answer

routine for novel studies, followed by quizzes every few chapters. I told them that we were

going to do it different. I told them that I was not interested in them knowing the book inside
40

and out through comprehension questions because it was obvious to me that they know how to

do that already. I also told them that I wanted them to read the book for the sake of reading the

book, provided we did some activities every now and then to express their opinions, feelings and

to situate themselves in the character’s position. They were ecstatic about the idea.

Although I had been doing some form of integration of intelligences in the first unit, I wanted to

do more of it in this unit, a unit where students could use their preferred intelligence to

accompany a verbal-linguistic creation of their own for their final project. For example, by

integrating the linguistic intelligence with the spatial intelligence, students drew a picture and

included a written summary to interpret and accompany their drawing. For in-class activities, I

continued to limit the choices in activities just to make it more manageable for myself and our

classroom tutor. After every few chapters read in class, students had a choice of two activities to

accompany a linguistic activity. These activities also served as demonstration for the preparation

of their final projects, in addition to the activities learned from our first unit.

Because students were not required to answer end of unit questions and quizzes every few

chapters, we had plenty of time to do a variety of activities with the novel (see student activities

for novel study in Appendix O, p. 76): We discussed the readings in talking circles, a suggestion

made by a student in their journal as an alternative to presentations. We attacked vocabulary

together by finding synonyms of the words to be studied where definitions were provided so

students did not need to spend time looking through dictionaries. They drew a picture of their

favourite scenes from the novel, followed by a brief description of the scene. They created poetry

to highlight another favourite part of the novel. We ventured outdoors to look for sticks to create

bows and arrows similar to the ones used by the main character, which also served as an ongoing

activity during free time as well. We invited a resource person, a Cree speaking Elder who had
41

vast amounts of expertise on the subject, to show us land-based survival skills (the classroom

tutor and I took turns interpreting from Cree to English). We played charades where students had

to guess which part of the novel was being enacted (students were not accustomed to this

approach and therefore were hesitant at first to volunteer). They created a graph to highlight, in

their opinion, the level of excitement in each chapter of the novel and compared results with one

another. They used journals to situate themselves in the character’s position. The one

intelligence that was neglected in this novel study was musical intelligence but was included as

one of their choices in their final projects.

PROJECT-BASED ASSESSMENT

Because students would be spending a lot of time preparing their final projects near the end of

the novel study, I did not want to contradict my study through a teacher-made final exam. Since

final exams are created by teachers, they are more often than not, a reflection of the teachers’

interpretation of what has been studied. For the novel study, I had stayed away from such

teacher-centred approaches as much as possible. For me to create a test would only amount to

my interpretations of the novel. With the exception of the vocabulary chart and the use of a

resource person, all other activities were based on students’ own interpretations of the novel.

How then, would it be possible for me, as a teacher, to create an exam that encompassed all of

what the students had learned from reading and interpreting the novel? I had discussed this

predicament with the Special Education teacher to see what she thought. She agreed with me

about excluding a test and thought it was an excellent idea to make the assessment of their

learning, project-based, especially for students that struggled with test taking. Much to my

prediction, the students all agreed with the idea as well.


42

When students started creating their final projects, they often referred back to the novel, a

technique that I believe to be like “studying” for an exam. Because students referred back to the

novel extensively, it also occurred to me that this technique had never been used during my years

of experience as a teacher: The students chose certain parts of the book they wanted to highlight

for their projects instead of being assigned questions on the novel.

When our novel study ended, a total of 13 students had completed their final projects. The

projects chosen by students were: two book reports; a puppet play (done by two students); two

song analogies (one done with a partner), and; six timelines (see sample final project for novel

study in Appendix P, p. 79). There were five students who did not complete the final projects

due to their low attendance. Thanks to a project rubric, the students that did not complete the

final project received partial marks for parts of the process and project they did complete.

DISCUSSION OF NEW UNDERSTANDINGS

IMPACT ON MY UNDERSTANDINGS

This action research study has given me new learning opportunities to improve my practice. It

has allowed me to look further into the appropriate theoretical frameworks that aided me to

engage students in Language Arts. Through research, I have gained the knowledge needed to

validate my actions. Through the cycle of action, observation, and reflection, I have been able to

re-act to my findings to improve my practice.

Before this action research project, I taught how I was taught: reading followed by questions to

answer, filling out worksheets and workbooks (which, in my opinion, had no relevance and
43

sometimes had nothing to do with what I was learning), and assessing everything that was

supposed to be learned in one sitting – the final exam. I taught in this manner because I had no

other examples of teaching to go by. That was how I had always viewed teaching to be from my

experience and perspective as a student, a student-teacher, and as a teacher. It never did seem

right to me to teach topics that I thought were the most important and interesting ones.

Routinely, I would choose information that I deemed important to learn that was then transferred

and/or transmitted to the students via reading or note-taking followed by a series of questions

related to the readings or notes. I had also used teacher guides and workbooks, which had

always bothered me because I found them very prescriptive and too ready-made for the students.

I have always believed that every student deserves an equal opportunity to learn. If every

student has an equal opportunity to learn, do they not also have an equal opportunity to be

exposed to approaches that match how they learn best?

Through this action research study, I have been able to see both my teaching, and myself as a

teacher, in a different way. This action research project has taught me a very vital lesson: how a

student learns is heavily influenced by how a student is taught. From what I have learned about

myself and my students, I have come a long way from a teacher-centred to a more student-

centred approach.

As an Aboriginal teacher teaching Aboriginal students, I have struggled in the past on how to

incorporate culturally relevant content into my Language Arts units. I did not know where to

start, where to look, and what to use. I looked for published short stories, poems, and novels that

contained Aboriginal content but could never come across content that was based on Woodland

Cree people. Although the answer was right in front of me, I was trying to make it too concrete

and could not get to the idea of making connections until I started this action research project.
44

Making connections does not mean that the story needs to have Cree characters or to take place

in a northern Saskatchewan Cree community. Making a connection can simply mean being able

to see yourself in a similar situation. I also know now that I can approach the community for

their local knowledge and areas of expertise when incorporating culturally-influenced aspects

into my units. By incorporating local community knowledge and culturally-influenced aspects

into my units, I have made the teaching and learning more relevant and meaningful to the

Aboriginal students in my classroom and also to me, as an Aboriginal teacher.

My role as a teacher now starts with the students. I now see teaching differently because instead

of preplanning the year using student readiness and curriculum guides, I now use student

readiness (appropriate levels), interests (present and potential) and learning profiles (strengths) to

help me plan my curriculum-based units. Using these three approaches for planning, I am better

able to provide the tools and strategies needed for the students’ learning. As a result of asking

students for their opinions and suggestions, and observing their actions and reactions, I have

become a better teacher by being more responsive to their learning needs.

I have found that when students know that you truly listen to what they have to say, they too are

more responsive. Letting students know that their input is valuable and appreciated by using

their suggestions when they give them, shows that you do listen; you do care for and respect their

opinions and ideas. You also need to find those things that students do well and encourage them

through positive reinforcement such as displaying their work on bulletin boards, using their work

as examples in class, or simply saying, “Hey, you’re really good at this.” When you show that

you believe in your students’ abilities, it is more likely that you will develop a positive

relationship with them.


45

Because I have had the privilege to teach differently through Multiple Intelligences, I now see

learning differently as well. Through this project, I have witnessed that there is more than one

way to learn something new. Instead of students using the same methods for learning, year after

year, they can use different methods to learn something new. By using the strengths of each

student, learning can take place. When students are able to complete a task by using their

strengths to overcome their weaknesses, learning becomes meaningful for them. Learning does

not have to be dreaded by or boring for students.

IMPACT ON PARTICIPANTS

The impact of this action research study on the participants has been positive. Students in my

classroom often commented on how much fun they had during activities. This was also evident

in my observations during classroom activities. When students were engaged in Multiple

Intelligence activities, they appeared more relaxed and interactive with one another as opposed to

when they were filling out worksheets, writing notes, or answering questions in their notebooks.

Students got to choose “process” and “product” activities based on Multiple Intelligences.

Instead of hearing students say “What do we have to do?” they say “This is what I want to do...”

In the unit feedback questionnaire, similar findings were evident. For example, when asked how

they felt about creating a project instead of writing an end-of-unit exam, the following responses

were documented: “[It was] fun”; “it was a lot easier than an exam”; “It was neat, [I] got to work

[at] my own [pace],” and; “It was better than doing a test.” There was one student, however, that

said “Well for me it’s less work and I [kind of] like it. But I’d prefer the exam more because I

like [answering] questions.” This response was noted and adjustments will be made to include

final exams as an option.


46

This action research study had also impacted other students who were not in our classroom.

Students from other classrooms would come into our classroom to see what we were doing and

said “I wish I was in this classroom.” Previous students of mine would also come into my

classroom and ask, “How come we didn’t do this?” or “This classroom looks so different.” I

told them that I was still learning new ways to improve my teaching and classroom environment.

Because of this action research study, students are much more eager to collaborate with one

another. Through collaboration comes a shared responsibility for learning in our classroom.

Collaboration in our classroom has brought about positive relationships. As these relationships

grew in our classroom, whether it was student-student or student-teacher, there was an

improvement in the classroom environment, which changed to become a “welcoming, safe

place” for them, with students more willing to collaborate with one another, and also with me

(Goulet, 2001, p. 73). The school is a social environment and students need to know that it is

okay to interact appropriately with one another. This collaboration has brought about a new

sense of community in our classroom.

Using the greater community to enhance learning has created a relevant and meaningful learning

experience for the students. Having students go beyond the classroom environment to learn from

community members gave them a practicality that could not be replicated within the classroom

setting. Asking family or community members to aide in their learning through simple surveys

or questionnaires provided students with different perspectives from that of their own. Bringing

in a resource person (Elder) who has expertise beyond the teacher’s skills or knowledge, really

accentuated the lesson(s) to be learned. Community involvement provided relevant knowledge

and skills to students thereby enriching their lives.


47

IMPACT ON OTHERS

With the help of fellow colleagues, I now have a variety of methods and strategies to create a

larger toolbox for teaching. With the help of fellow colleagues, I did not have to go through this

project alone. No one should go through teaching alone. It is a huge task that we all need to

share together. With that said, I would like to share this project through a presentation which

will be made available for my colleagues at the school where I presently teach. I would like this

action research study to impact my colleagues as it had impacted me.

NEW INSIGHTS INTO ACTION RESEARCH AS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

ACTION RESEARCH AND TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Action research is very much like what a teacher does on a daily basis where the teacher presents

and carries out a lesson, observes the students’ performances, and makes the appropriate changes

when needed. Yet, action research is much more than that. Action research is a form of

professional development where the teacher improves their own practice by researching

academically validated studies, testing out their research findings in their own classroom, and

making the appropriate adjustments when called for. It is a form of professional development

because the teacher shares new understandings of his/her practice with other teachers, which

adds to the knowledge of these other educators.


48

ACTION RESEARCH AND SELF-UNDERSTANDING

Through action research, the researcher gains a deeper understanding of what works for him/her

and what he/she is capable, or not capable, of doing. With action research, the researcher is able

to take control of what he/she finds problematic instead of letting it control him/her. Action

research gives the researcher a sense of confidence and greater self-respect in what he/she does

because he/she knows what has improved his/her practice.

I have learned a lot through this action research study about myself and my practice. By using

action research as professional development, I am now able to examine my practice by looking at

issues of concern and making informed adjustments for improvement. What I have learned

through this action research and professional development is that action research does not end.

New cycles develop as the result of the action done, observations made, and reflections pondered

upon. With that being said, I would like to conclude this project report by including possible

changes for next time.

POSSIBLE CHANGES FOR NEXT TIME

One of the issues I came across during the action research project was attendance. Due to low

attendance for some of the students, most of their assignments were incomplete and, therefore,

were not able to participate in some activity and unit evaluations. However, students that were

regular attendees provided ample feedback.

Another issue that came up was the exclusion of a final exam from a unit. This issue was

resolved when I discussed it with the Special Education teacher where we both agreed that

project-based assessment would be beneficial for struggling readers. This issue was brought up
49

again in a student’s response to a question on the unit feedback questionnaire. In the

questionnaire she stated that although she liked creating a project, she would have preferred an

exam because she liked answering questions. Her preference was not made known to me, even

though I had discussed the project-based assessment with the students following my meeting

with the Special Education teacher. If her preference had been made known to me earlier on in

the unit, I am sure I would have made the proper adjustments. To resolve this issue in future

units, an option for a final exam will be given to students. Another possibility for change could

be a differentiated exam where the eight intelligences could somehow be represented. I will look

further into this for future planning.

By far, the biggest issue for this action research project was time. A lot of time was needed for

data collection, analyses, and adjusting the units. Due to time constraints and time management

issues, the following areas need improvement for next time: Structure; Student Self-

Assessments; Better Use of Space; Student Input, and; Community Connection.

Structure

I found that my first unit lacked structure because I was still in the process of learning how to use

Multiple Intelligences in the classroom. Because some students finished early and some needed

more time, a more detailed and structured unit will be needed. One possibility for change is that

of tiered assignments. Tiered approaches to differentiated instruction allow “the varied readiness

levels of students in approaching the task and thus presents the work at different levels of

difficulty” (Tomlinson, 2003, p. 79). To ensure students’ chances of being appropriately

challenged, Tomlinson’s “Equalizer” suggests that the level of difficulty can be varied from:

foundational to transformational; concrete to abstract; simple to complex; simple facet to


50

multiple facets; small leap to great leap; more structured to more open; clearly defined problems

to fuzzy problems; less independence to greater independence, and; slower to quicker (1999, p.

122; 2001, p. 47; 2003, p. 137). I will explore this approach to develop a tiered approach to

instruction.

Student Self-Assessments

Too much assessment was based on my own evaluation of student performance and work.

Portfolios were also used for assessments purposes but student reflections focused on reasons for

picking certain assignments for their portfolio were not a part of the portfolios. Possibilities for

changes in assessment could be to engage students in portfolio reflection and writing. Although

student self-assessments were used during my project, they were only applied when students

worked in groups.

Better Use of Space

Materials needed for student activities and products were sometimes not readily available for

student use. Improvements need to be made to set up a more established area for materials and

supplies. A possibility for change could be to use large containers to store supplies according to

each of the eight intelligences. For example, paint, charcoal, markers, glue, magazines, various

pictures, and construction paper could be put into a large container and made available for spatial

activities and products. Another possibility could be to allocate shelf space for each of the eight

intelligences.
51

Student Input

Student responses and observations were a vital part of my action research study. I had also used

student questionnaires and journals to aid in lesson and unit planning. However, more

opportunities for student input in planning need to be offered. Possibilities for change could be

to use a KWL chart at the beginning of each unit to identify what students already know about

the topic (K) and what students want to learn about the topic (W). At the end of the unit,

students could go back to this chart to see what they have learned (L). I have used this method in

Social Studies because it is one of the suggested strategies in Social Studies: A Curriculum

Guide for the Middle Level (Saskatchewan Learning), but it never occurred to me to use it in

other subject areas.

Community Connection

Making connections to the greater community has been another vital part of this action research

study. Connections made include: an incorporation of cultural camp experiences for student

writing; interviewing family and/or community members; having an Elder come in as a resource

person for survival methods. An improvement that could be made for this item is to bring in

community members to highlight each of the eight intelligences. For example, people could

come into the classroom to talk about or demonstrate certain aspects of their jobs, careers,

talents, or hobbies. Students could also make connections as to how one or more of the eight

intelligences fit into the person’s career, talent, or hobby.


52

CONCLUSION

In the words of Miller Cleary and Peacock, “There is a need to return full circle to where we

began this journey...” (p. 94). This action research study has served as the beginning of my

journey towards meaningful learning. I began my journey with my questions of how to make

learning interesting and relevant for my students. These questions led to paths toward

meaningful learning through constructivism, student engagement, differentiated instruction,

multiple intelligences, and how these theoretical frameworks complement Aboriginal

pedagogical approaches in Language Arts. Learning from my practice through action research

has given me new ways to plan for student needs through readiness, interest and Multiple

Intelligence surveys. I have learned the importance of incorporating the greater community to

give relevance in student learning. Because my role as a teacher now starts with the students, I

am now on the right path in my journey as a teacher, a friend, and fellow human being to my

students. It has been a full circle journey because each path I had taken led me back to what is

important to me: meaningful learning.


53

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APPENDICES
58

APPENDIX A

Consent Form for Student Participation


Date ____________

Dear Parents/Guardians

My name is Grace McLeod and your daughter/son/charge is in my classroom at


____________________. I am taking a graduate course (Project, ED 900) at the University of
Regina and as part of that program I am studying my own teaching practices to make learning
experiences better for students. My professor is _______________ at the University of Regina.
I am calling my study: Reading for Interest: A Community-Based Incorporation of Differentiated
Instruction in Grade Nine Language Arts. I am specifically studying reading skills and strategies
in Language Arts. For this project I need to talk to the students to get their perceptions of my
teaching such as comments on a learning activity or an assignment. Sometimes I need to use
their work as examples of learning activities I use with them. In some instances, their learning
activities will also be video recorded for my analysis. From time to time, I may need to give
them a survey that asks for their opinions. This information, including any pictures or video
recordings, will only be shared in my graduate class as examples of what I do in my teaching and
how it affects my students. A final report will be shared in a presentation to the teaching staff at
our high school at the end of my program. I require your consent to use the information
gathered, as well as any pictures and videos recorded pertaining to this study, from the student
for whom you are the parent or guardian. I have explained the project to my students.

In order to protect the identity of students involved, I will not share the names of individual
students. The results I get from any interview or survey will be presented in my graduate class
as general feedback from students not from any specific student. Involvement in this project by
the students is entirely voluntary; they can withdraw at any time without it affecting their
treatment or marks. Their involvement will take place during school time; surveys and
interviews will be about 5-10 minutes in length.

This project was approved by the University of Regina Research Ethics Board, and also by the
school system. If you, or your child, have any questions or concerns about the rights or
treatment of the students in this project, you may contact the Chair of the Research Ethics Board
at __________ or by e-mail: _______________, or call my professor, _______________at
__________ or e-mail: _______________.

If you consent to your child being a part of this study, please return the attached page to me by
sending it to school with your child. Please retain this letter for your information.

Sincerely,
Grace McLeod Phone: __________, Email: _______________
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CONSENT FORM FOR READING FOR INTEREST: A COMMUNITY-BASED


INCORPORATION OF DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION IN GRADE NINE LANGUAGE
ARTS PROJECT

I have read the letter and have kept it for information.

I allow my daughter/son/charge _______________ to take part in this project _____

I do not allow my daughter/son/charge _______________ to take part in this project _____

Parent/Guardian Signature _________________________ Date __________

Student Signature _________________________ Date _____________

Please send this form to school with your son/daughter/charge. He/she can turn it in to the
principal.
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APPENDIX B

Teacher Form - Activity Rating Scale for _________________


(Activity Title)

Please rate this activity by using the following scale to reflect your opinion of this activity:
5 – Strongly Agree
4 - Agree
3 - Neutral
2 - Disagree
1 – Strongly Disagree

According to student reaction:

I gave ample choices for the activities 5 4 3 2 1


Students had enough time to work on the activity 5 4 3 2 1
Students did not feel frustrated during the activity 5 4 3 2 1
I did not think this activity was too easy 5 4 3 2 1
The activity was not too short 5 4 3 2 1
This activity was a new experience for the students 5 4 3 2 1
Students were able to complete the activity 5 4 3 2 1
Students were satisfied with the activity 5 4 3 2 1
This activity was well organized 5 4 3 2 1
The student enjoyed the activity 5 4 3 2 1
I think this activity, or one similar to it,
should be offered again 5 4 3 2 1

Additional comments:
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APPENDIX C

Interest Questionnaire
(Adapted from Differentiated Instructional Strategies: One Size Doesn’t Fit All, 2007, Gayle Gregory)

1. My top 2 or 3 favourite activities are


________________________________________________________________.
2. Other activities that I like to do are
________________________________________________________________.
3. My favourite subject is
________________________________________________________________.
4. In my free time, I
________________________________________________________________.
5. On TV, I like to watch
________________________________________________________________.
6. The music I listen to is
________________________________________________________________.
7. I think a teacher should
________________________________________________________________.
8. My favourite teachers are
________________________________________________________________.
9. I like my family because
________________________________________________________________.
10. I like school because
________________________________________________________________.
11. I dislike school because
________________________________________________________________.
12. School would be better if
________________________________________________________________.
13. Friends are important because
________________________________________________________________.
14. The most interesting person whom I have met is __________________ because
________________________________________________________________.
15. My chores at home are
________________________________________________________________.
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16. If I had $500, I would


________________________________________________________________.
17. I am in this class because
________________________________________________________________.
18. I think this class will be easy/difficult because
________________________________________________________________.
19. I am excited about this class because
________________________________________________________________.
20. I am fearful of this class because
________________________________________________________________.
21. The things I would do in this class to be successful are
________________________________________________________________.
22. The things that may prevent me from being successful are
________________________________________________________________.
23. Something that I want you to know about me is
________________________________________________________________.
24. I like ________________________ because
________________________________________________________________.
25. I do not like ___________________ because
________________________________________________________________.
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APPENDIX D
Reading Strategies Questionnaire
(Extracted from the English Language Arts: A Curriculum Guide for the Middle Level, Grade 6-9)

Name: _____________________________________ Date: __________________

1) Do you think that you are a good reader? __________ Why or why not?

______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________

2) What causes you the greatest difficulty when you try to understand what you read?

______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________

3) What could you do to be better at understanding what you read?

______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________

4) What do you do when you come to a word that you do not understand?

______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________

5) What types of reading materials are easiest for you to understand?

______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________

6) What might stop you when you are reading?

______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________
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7) When you are reading and you have difficulty,


a) What do you do?

______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________

b) Do you ever repeat what you are reading in your own words? ___ Yes ___ No

c) Do you ever reread something that does not make sense? ___ Yes ___ No

d) Do you ever ask yourself questions as you read? ___ Yes ___ No

8) What is the best advice you have ever been given about reading?

______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________
65

APPENDIX E

Date: _______________
Unit Feedback Questionnaire

Please answer the questions below. You will not be graded on this. You do not need to put your
name on this form.

1. Please tell me what you enjoyed most during this unit (and why).

2. What did you enjoy least (and why)?

3. Which activity helped you learn about yourself the most? Why do you think it worked for
you?

4. Which activity worked least well? Why do you think it was not successful for you?
66

5. How did you feel about having different choices between activities assigned in the class?
Circles and briefly explain your answer:

a. Mostly negative

b. Slightly negative

c. Slightly positive

d. Mostly positive

6. How would you rate the overall level of challenge you experiences in the activities
related to this unit? Circle and briefly explain your answer.

a. Not at all challenging

b. A little challenging

c. Moderately challenging

d. Too challenging

(Adapted from Differentiation in Practice: A Resource Guide for Differentiating Curriculum, Grades 5-9, 2003,
Carol Ann Tomlinson)
67

APPENDIX F
Activity Rating Scale for: ______________________________
(Activity Title)

Please rate this activity by using the following scale to reflect your opinion of this activity:
5 – Strongly Agree
4 - Agree
3 - Neutral
2 - Disagree
1 – Strongly Disagree

What did you think about the activity?


I chose to do this activity 5 4 3 2 1
I had enough time to work on the activity 5 4 3 2 1
I did not feel frustrated during the activity 5 4 3 2 1
I did not think this activity was too easy for me 5 4 3 2 1
The activity was not too short 5 4 3 2 1
This activity was a new experience for me 5 4 3 2 1
I was able to complete the activity 5 4 3 2 1
I am satisfied with the activity 5 4 3 2 1
This activity was well organized 5 4 3 2 1
I enjoyed the activity 5 4 3 2 1
I think this activity, or one similar to it,
should be offered again 5 4 3 2 1

Is there anything else you would like to mention about the activity?

Thank you for your participation!


68

APPENDIX G
69

APPENDIX H

SAMPLE RUBRIC
70

APPENDIX I

STUDENT INTERACTION
71

APPENDIX J

SAMPLE STUDENT WORK - “IF YOU’RE NOT FROM THE BUSH”


72

APPENDIX K

CULTURAL CAMP ACTIVITIES

Setting up Camp

Chopping Wood

Cleaning Up Camp
73

APPENDIX L

SAMPLE GRAPHIC ORGANIZER


74

APPENDIX M

GENERIC NOVEL STUDY UNIT PLAN


75

APPENDIX N

MAJOR PROJECT ASSIGNMENT MATRIX


76

APPENDIX O

STUDENT ACTIVITIES FOR NOVEL STUDY

Talking Circle

Drawing Favourite Scene

Gathering Sticks for Bow-Making


77

Bow Making

Finished Bow

Think-Pair-Share Activity on Survival Items


78

Think-Pair-Share - Working in Partners

Think-Pair-Share - Sharing with Group

Elder as Resource Person on Survival


79

APPENDIX P

SAMPLE FINAL PROJECT FOR NOVEL STUDY