While I am not an expert on educational methods, as a librarian, I have had the opportunity to assist middle school students with assignments related to the literature included in their class curriculum. The students were often required to use complex technologies in accordance with requirements dictated by the local or state school system. While the finished products were overwhelmingly attractive, they mask the reality that students too often do not have a working comprehension of the literature. In the past, I have likened this trend to spreading decorative icing over a hollow cake.
Laurie E. Westphal’s Literature for Every Learner (Grades 6-8): Differentiating Instruction with Menus for Poetry, Short Stories, and Novels, tackles this problem by presenting multiple projects for each piece of literature that require various levels of critical thinking and a thorough understanding of the readings. The projects described in the book address not only various learning methods, such as visual, auditory, through a technique known as differentiated learning. Differentiation provides a structure for successful teaching of students at different learning levels with multiple paths to master content and process information. The system provides a method for instructors to develop teaching materials and employ assessment tools that allow all students in their classroom to achieve, regardless of differences in ability.
I was very impressed by Wesphal’s proposed learning methods, as well as by the organization of the book, itself. “Literature for Every Learner,” contains reproducible “menus,” each based on the levels of Bloom’s revised taxonomy, from which students can select the projects that most appeal to them and align with what they perceive to be their learning strengths. Additionally, the design of the menus ensures that students must mix and match multiple activities, including projects that will stretch their skills.
pub. Prufrock Press (2014), Paperback, 192 pages