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Module 3, Unit 2, Activity 3 Case Study: I'm too good for this class!

Page history last edited by Mike Daly 4 years, 7 months ago

Student Case Study: I’m too good for this class!



Emily is a bilingual, mixed race 5th grader who attends a small international school in her mother’s home country where English is not spoken. The students in Emily’s class are all English Language Learners (ELLs) and some of them are several years older than Emily as their English ability is below their own grade level. She has been attending this school for five months.



Emily is a gifted reader and constantly has her head buried in a book. Steve, a new teacher at Emily’s school, began teaching the 5th grade reading class two months ago and was informed of Emily’s frustration and boredom with the class and of her disrespect toward the teacher. Naturally, Steve was intrigued and could not wait to meet Emily. After the first few classes, he noted that Emily’s reading ability was far beyond her peers and also beyond her grade level and apart from one other student, the reading material was too advanced for the rest of the class. He noted that Emily and her friend brought their own novels into his class and read them during the lesson. When asked about this, Emily and her friend said they had been given permission to read their own books during the class by their previous reading teacher. Emily and her friend acted superior to their classmates and towards Steve and seemed to delight in informing him he had made a spelling error on the board.

          After a week of observing the class and asking the students about how their class was run, Steve surmised that all the students were convinced that there was only one way to read in a class and that was whole class read outs. He could almost hear the screams from within the struggling students when he asked them to open their books and read out loud. He also noted that Emily loved reading out loud and showing off her talents to the other students and that she would immediately go back to reading her own book when other students were reading and would then have to ask where to read from when it was her turn again, thus disrupting the flow. She would often frown and tut when he explained simple vocabulary or when another student asked a question about the text. Her behaviour clearly intimidated the other students and made them reluctant to speak out in class for fear of looking stupid.

Steve consulted other subject teachers and found that Emily was considered average in their classes and that her attitude was good. He also spoke to and assessed all the students individually and soon realized that his class was one of the most diverse he had ever taught in terms of ability and that applying differentiated methods was the way forward.

Steve is cautious about making too many sudden changes to the class structure because of one student who appears to be extremely overwhelmed by changes. However, he knows that change is needed.


Student Demographics of Steve’s 5th Grade Reading Class:

11 students

10 girls, 1 boy

Age: two 10 year-olds, three 11 year-olds, five 12 year-olds, one 13 year-old

10 Ethnic Korean

1 mixed-race

1 native English speaker (Emily)

10 ELLs

1 SEN student (possible autism, undiagnosed)


Possible Strategies for Steve:

1) Rearrange the desks from a whole-group U-shape into small groups of desks.

2) Have students read in small groups, pairs, individually and as a whole class.

3) Group students by similar ability and sometimes by mixed ability.

4) Introduce different learning stations for groups, such as those exemplified by the Daily 5 and Cafe Group strategies.

5) Vary content for Emily and her friend and the struggling readers. Encourage them to bring their own books to use in class. Ensure the reading content is age appropriate as there is quite a gap between 10-13 year olds.

6) Encourage collaboration between students to improve class relationships and promote empathy. For example: use the Jigsaw Technique by giving students different passages of the same story to read and then explain to each other. Grammar Fitness or Pair Dictation: Each student has to rely on their partner in order to accurately transcribe the text.


These are just a few examples of strategies that Steve can employ to try and cater for Emily’s needs and the unique learning needs of all the students in this diverse class.




Facing History and Ourselves. (n.d.). Teaching Strategies. Retrieved from https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/teaching-strategies


Hirsch, Joe. (2014, February 6). Teaching Empathy: Turning a Lesson Plan into a  Life Skill. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/empathy-lesson-plan-life-skill-joe-hirsch


[MaineDOEComm]. (2013, August 16). Learner-Centered Literacy: Owning Their Own Reading [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxx0P_euuSw&feature=youtu.be


Social Psychology Network. (n.d.). The Jigsaw Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.jigsaw.org/


Tomlinson, C. (2017, March 27). Student Centered Learning: Planning for Student Success. Retrieved from 



Weselby, C. (2017, November 20). What is Differentiated Instruction? Examples of Strategies. Retrieved from https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/examples-of-differentiated-instruction/


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