Curriculum & Instruction

How to Best Prepare Students to Reach Grade-Level Standards

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How to Best Prepare Students to Reach Grade Level Standards


No learner is the same. All require different pathways. There is no single class where all the students are exactly where the teacher wants them at the outset. To improve educational equality, teachers should be able to modify lessons to meet the needs of each student. Simply put, teachers have to differentiate instruction. The goal is to have students experience varying degrees of the same lesson. In this article, we will enumerate 8 strategies on how to best prepare students to reach grade-level standards.



Strategies on How to Prepare Students to Reach Grade Level Standards


1. Use a Placemat

Using a placemat can help students of different ability levels dig into a complex text. (Amazon) Present students with a controversial statement. Then, write the statement in the box at the center of the placemat. Label the remaining boxes with “agree,” “strongly agree,” “disagree,” and “strongly disagree.”

Encourage struggling learners to find at least one reason why the text supports or disproves the statement. Meanwhile, have advanced students provide an example for each category. By having students use different color markers, you can tell who is writing what, so you can provide additional support in future lessons. By using a placemat, all students can work at a level that enables them to grapple with complex text.


2. Try a Socratic Seminar

A Socratic seminar is a formal discussion that is based on a text, wherein the leader asks open-ended questions. During the discussion, students listen to the comments of others, think critically for themselves, and articulate their thoughts and responses to the thoughts of others. In a Socratic seminar, students learn to work cooperatively and question intelligently.


Have students work in pairs then analyze one of the texts using a graphic organizer.  Tell students to identify key ideas. After they have had a chance to read and discuss, have a Socratic seminar. Facilitate the dialogue by asking probing or clarifying questions based on the text as well as student responses. Groupings should be heterogeneous so that students can see various viewpoints on the topic, work with mixed-ability peers, and have a rich discussion based on the text. Check out this book to help you get started with Socratic Seminars. (Amazon)


3. Break Down the Assignment

Complex topics can be broken down into understandable concepts. For example, reading passages can be simplified, visual representations can replace written work, and math problems can be reduced in its level of difficulty.


4. Ask Students to Show What They Know

Before ticking off lessons from a curriculum, see what the students are already doing, saying, and writing. Doing this can help you decide on what strengths to build upon. Check out these easy-to-use white board paddles. (Amazon)

5. Take the Lesson Off the Page

In this strategy, teachers can have the student make a model, draw a corresponding illustration, or give a presentation.


6. Use a Highlighter

Isolating key points or details through the use of a highlighter can make learning easier. Students who go back through the text are more likely to retain information.


7. Guided Practice

Teachers can guide student response and engagement by providing outlines, graphic organizers, or a series of steps to solve a problem.


8. Help Students Reflect on Habits

Take time to not just teach, but to mentor as well. When a student is having difficulty, sometimes the best conversation isn’t always “Do it like this.” Instead, you can say, “When you get stuck, what do you usually do? There may be a better approach.”



No matter what strategy you choose, the key is to make sure you know your learners. Equally important, believe that all your students can be successful with on-grade level tasks. If you use these strategies on how to best prepare students to reach grade-level standards, you will help propel them closer to mastery and succeed with grade-level content.

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