A New Roadmap: Charting a Course to Success for All Learners

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 3.26.41 PM

Imagine that you are a young student sitting in math class. You would like to do your best in what is being asked of you, but math doesn’t come easy for you. In fact, you say that you hate math! It feels like you study harder than your friends, and just when you feel like you understand a concept you’ve been taught, there are new ways of using this information to solve problems that you don’t understand. Keeping this in mind, now imagine that your teacher has finished a lesson on addition, and she is asking you to read and solve numerous story problems for homework before a big unit test… maybe reading is hard for you, too, and tests only bring out your anxiety! Oh no! I began to wonder how this would feel if I were in this student’s shoes when I found a website to simulate what he might experience: Understood.org Simulations of Learning and Attention Issues

As this site continues to add, “It’s one thing to read about learning and attention issues. It’s another thing to see them through your child’s eyes” (Understood.org, 2017). What does this feel like to you? Isn’t there a way to help?

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 6.01.24 PM.png

Photo Source: http://www.testingforchildren.com

Yes, there is a way to help your students!

Now imagine that you are an amazing teacher (or maybe you already are!) and you would like to try employing “powerful teaching devices to organize and present curriculum content in an understandable and easy-to-learn manner” (The KU Center for Research on Learning, 2017). In order to best help your students as in the above scenario, those students who may not specifically struggle in their learning, those kids who may be challenged by a learning disability, and those students who excel in what you present to them, all parties engaged could benefit from a way to interact with any curricular content at any level: “content enhancement”.

Content Enhancement

When I recently came across this concept, I have to admit it was new to me. If it’s new to you, too, the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning describes that, “Content Enhancement is an instructional method that relies on using powerful teaching devices to organize and present content in an understandable and easy-to-learn manner. Teachers identify the content that they deem to be most critical and teach it using powerful teaching routines that actively engage students” (2009).

Deshler and Ehren also describe it here:

Albeit that this solution is not the only one to help both challenged and gifted learners, I think that the tools provided in applying content enhancement could prove to be very useful as a framework for educators to teach all students valuable content in ways that will help them to make the connections to understand it more deeply. As a teacher myself, I think in particular about my students who struggle and when I can find any new way to assist them, to build them up, and to further their understanding, I’m in!

How specifically does it help?

It seems like a great concept, but if you’re a teacher and are curious about the in’s and out’s of how this works, it really begins with your process of planning what you will teach and how. There are seven main steps in the SMARTER Planning Process, including to begin with a ‘determination of the critical content that your students must master, constructing or choosing graphic organizers to map this content, anticipating where students may struggle in learning what you will present, and to keep teaching strategy in action as planned when the content is taught” (Aceves & Fritschmann, 2016). As we teachers know, planning with much forethought is important, and content enhancement begins with this in mind for all students to understand and apply what you set out to teach them.

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 3.27.23 PM.png

Comic by Randy Glasbergen

Next, teachers would use CER’s, or Content Enhancement Routines, so that students of all ability and knowledge levels can make connections to prior knowledge, interact with current content, and understand how this will be used once you are ready to move on to another unit of instruction, in what is referred to as “Cue, Do, Review” (GIST, 2017). There is a breakdown of “routines” and strategies to use for these three action steps. One such routine, in the “Cue” step, would be to have your students use specific graphic organizers to map main ideas in a unit, when certain concepts within that unit will be learned, how the unit relates to former units of study and to enact some background knowledge, and to plan some questions to be answered by the end of the unit (The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, 2006).

For the Teachers

If you are thinking, “I don’t have time to learn another strategy or to change how I plan my lessons!”, Aceves and Fritschmann also report that, “when surveyed, teachers trained in CERs have reported being able to easily learn the routines, found their instruction more complete, and shared high levels of satisfaction” (2016). Maybe you already use content enhancement in your classroom. If so, what do you like about using the various planning techniques and routines? I welcome your thoughts, so please let me know. Thanks for visiting my blog!


Aceves, T. & Fritschmann, N. (2016, January). TeachingLD.org. A Focus On: Content Enhancement Routines. Retrieved from http://s3.amazonaws.com/cmi-teaching-ld/alerts/33/uploaded_files/original_DLD_Alert24_go_rev.pdf?1455827583

Glasbergen, R. (n.d.). http://www.glasbergen.com/wp-content/gallery/cartoons-about-reading/edu60.gif%5BCartoon%5D

GIST. (2017). Developing Literacy Through Content Enhancement. Retrieved July 09, 2017, from https://store.gistplan.com/pages/developing-literacy-through-content-enhancement

GISTv2. (2016, March 15). Content Enhancement and SIM Don Deshler and Barb Ehren. Retrieved July 09, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2tw9EaIbRI

Kansas Center for Research on Learning . (2009). Content Enhancement. Retrieved from http://ttac.vt.edu/content/dam/ttac_vt_edu/CE_Overview1.pdf

Learning Disabilities. (2013). In Testing for Children.com (Comp.). Retrieved from http://www.testingforchildren.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Learning-Disabilities2.png

Meme Center – Largest Creative Humor Community. (n.d.). Retrieved July 09, 2017, from https://memecenter.com/

The KU Center for Research on Learning. (2017). SIM Content Enhancement Routines. Retrieved July 09, 2017, from http://sim.kucrl.org/routines

The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. (2006). The Unit Organizer Routine(PowerPoint Presentation). Lawrence, KS. 2006 ravallicurriculum.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/66872018/unit%20organizer%20PP.pptx

Through Your Child’s Eyes. (2017). Retrieved July 09, 2017, from https://www.understood.org/en/tools/through-your-childs-eyes
Simulations of Learning and Attention Issues

3 thoughts on “A New Roadmap: Charting a Course to Success for All Learners

  1. I like the variety of instructional practices you have discussed here. We can really use them in a difficult content area like math. Which do you think might be most effective for struggling students?


    1. Hi, Dr. Okolo!
      Thanks for your comment and thoughts! Thinking about math and struggling students, I remember what I got to witness and what I learned in the semester of my practicum. Seeing how my students struggled helped me to think that the planning process and reorganizing the curriculum in order to anticipate their difficulties would be an effective start to helping them in their challenges with math. I liked both the Unit and Lesson Organizer Routines because I thought this would really help such learners to activate the background knowledge within prior lessons/units, schedule how they would follow the current lesson/unit, and to be aware of and looking within the current content for the answers to specific questions relating to the learning targets set. Before working on specific skills, I think this would set the stage for all learners to be more successful in math!
      🙂 Molly


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s