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Tips for Writing a Product Instruction Manual
For an instruction manual to be effective, it needs to be logically organized, easy to navigate through and written in clear language. People don’t typically read an entire user manual, according to Online-Learning. It’s more likely that users will pick up a manual looking for information about one specific detail.
Know Your Audience
When you’re writing a product or service manual, the target market for the product is the audience for the user manual. Keep your language in line with the average reading level of your target audience, and limit technical lingo unless you know the main readers are likely to have knowledge of industry-related terminology. For example, a user manual for operating a computer for an average person may explain basic details about how to operate it, while a user manual for a complex computer add-on may be geared toward a user with advanced technical knowledge. Overall though, keep sentences short and simple. Focus on explaining how to use the product in a way that answers common questions about it.
Use Short Headings
Headings that are highlighted with bold lettering make it easy for users to scan through sections of the manual and find specific information. It’s best to choose one type of phrasing and use it throughout the manual, according to Microsoft. Try leading with a verb and then the details. For example, ‘Add the Headers’ and ‘Format Each Header the Same Way’ both lead with a verb and then the details, which makes it easier for users to follow the formatting and find the information needed.
Write in Active Voice
When you write a product user manual, you’re talking directly to the reader, according to Online-Learning. So, using language that skirts around a topic could be confusing to the reader. For example, if you’re trying to tell someone they need a Phillip’s head screwdriver, you would, ideally, say “You’ll need a Phillip’s head screwdriver” rather than “To complete this task properly, a Phillip’s head screwdriver may be needed.” When you make it clear who will be performing the task, it draws the reader in and makes the manual more relevant to the reader.
If you’re adding a step-by-step tutorial, you should number each step and begin each step with an imperative verb, according to Microsoft. Use full sentences and avoid fragmented sentences to make sure the message is clear. Hold each step-by-step procedure to seven or less steps, if possible, and keep each step as simple as possible. If you notice step-by-step sections getting too long, see if you can break them into more than one procedure to reduce the number of steps.
When to Use Right Angle Brackets
If you’re writing a user manual for something computer related, where the user may click through a series of steps, right angle brackets may be used shorten the commands and to indicate the click pattern, as noted by Microsoft. For example, directions with right brackets may look like this: Select Dashboard > User Accounts > Register New Account.
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Differentiation in the Language Classroom
Every teacher knows that in any classroom there are many student needs. A “one size fits all” approach to learning and teaching is just not effective. The word we use, and often hear about, is differentiation .
We know that we should be doing it, but what do understand what it is, particularly regarding teaching language?
Take look at these graphics from ASCD :
Now that you have a solid idea of what differentiated instruction is and isn’t, let’s turn our attention to doing this effectively in the language classroom.
First we’ll consider how we differentiate. There are two ways to break this down. One is focused on the teacher (instruction) and the other is focused on the student (learning).
- Content: What is learned
- Process: How it’s learned
- Product: What is produced
- Learning Profile
Here are a few articles that go into more details with these possibilities.
- Differentiated Instruction in the Foreign Language Classroom: Meeting the Diverse Needs of All Learners (Toni Theisen)
- Differentiation in the Language Classroom (Susan Reese)
Another useful concept for employing differentiation in the language classroom:
Here are some resources for using these approaches when teaching in the language classroom:
- Checking for Understanding
As with any teaching suggestions…there is a lot to consider and take in. I wouldn’t try to do it all at once. Pick a focus area, work on it, modify as needed, try it again, and move on to another suggestion when you’re satisfied with the results.
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What Is Differentiated Instruction?
Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products, or the learning environment, the use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to instruction.
- How to vary the level of content you present,How to provide a variety of learning environments,Different ways students can show what they've learned
At its most basic level, differentiation consists of the efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom. Whenever a teacher reaches out to an individual or small group to vary his or her teaching in order to create the best learning experience possible, that teacher is differentiating instruction.
Teachers can differentiate at least four classroom elements based on student readiness, interest, or learning profile:
- Content – what the student needs to learn or how the student will get access to the information;
- Process – activities in which the student engages in order to make sense of or master the content;
- Products – culminating projects that ask the student to rehearse, apply, and extend what he or she has learned in a unit; and
- Learning environment – the way the classroom works and feels.
Examples of differentiating content at the elementary level include the following:
- Using reading materials at varying readability levels;
- Putting text materials on tape;
- Using spelling or vocabulary lists at readiness levels of students;
- Presenting ideas through both auditory and visual means;
- Using reading buddies; and
- Meeting with small groups to re-teach an idea or skill for struggling learners, or to extend the thinking or skills of advanced learners.
Examples of differentiating process or activities at the elementary level include the following:
- Using tiered activities through which all learners work with the same important understandings and skills, but proceed with different levels of support, challenge, or complexity;
- Providing interest centers that encourage students to explore subsets of the class topic of particular interest to them;
- Developing personal agendas (task lists written by the teacher and containing both in-common work for the whole class and work that addresses individual needs of learners) to be completed either during specified agenda time or as students complete other work early;
- Offering manipulatives or other hands-on supports for students who need them; and
- Varying the length of time a student may take to complete a task in order to provide additional support for a struggling learner or to encourage an advanced learner to pursue a topic in greater depth.
Examples of differentiating products at the elementary level include the following:
- Giving students options of how to express required learning (e.g., create a puppet show, write a letter, or develop a mural with labels);
- Using rubrics that match and extend students’ varied skills levels;
- Allowing students to work alone or in small groups on their products; and
- Encouraging students to create their own product assignments as long as the assignments contain required elements.
Examples of differentiating learning environment at the elementary level include:
- Making sure there are places in the room to work quietly and without distraction, as well as places that invite student collaboration;
- Providing materials that reflect a variety of cultures and home settings;
- Setting out clear guidelines for independent work that matches individual needs;
- Developing routines that allow students to get help when teachers are busy with other students and cannot help them immediately; and
- Helping students understand that some learners need to move around to learn, while others do better sitting quietly (Tomlinson, 1995, 1999; Winebrenner, 1992, 1996).
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Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books.
Danielson, C. (1996). Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. ED 403 245.
Sternberg, R. J., Torff, B., & Grigorenko, E. L. (1998). Teaching triarchically improves student achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(3), 374-384. EJ 576 492.
Tomlinson, C. (1995). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. ED 386 301.
Tomlinson, C. (1999). The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of all Learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. ED 429 944.
Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Winebrenner, S. (1992). Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.
Winebrenner, S. (1996). Teaching kids with Learning Difficulties in the Regular Classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit. ED 396 502.
Excerpted from: Tomlinson, C. A. (August, 2000). Differentiation of Instruction in the Elementary Grades. ERIC Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.
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Managing differentiated learning in traditional language skills activities
All students are different from each other. We are all different from each other: different personalities, different tastes, different hobbies, different backgrounds, different dreams or different learning styles.
However, when we enter our classroom, we tend to bring one size fits all activities with us . Therefore, it will be difficult to reach all our students, either from a motivational or from a language level perspective.
Frequently, we don´t deal with an issue until we notice that something is not working, but why wait until you have a problem? Isn´t it better to nip it in the bud? We need to have an ace up our sleeve .
Let´s look at some ideas in order to be prepared for the diversity that we are undoubtedly going to find in the classroom.
- Bring two similar texts to your lesson instead of one , so that they can choose between them. That little decision, although a small one, will give them the possibility of choice and, consequently, a sense of control.
- Include different types of questions . Instead of just having the typical multiple choice questions, offer other options, such as true or false, multiple choice with more or fewer items, short answers, and so on. Don't give them the same activity , take into account their level or let them choose the one they want to complete.
- If some of the students finish before the rest, you could ask them to explain their answers or to find some word classes in the text (nouns, adjectives, verbs...). Ask them to write the text in another tense or to look for synonyms or antonyms. You could even ask them to prepare more questions for their classmates , individually or in groups.
- Nowadays, many audios also have videos along with them. That visual aid is an extra help not all of them may need. Divide the class in two groups: some having access to audio and video and the others just listening to the audio . You could make the decision or perhaps they could, giving them extra autonomy and self awareness of their own learning needs.
- Additionally, thanks to new technologies, you can give some students the opportunity to hear an audio as many times as they may need , individually, and at their own pace.
- You could even consider translation and transcription in your activities.
- As with reading, the activities offered could differ from each other, trying to meet the individual needs of each of the students, regarding their English knowledge.
- Of course, you could also bring more than one audio to let them choose , or some related audios or readings to delve deeper into a subject , either by listening or reading for further information about an issue.
- This is an easy one: They don't have to write texts of the same length .
- Give them different options to write about .
- Show them some examples.
- Avoid the blank sheet syndrome by brainstorming and debating before actually writing . Tell them to rewrite a story, give them the first lines of a text in order to continue it or let them write about something that they really like, such as a TV series or an artist.
- Try collective or group writing .
- Create a classroom blog, a newspaper or a magazine . They can have different roles and they can write about different issues.
- Let them write songs, stories or poems if they want to.
- Describe images. Let them choose their theme among different titles or photos . This will again give them that sense of control mentioned above.
- Debate . Make controversial statements and let them contradict you.
- Don't correct their mistakes, put fluency first . Make notes and talk about them later, on the blackboard, all together, let them correct their own mistakes.
- Record them. Give them the chance to record themselves at home . They could choose to use either audio with video or audio only, depending on their own preferences.
- Use new technologies . Free digital tools such as Flipgrid are a must.
- Remember that, many times, speaking happens when you don't expect it. Let it flow . Don't change the subject because you have to continue with your lesson plan. English happens like that.
If some students finish before their classmates, you can always make them help the other students, correct each other or compare their answers in groups or pairs . Peer correction is strongly recommended.
The key point is understanding that differentiation occurs mainly in the activities, rather than in the text itself . It all depends on what you ask them to do with it.
Ingrid Mosquera, PhD.
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Chapter 6. Differentiated instruction for language and learning strategies: Classroom applications
From the book perspectives on individual characteristics and foreign language education.
- Anna Uhl Chamot
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5 Steps to Differentiating Instruction for English Language Learners
Differentiated instruction and assessment provide different pathways to learning so that every student in your classroom—including students from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds—can reach high expectations and standards. In their book Differentiating Instruction and Assessment for English Language Learners, Shelley Fairbairn & Stephaney Jones-Vo outline what teachers and specialists need to know and do to effectively differentiate instruction and assessment for the English language learners (ELLs) in their classes.
Here are 5 general steps for K-12 teachers to keep in mind, excerpted and adapted from the book:
Gather important information about your students. Begin your lesson planning by collecting the English language proficiency (ELP) levels of each ELL in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. You’ll also want to collect data about prior schooling and home language literacy, cultural background, immigrant and refugee status, special needs of students pertaining to giftedness and cognitive or behavioral disabilities, and student interests. When you understand these factors, you can design instruction that matches students’ needs, and that facilitates learning. Assessments that take these factors into account allow students to fully reflect their knowledge and skills in the content areas.
Determine long-range learning goals and set corresponding content and language objectives. Once you’ve identified the essential learning goals of an assignment for all students, create standards-based content objectives in clear, specific, and measurable terms for the units of instruction you develop. Identify the language demands of the assignment and articulate language objectives for each activity that focus attention on how students use language to achieve the content objectives (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2016). Language objectives can be drawn from the oral and written language that is explicit or
implicit in the standards-based content objectives. The student descriptors show you how to differentiate language objectives and set reasonable language-based expectations for students at five ELP levels. When you differentiate language objectives according to ELP levels and use content objectives that are the same for all students, you enhance students’ simultaneous development of language and content-area knowledge and skills.
Need book recommendations? Explore 5 Essential Books for Teaching Multilingual Learners!
Design and differentiate assignments and assessments. Measures of student achievement should yield evidence of student performance relative to the content and language objectives set forth for a given lesson, set of lessons, unit, or longer period of instruction. The assessments must account for a range of student factors that influence learning, such as prior schooling and home language literacy, ELP level, cultural background, and special needs. Be sure to include accommodations that prevent those factors from confounding assessment. For example, students’ differing background knowledge can hinder their achievement on a reading comprehension test because they are not familiar with the topic. The scoring criteria for these assignments/assessments also must take into account students’ ELP levels so that the expectations for students at different levels are in keeping with the test data for each student. Differentiated tests can be provided.
Design lesson plans. Lesson plans should be designed to enable students to learn the content and language necessary to achieve the instructional objectives of the lesson. Select differentiated instructional and assignment/assessment strategies that are appropriate for the students’ levels of language proficiency and align with the lesson’s content and language objectives. In this way, ELLs will be able to demonstrate their learning on the predesigned assignments using differentiated assessments. Avoid thinking of this sort of planning as “teaching to the test” in its negative connotation. Keep in mind that this constitutes high-quality instruction focused on the knowledge and skills that the standards require from all students. This is the way to set ELLs up for success in achieving the objectives of each lesson, thus providing access to the curriculum.
READ MORE: Get 40+ Language & Literacy Interventions for Multilingual Learners in this blog post!
Teach, assess, and adjust. Implement your differentiated lesson plans, paying attention to differentiated instructional and assessment strategies for students at different ELP levels. Information gleaned from the assessment process should be used to inform your future instruction. Use differentiated rubrics to assess student performance, document growth, and identify targets for instruction.
Your students will vary in terms of culture, language, ability/disability, and more, but all are entitled to equal educational opportunities under the law. Keep this general five-step process in mind when differentiating instruction and assessment—and get the book behind today’s post for more details on how to put these steps into action.
Reference Echevarria, J., Vogt, M., & Short, D. (2016). Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP model (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education
Differentiating Instruction and Assessment for English Language Learners
By Shelley Fairbairn & Stephaney Jones-Vo
This user-friendly guide shows elementary and secondary teachers how to differentiate core content-area instruction and assessment for the ELLs in their classes. Includes concrete strategies teachers can use in any content-area classroom to engage every ELL, from beginning to advanced levels of English language development.
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