I thought the idea of multiple assessment formats was an interesting idea. When I taught second grade, I had many G/T students in my class, so I got in the habit of providing choices of assignments for my students. Sometimes it was class work and sometimes it was homework and my kids loved it. When I was reading page 7, taking that same idea of choices and applying it to choices for assessment purposes sounds like a good idea to allow students show what they learned in their own way. I also found the idea of "level 1" and "level 2 cards on page 22 and page 38 was a helpful idea. I taught kinder/first multiage and now I teach first grade and the range of abilities is huge. Providing options for the different levels in a center ABC or otherwise is a great way to reach all the students. I usually verbally give ideas to my advance students but providing a list seems easier.
While nothing I read in Parts I or II were new, I did like how they described differentiation as "a way up," never "a way out" on page 8. Sometimes we as teachers don't hold our students to the higher standard they can actually achieve. The goal is to stretch the learner. I have taught kinder and first grade, and I like to think of myself as more of a coach. It reminds me of that quote about not being "the sage on the stage, but instead the guide on the side." I also liked that on page 7 they mentioned involving students in sharing the responsibility for the classroom. I think that this is always an important consideration through the year. My teammates and I have always included our students in the creation of classroom rules and stations. I suppose it's something to continue to strive for, to help our students feel like they have ownership in the classroom.
In response to what Shauna said, posted on June 5 at 12:30 P.M., I started using leveled word work stations this year. Another teacher described them to me and I had one of those, "Duh! I should have been doing this all along!" moments we teachers sometimes have. My students loved it. It made word work more challenging for my more advanced readers and more appropriate and less frustrating for my more struggling readers.
Page 5 addresses how crucial it is to work both forward and backward with students who are missing critical information. It is so true! If we don’t provide one-on-one instruction to target gaps, as well as advance the student, the student will continue to struggle and play catch up all year. On pages 6 & 7 flexible grouping is discussed in great depth. I like the idea of guiding the students to form their own work groups. This takes a lot of modeling for kindergarteners, but it can definitely be done. On pages 25 – 27, a pre-assessment is given in the first lesson and the students are divided into readiness groups in the 2nd lesson. I am so amazed with how easily pre-assessment and differentiation can take place with kindergarteners during the first week of school. This is something I can easily try in my classroom.
I'm not sure I read anything that was completely "new" to me. Over the past 15 years, working SBISD has afforded me lots of opportunities to address differentiated instruction, and I don't think I had a completely "new" concept introduced. That said, though, I really enjoyed what I would call a "mini-refresher" course in Part I, the Primer. I loved the info on p. 9 about PLANNING for differentiated instruction. Sometimes I think that b/c I teach PGP to 1st/2nd graders, they will all be on the same advanced level. This is not always true, and I enjoyed the info in how a teacher should plan for differentiation. It will be helpful as I think about my next PGP class!
In response to Mrs. M's Kinders... I agree with your thoughts about how "crucial" it is to have a varied approach to students who miss information that is vital. Flexible grouping, I also agree, is a challenge in the mainstream classroom (no matter the age of student), but it is achievable and a meaningful way to work with all students!
In response to Shauna's comment from June 5... I also loved the idea of the Level 1 and Level 2 station ideas! Why didn't I think of that 15 years ago when I taught 1st grade, as opposed to having students who always finished early. A plan is always best, as you mentioned!
First of all: I liked the quote at the bottom of page 1, I think this sums it up nicely, “Effective teachers, like effective parents, work from a coherent but ever-evolving set of beliefs and principles about teaching and learning.” As far as Part 1 goes, I like to think I try and incorporate most of these ideas; however I think I can do more to improve the way I use time, space and materials flexibly, as well as making the classroom work for everyone. In Part 2, I liked how it said to use colleagues to read and analyze unit s with you…I think it is more structured planning.
In response to Mrs. M's Kinders: I like how you mentioned the part about working forwards and backwards. As a teacher working at a school with high mobility, we see a lot of gaps and it is important to recognize them and close them, while not losing instruction or the curriculum they need to know.
Just like Miss. Lee I've read or attended numerous inservices on differentiation - I think I've had my GT certification for 15 years or so that's a lot of 6 hour updates!. What I love about this book is the "cookbook" approach the authors use. I read Unit 1, All About The ABCs and I'm already thinking of next years PGP kids. My upcoming group is 100% Spanish Speaking and I'm not. My bilingual co-teacher retired so I'll be doing it solo. I can easily see adapting this and also incorporating some technology- perhaps making a Wordle of words or an Animoto of the Alphabet. Last year we did something similar with digital cameras and went out to look for alphabet shapes in nature. The kids loved it.
I agre with Katie - "“Effective teachers, like effective parents, work from a coherent but ever-evolving set of beliefs and principles about teaching and learning.” - I never connected parenting and teaching - but it's so true. Call that my DUH moment for the week.
I love the opening sentence of Part 1 of the Introduction: “Differentiated instruction is really just common sense.” [p. 1]. It truly is common sense. It’s all about meeting kids where they are and taking them forward. The trick is for the teacher to have enough tools and skills to know where to go next and how to get there. Building on the idea of common sense, the idea of responsive teaching-focusing on who we teach, what we teach, where we teach, and how we teach [p. 4]-makes planning what we’re going to do with kids exciting. Rather than focusing on curriculum I must ‘get through’, focusing on the students I teach will allow me and my students to feel successful. The metaphor of “curriculum gives students legs: the knowledge, understanding, and skills they’ll need to move powerfully through life.” [p. 5] is so powerful. I imagine the child running across the playground using those legs to propel herself forward. If curriculum are the legs that support the learner, then we must give it its due. It is vital to our success. Finally, I can see the building blocks of differentiation in Readiness, Interest, and Learning Profile coupled with content, process, and product. These triplets build upon each other and lay the groundwork for understanding differentiation.
In regards to Ms. Roth's comment - "Rather than focusing on curriculum I must ‘get through’, focusing on the students I teach will allow me and my students to feel successful. " I'm not a classroom teacher but I've always wondered how teachers managed this, in light of the fact that our district seems to be going toward a "on Sept. 6th everyone in the 2nd grade will be teaching th lesson plan on page 38" model. Add that to the every multiplying benchmarks and it seems the teacher has less and less choice in what to teach and even how to teach it. Or maybe that's just me.
I am relieved to see this is a “roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty approach to differentiation. (pg. xii) with the intent to push teachers out of their “comfort zones.” “It may well be that the greatest pleasure of teaching comes from learning” (pg. xiii) is a fabulous statement. Teachers are all lifelong learners in the process of creating other lifelong learners.
Betsy Foye: I really appreciated the "Hallmarks of a Differentiated Classroom" on p. 6-9. I thought that it was very helpful for any teacher who wanted to get organized for a new school year. This list of characteristics would be essential in the planning stages. I particularly liked the part where it says, "The teacher involves her students in understanding the nature of the classroom and in making it work for everyone." I've started working on this with my students, but I could definitely use help in improving this. I'm hopeful that the book will go into more detail or provide examples of how to do this effectively.
I think the beginning of part one where it states " Differentiated instruction is really just commmon sense" really is a powerful statement. It is something that teachers are expected to do everyday in their classrooms in order to meet the needs of all their students at whatever levels they might be- how is it we don't do it for assessment purposes yet? Wonder if more kids would be showing growth if they weren't all judged the exact same way
I totally agree with K. Donathen's statement about how " Teachers are all lifelong learners in the process of creating other lifelong learners." I think that when teachers are taken out of their comfort zone they begin to realize how their students feel on a daily basis- for someone who is battling dial-up internet to get these posts created- I am learning that it is sometimes are to perservere when you want to throw your computer out the window.
I thought the Curricular Elements were helpful. These elements are: content, process, and products. These are all just good reminders when planning for a differentiated classroom. I especially appreciate this statement: "Products guide students in moving from consumers of knowledge to producers with knowledge." I really want to continue to work on using a combination of content, process, and products to improve the learning going on in my classroom.
First of all, disregard my "Anonymous" post. I used that as a response to question 2, but I could not delete it here. Sorry! In response to Sharon G.: I agree that we receive mixed messages when it comes to assessment. Differentiation is common sense, yet we seem to have expectations and pressure coming from so many different directions that the assessment part of differentiation does not always get the proper attention. I'd like to continue to work on improving in that area.
In response to Ms. Roth: I like what you said: "Rather than focusing on curriculum I must ‘get through’, focusing on the students I teach will allow me and my students to feel successful.: We face these issues every year. We usually know what good teaching looks like, but we have to jump through so many hoops that sometimes we lose sight of what is most important. I always appreciate these book studies because they serve as guides to get us back on track.
I agree that the majority of the information is not new; however it is always good to hear it again. Inevitably there is a key phrase or idea that I have shoved to the back of my mind. One of the things I really liked about this first assignment is how the author gives a unit overview on pages 20 and 21 and then goes into more detail on subsequent pages. I used pre assessment regularly in my class this year, however, I seem to forget that it doesn’t need to be as formal as a post assessment. I like how she asks her class to show what they know about the alphabet with crayons. Not only is this a simple pre-assessment, but it could also be interpreted by the students as a fun activity. LOVE IT!
In response to tif....I agree that we often do not hold our kids to highest expectations. If we don't expect more out of our students..then we truly are not doing our best as teachers and not holding ourselves to the highest expectations either.
The analogy on page 1 of part 1 comparing the children in a family to the students in the classroom was a different viewpoint than I had considered before. It makes sense that the parents would treat each child differently based on their strengths and personalities in regards to consequences, discussions, goals, etc. It was a natural transition to see how that could play out in the classroom.On page 8 in Part 1 I agreed with the statement, "She has a learning orientation and is excited by her own growth," because this keeps the teacher in the role of the student but more importantly demonstrates the teacher as a lifelong student. We want this for our students and this adds to the both the safety in the classroom environment and also sets a standard of what we want our students to strive towards.In part 2 on page 16, I thought the idea to "try adding your voice to a unit you have on paper," is a good starting point and also lets us model our thinking as they do in the units presented in the book.
I also agree with Sharon G.'s comment posted on June 7th about assessment. This is where I kept getting "caught" this year. I had students who could blow the assessment out of the water before the lesson was ever taught... These are the students who consistently made high A's. What they were learning was not reflected in the assessment or the grade.
When Tif stated, "I did like how they described differentiation as "a way up," never "a way out" on page 8. Sometimes we as teachers don't hold our students to the higher standard they can actually achieve." I agree that this is often true. The "way up" says a lot about high expectations for the student for him/herself as well as the teacher's expectations for that student and gives it a positive but accountability factor as well.
In response to Mrs. M’s Kinders, posted on June 6th: Flexible grouping is a very cool thing to think about. It means every time a group is called or students are asked to work in small groups, the teacher asks the question-could these kids be grouped differently? It all sounds good in theory, but in practice it’s much more difficult. I think assessment ties into flexible grouping too. As kids do ‘tasks’ or ‘assignments’ and the teacher ‘grades’ them, then the teacher can make a running list of what kids could be grouped together for what task. Or perhaps, as directions are being given for a small group activity, say to the class ‘Today you need to work with a group that is the same gender as you.”I am looking forward to seeing if I can make flexible groups work in reality!
The reminder that we as teachers have a choice to make about how we handle the year ahead, was much needed in light of the fast-paced curriculum. That choice consists of "moving ahead with a tightly prescribed curriculum and timeline or [working] consistently to understand the variance in her learners and plan to address those needs as flexibly and effectively as possible." In my classroom I often feel pushed to move ahead and stay on schedule. What I read gave me ideas of how to work more effectively and more efficiently. While I group my students constantly depending on their needs, more flexible groupings could help keep the students interested and provide teaching opportunities for them. I tend to keep the same groups instead of utilizing the skills and talents of my students to meet their peers who are struggling. I also like what Tif and Cynthiamer said about providing students a "way up" and not a "way out". So many of my students have learned out to find their way out of contributing, working, growing. The reading gave me ideas for helping to encourage those students to contribute and like Cynthiamer said, providing them with accountability so they don't continue on their path of learned avoidance.
The idea of differentiated assessments mentioned on page 7 grabbed my attention. I try to implement differentiated activities throughout my instruction, but I typically have the same final assessment over a concept or unit of study. Generally, they are very easy for a portion of the class and challenging for another portion. I do like the idea of providing differentiated assessments that will be equally challenging for each of my students. A question does arise in my mind, however, of fairness in assigning grades. Is an 85% obtained on a less challenging assessment (in general, perhaps not to the individual student) equivalent to an 85% obtained on a more challenging assessment? I was told my first year teaching for SBISD that my students’ grades should correlate to their TAKS scores. I was told this because my reading grades were based on work produced in their reading groups, which I had organized based on their reading levels. My below-level readers were working on grade-level TEKS, just using easier materials. I had a few students making Bs in reading, but unable to pass the district benchmarks. Adjusting their grade to reflect that they are reading below level seems a bit unfair, if they are working to the best of their ability.
In response to cynthiam's comment: I also found the family analogy on page 1 very interesting. Getting to know our students, (certainly not as well as a parent knows his or her child but in a similar fashion) enables teachers to differentiate their instruction to what each child needs. The challenge then comes in really getting to know all of our students.
In response to Miss Roth’s comment, “Rather than focusing on curriculum I must ‘get through’, focusing on the students I teach will allow me and my students to feel successful”- I totally agree. Students benefit so much from our differentiated teaching and their differentiated learning to push them further to be more successful. It also allows all of the students to become more confident in their learning that we are recognizing their differences and challenging them to move forward.
In response to D. Pico’s comment about grading and assessments- that has always been my concern and a question that has never been answered fully. I’m sure it’s not just a Spring Branch “thing” since I know a lot of other districts are much stricter than we are. Many people say that the pre-assessments can serve as the “grade” for the children we do much more challenging material. I think this is something that teachers with GT students and other high achieving students need to discuss further.
The phrase that is sticking out to me right now is "See if you can find colleagues to read, analyze, and discuss the units with you.” (page 15) This seems so simple and we are doing that by doing this book study together. The major point is that teaching is bigger than just one of us. We need to constantly collaborate and bounce ideas off of one another to make our teaching better. That is not to say that our teaching and differentiating should be identical- that would be the opposite of differentiation! We need to have professional conversations to learn how to reach all the different kinds of students we teach each day. Another way we are “lifelong learners.”
Question #1 This was a nice refresher. I feel like it's stuff we know and use but it was good to read and revisit. I liked the section that starts in page 6 that tells the Hallmarks of the Differentiated classroom. A lot of theses are things that we are expected to do with DDI. I saw a lot of strong connections to classroom climate and students feeling respected and valued which ties into the continued use of Tribes in the classroom being beneficial to academic performance. Upper level classrooms tend to move away from Tribes because of time or thinking it is unnecessary, but building the community will foster respect and help children to take the risks needed to push themselves to higher levels.I also like what Brandy B. said about making pre-assessments "fun" and less formal.
I am sad to announce that I didn't make my post by the "deadline". Although, I had every intention of doing so... I have been caught up helping and teaching others how to do the 11 Tools. So, I'm wondering if anything I do today will be counted or shall I bail altogether.... This right here, is a prime reaction to how some of my student's feel. I understand that there are guidelines but to them some things are more important and some assignments take a "back wheel" to others. So, I'll give it a shot... If I can't get credit, then please let me know ASAP so I don't spend any more of my summer trying to complete yet something else... I'll take a class instead.As far as "fresh" ideas goes... This next year, I am going to be implementing more ways in which the students are to show me that they know something. We will be working mainly off of "menus" and incorporating technology as much as possible! I tried this a little this last year - giving them an option as to which Web 2.0 tool that they could use and it was awesome. I just need to remember to teach all the tools that first 9 weeks so that they will understand how to do it. Maybe that should be in place of homework... I find that sometimes it is hard to integrate "extras" with all the curriculum that I need to teach. A lot of it also is that they are 7 years old.I'd also like to connect with other GT, 2nd grade teachers and use SKYPE as a method to share out results of research. I tried this with Sally Craddock with our bird unit and it was AWESOME! The kids LOVED every minute of it. In fact, to see their reaction speaking to them was even more intriguing. Their behaviors were completely opposite than what I had expected! I saw a different social side altogether!
Interesting, I feel the same way that Theresa does. I received the first email from the GT department and the first date said by June 21. I had myself all organized, then I started reading some of the posts and I realized that the first instructions had an error in it. So ensuing panic, then "Oh forget it.", then can I make this work. I think my children go through all of these same thoughts when perhaps my directions are not clear,I don’t believe that there were any new ideas that I read in Part I. However, I do believe that my thoughts were “refreshed” as I read the book. Let me begin by noting some important points in the Introduction. I found it surprising when the author stated that it seems to be that students are “checking out” of school and academics at earlier and earlier ages. I find this frightening and frustrating, especially in today’s climate with all that has gone on this year in school finance. However, I fully agree with the authors when they state that young students’ early experiences have a profound effect on their views of school and their success later on. I feel that sometimes the primary grades are not supported as they should be in light of this.In Part 1, the statement that resonated throughout the entire reading was “Differentiated teaching is responsive teaching.” This is exactly what I believe that differentiation in the classroom is. Until our children show up that first day, we begin the year with a loose framework and then scramble to fill in the gaps and meet each child’s needs. I believe that I am getting better at doing this, but in the face of so many more demands from “outside the classroom”, sometimes I feel like it is a fight. I like figure 1, page 4 and I am going to place it next to my ACTIV board to constantly remind me that all 4 elements affect and are profoundly affected by the others. Sometimes, I let one area go while putting more focus on another. It’s something I need to keep checking myself on.
Theresa, I agree with your comment about using more ways in which children can show me what they know. I teach second grade as well and we benefited from the PTL grant. The one thing it taught me is that I sometimes underestimate what they can do because they are 7 years old.
In response to Mrs. M's Kinders I agree it is crucial to work forward and backward as addressed on page 5. So often I think I have always thought of it as "getting them caught up" to where all the rest of the students are. But the truth is, I am working backward to address those gaps they had and make sure the foundation is firm before working forward.
In response to Carrie's comment...I couldn't agree with you more. Professional collaboration is a must. The hardest part is finding the time to do so!!!
Mrs. E.... What is the PTL grant? Also, maybe you would like to collaborate some. Email me! I'd love to have someone to discuss things with that is from another campus! firstname.lastname@example.org