I really liked the idea of creating a class web as a pre-assessment as described on pages 46-47. I appreciated the comment about having students work in pairs to “share and test their ideas before presenting them to the whole group.” This showed consideration for her students. I also was intrigued by the idea of having students as “resident experts” at the different science workstations as describes on page 48-49. Having students as experts at the different workstations will increase their sense of capableness and ownership in the classroom. I imagine that it also helps with classroom management.
I think the educators are very caring of all their students. One of the comments about bringing in parent volunteers (p.105) leads me to think that she works in a middle class / upper middle class school. Lesson plans written for a Title 1 school rarely include activities that require a parent volunteer. I do think that a revised edition of this book is overdue (it's c2003). Every single project is paper and pencil driven. The only bit of technology I found was "make an audio tape' (p.81). That task is impossible at my school because we don't have any more tape recorders! Today it would be re-written as "make a video with the Flip camera.
I think the layouts of the units are great. I like how they pre-assess and by the 2nd lesson they begin differentiating. The model of each unit seems to move from whole group, to small group, to independent, which is what I like. I like the graphic organizers, especially on pages 62 and 93 and the book list on page 66. These units are well thought out and organized, so that the reader can take them and use them immediately in their classroom. These teachers really seem to have the hang of flexibly grouping their students. They are in interest groups, mixed readiness groups, lower and higher readiness and it they jigsaw with ease! This kind of grouping definitely takes a lot of practice and modeling!
In regards to Mrs. M's Kinders comment: I also liked the graphic organizer on page 93. It is different than the usual cause and effect graphic organizers we usually use. Usually they just have one (or two at the most) cause and one effect. I liked the organizer on page 93 because it shows the sort of domino effect that can happen. I can see how this could also be applied in our study of food chains and webs in 4th grade science.
I think these educators are right on. Their thoughtfulness, thorough planning, and attention to detail is evident with every page that turns through this book. They were obviously on the right track when they decided to not only write about differentiation, but to provide structured and teachable examples in a complete and organized unit form. I love this way of thinking. In working through these units, I'm beginning to piggyback on some of the ideas they have presented with regard to the layout. All of a sudden, other PGP units I've taught have begun to take different form in my head. It's all due to the wonderful educators who have crafted this book.
In response to "Of Life"... I agree completely that a revision is due! My only criticism of this book is that the units are so paper/pencil driven. They could use a jump into the 21st century classroom. But I do love the units!
In response to D. Pico... I love the idea of having "experts"... we did this at Summer School last year... found kids who were really good at something, and then we rotated kids through and had the "expert" do the teaching. The students were reluctant at first, but eventually they came around, and they BLOSSOMED! It would be GREAT to do this in a classroom!
In response to D.Pico...I also love the class web. It was such a great way to start the unit. It works for all levels because the who don't know much about plants will feel safe because working with a partner. The class web is something that can easily be used for any unit. Its something I plan on trying early this fall.
The educators are on top of things when it comes to working with kids by their willingness to develop such detailed, time consuming, units of differentiated study. I think they are missing the boat on one very important aspect – technology.
In response to Miss Lee:Doesn't your mind just sail away with the possibilities for improving previous lessons we've taught? I love when that happens after reading a book like this!
In response to Of Life, Education, E-bay, Travel & Books:Using the technological tools now at our disposal and in the future makes differentiation so wonderful!!!!
I thought the layouts were easy to follow. The unit description and the teacher commentary answered questions I had when I first read the unit overview. I thought the idea Ms. Eidson had about posting the plant anchor charts and how she had students utilize them later for other activities and also for reference was a great idea!Also on p. 47 in the teacher commentary, I agreed with Ms. Eidson about this was an easy way to use choice.On p. 82 & 83, I was intrigued how Ms. Bonneti set up the tiered writing prompts and tied it into the instruction. We strive to do this and this was a great example to use as an reference.
I think it's clear how much the educators care about their students and their profession. There is a lot of thoughtfulness and planning involved in the units. You can tell they didn't just pull this stuff out of thin air or teach on the fly. I liked how the units went from whole group to small group to independent practice. They all follow gradual release beautifully. They were all considerate of their students' various learning levels, but in addition, I really liked how the teacher in Unit 3 considered her students' multiple intelligences throughout her lessons on pages 77-78 and 81-82. She had several lessons where students could choose the product they wanted to create. She had based the products on their multiple intelligences. She also had an activity for kinesthetic learners on pages 83-84.
It is very obvious how much these educators care about their students. My thought is that they are also very experienced and know their students very well. Again, I love the way the Social Studies is addressed and laid out on page 68-71. I really do like the way they have the lesson titles, the whole class components and the differentiation. I also think the time focus of class periods or minutes is a great help to keep a teacher focused. I think these are educators who are very introspective of their teaching and honest about what they have done, based upon the teacher commentary pages 73-85. I think the Learning Contracts that they have developed focus on true differentiation in the classroom.
I agree with Mrs. M's Kinders that the units are thoughtfully planned out and that the reader can take the unit out and immediately start using in the class. I have pulled out the format and slotted in my activities for a unit of study for the coming year.
I agree with everyone - these teachers are indeed amazing - it is very apparent that they have put hours of time into creating these lessons /units and adjusted them over time. Miss. Lee, in fact they remind me of a certain most excellent teacher at your school!
This would be an excellent book to give to all first year teachers. The cookbook approach is just what a brand new teacher needs. They aren't ready to improvise on any recipes yet!
I really enjoyed the format of the units of study-especially the one on community helpers. The information given is thoughtful and easy to understand and the teacher commentary adds so much to understanding the thinking of the teacher as she worked through the units with her students. I feel that part is invaluable. The teachers who wrote these units clearly understand the concept of differentiating for each student because there are a wide variety of ideas shared to meet the needs of all learners in the classroom. Carol Ann Tomlinson also feels an obligation to make the sometimes difficult idea of differentiation pragmatic for all levels of teachers-the novice and the well-versed.
Personally, I thought the layouts were great: easy to follow, purposeful, engaging, rigorous and well thought out. The teachers who made these spent time planning a thorough unit and made each activity different, yet challenging.
I really enjoyed the layout and thought that the teachers did an excellant job at reaching all the different levels of their students in their classrooms. As I read, I kept thinking of classes that I have had in the past, and there was something in every lesson that would have been easy to incorporate for the different levels. I believe this type of units are going to be fun and interesting for all the students in my class, as well as make learning/teaching science more fun for the teacher as well!It's a win- win situation!
I wish all our units where like these! At least for the Science and Social Studies aspect. They way the pre-assess students and use that information to guide their investigations seems more doable then everyone doing the exact same lessons at the exact same time. I also like the way that they offer options that are realistic for students to "show what they know".
There are many things I liked about the units. Before the lesson, I like the way the author list the objectives into what students will "know," "understand," and "be able to do." There is a big difference in each and I think its important to see that before you begin to lesson plan. I also thought that the assessments at the beginning were very engaging and open-ended. I loved that many of the activities were group or paired activities. I also liked the use of varying task activities used in both units based on student readiness. In the plant unit, I liked the use of alphabet bag closure(pages 48,53, 57,) and the 3-2-1 closure at the end of lessons. Often we are so busy that it is hard to really have a good reflection every day, but the author provides one at the end of lesson that is easy and quick. I also like the format of the unit assessments (plant 58 - 59) and the social studies unit on page 85 that provides options for students to choose from.
I really liked how concisely everything was laid out in the units and that they attended to students at all levels. There were varied activities for the students to choose from, and I really felt like these units allowed for the students to take ownership of their learning. All students, no matter what their readiness level were able to be successful in these units. Also, practice and routines helped students know what to expect and minimize any classroom management issues.
I like the way the unit is laid out. I got several ideas for the second grade 4th nine weeks social studies curriculum. The unit that begins on page 73 and ends on page 85 correlates really well with the TEKS we have in SS. I plan to use some of these ideas in the future.
As I mentioned in my last post, I really liked the overall organization of the units. None of the actual units were in subjects that I teach (I teach 8th grade, so I would really like to read this version of the book for middle grades), but I still found useful parts. I thought that the anchor activities (ex. p. 61)were a good idea. I liked that the students had choices in these activities and that students always had challenging but interesting work to do if they finished early. I would have liked to hear more about how these were worked into the overall plan, though. Maybe I missed something, but I wasn't sure if these were optional (for only students who finished early) or required. If they are required, I was curious as to when students worked on these if they never finished work early. I also liked the learning contracts and the fact that these contracts had two different levels (p. 87-91).
Sharon, I also really appreciated the layout of these units and appreciated the way the teachers used differentiation. I also believe that these type of units make it look like the kids would have fun while learning.
Rebecca, you are so right. These units really help students take ownership of their learning. I think it is so important that our students become more active in their learning. As a middle school teacher, I kept thinking: If elementary students could handle all the things that these units ask them to do, they should be so prepared for what I want them doing in my room. Also, in response to Karen Donathen, I agree that the only thing this book does not seem to include is incorporation of technology. I find that the use of technology assists when I am trying to differentiate, and it encourages group learning.
The units are so well planned. I know that they wanted us to picture these units in any grade level, but I just wonder how to adjust it to fit my fourth graders. I hope that I can collaborate with some other fourth grade teachers to develop some units of our own. I especially liked how the Community Helpers unit had a lot of flexibility time wise.
I agree with Karen Donathen- we need to take these great ideas and units and apply our knowledge from 11 tools to make the most of each child's learning!
In response to Betsy Foye-I agree that with your point that it's difficult to get some students to finish all of their work- when would they finish the learning contract. In elementary, we can't grade anything that has been worked on at home- so having a student work on the learning contract at home is not an option. I wish I could send some of these open ended activities for homework, but most 4th graders feel like if it's not for a grade, they aren't going to give 100+%... sad!
The units are well thought out and very "deep". It is clear that they authors took their time, knew their curriculum well and were seasoned teachers. The units were differenciated in unique ways and there is a lot of room for choice. Love the pre-assessments and the menus of options for comprehension of the content. I like that the lessons came from different gradelevels and different perspectives. Because I teach in the middle of the levels it leaves me having a range of ideas so that I can not only differenciate for the GT learner but also a struggling learner by using a lower level's ideas.