Sunday, June 12, 2011

Session 3 - Question 3

If you were asked by your administrator to present to your grade level or campus the keys actions to follow while differentiating for gifted students what would you say?


  1. I hope I am interpreting this question correctly, because I feel like my answers are a bit redundant today. I think the key actions to follow are the ones that she has laid out for us on pages 129-131 and also on pages 96-97. First and foremost we need to look at what the TEKS are that need to be addressed. From there we need to look at the concepts and generalizations and finally the unit objectives (broken into the categories I mentioned in question 2). Once we have all these things laid out in a very concise way, we can design a pre-test that addresses what the students need to get out of the unit. Once we know where they are in the grand scheme of things, we can then differentiate activities based on their readiness.

  2. First and foremost, the key action to start with is in the planning. You have to take into account the student’s interests, their learning styles, their multiple intelligences as well as the learning content. By observing and keeping anecdotal records, looking at both formal and informal assessments, as well as providing flexible grouping you provide the best instructional setting and learning opportunities. The teaching and learning has to be well thought out and thorough in regards to instructional activities, the differentiation provided, the flexible grouping and the assessments.
    Secondly, the key action would have to involve student choice. This is evidenced in this text through tiered activities, learning contracts, differentiated homework and in self-selected application tasks, RAFT activities and final products. Another great way to plan student choice is the ways they choose to communicate their learning. With all the Web 2.0 tools available to us now ( as well as document cameras, slide shows, imovies, drawing programs, etc.) students choose their tools and method of communicating as part of the instruction and learning with technology a natural part of this.

  3. 1- Detailed planning - keeping TEKS and objectives at the forefront.

    2-Pre-assessment to determine student readiness.

    3- Detailed and varied lessons where students work alone, paired, in small groups, and with entire class- always focusing on multiple intelligences.

    4-Constantly check for understanding.

    5- Review and apply what students have learned.

    6-Student reflection/teacher reflection- assess.


  4. In reponse to cynthiamer and Brandy B:

    I agree planning and pre-assessment have to stay at the forefront.

  5. The keys to differentiating for all students, not just gifted students, is to pre-assess to determine what students know, connect the units of study to real world circumstances, and structure the activities interdisciplinary-ly so that all content areas are tied together. Pre-assessments are vital. Why would you waste your time and students’ time teaching them something they already know? It’s a recipe for bad behavior! Research has shown that students learn best when the learning is meaningful. The way to make learning meaningful is to connect the learning to a real-world situation or problem that needs to be solved. Students will always remember an activity that is significant to them. Literacy, reading & writing, are the building blocks to all other content areas. When students use reading & writing to learn math, or history, or science they become real mathematicians, historians, and scientists. After all, people in the real-world use all of these compartmentalized content areas intertwined every day. As educators of 21st century learners, that’s precisely what we must show them how to do.

  6. At the beginning of the school year it is important to get to know your students. This is a good time to administer interest and multiple intelligence surveys. This will give you basic information you can use throughout the year.

    For the individual units, the teachers should analyze the TEKS and determine what proving actions would demonstrate understanding. More than one proving action should be identified to allow for choice and differentiation. Interdisciplinary and real-life connections should also be identified so the content has meaning for the students.

    Pre-assessment is next. The teacher can use the information from the pre-assessments to decide what should be taught as a whole group or in small groups.

    The teacher should then look at the time allotted for the unit and organize the plan of study accordingly.

  7. In response to Karen Donathen...

    I really like step 7 - Celebrate! Too often I leave out celebrating how students have grown in the rush to move on to the next topic in the scope and sequence. Time really is my biggest enemy.

  8. I think the 3 key points are planning, pre-assessment and varied lessons/projects. On pages 96- 97 and 129 – 131 the teachers clearly listed the standards, concepts and objectives. The teachers in chapters 4 & 5 really use each objective to plan the lessons, which is how it should be. Once the teacher has a planned the unit and decides what the students will be able to understand and do as a result of the unit planning, the teacher can then create a pre-assessment that will determine the students knowledge based on the unit’s objectives. The next step is to develop lessons based on mixed readiness groups, that are meaningful and require each target group to work to their full potential. I love the three lessons for each readiness group on page 106.

  9. I think planning and looking at the TEKS are important so you know where to start and where you're going with your students. Also, I think it's really important to get to know your students. Pre-assessments, interest inventories, and ancedotal records are all vital for really knowing your students. I liked the mathematics self assessment on page 153. I think by using that, the teacher was better able to understand what each student felt about his/her math abilities. Kids who feel they are bad at something need more encouragement from the teacher. Of course, checking for understanding and assessing are also vital. I also thing choice is important. Students are more motivated when they have choice.

  10. In response to Karen Donathen on July 8 at 8:28 PM, I love how you included celebrate. I think often we get so focused on teaching the next objective that we forget to celebrate the learning acquired from the lesson that is wrapping up. Kids need to feel that sense of accomplishment.

  11. Send them to the library! Yes, I am a librarian. Seriously, give them an assignment and send them to the library to work on it. Don't make them "tutor" the students who didn't "get it" the first time. That's not stretching their brains at all. And don't give them a packet of "busy work". One can only do so many word searches (and some kids hate those). For example, in the ABC unit (begins on page 17) have the GT student work on creating an Animoto on the Letter of their choice and then let them present it to the class. That will inspire other students to master the concepts so they can make an Animoto too. Animotos are easy to make and the results are spectacular. The students can also use the new technology in their classrooms to work on projects independently.

  12. Brandy, I've really enjoyed this book and I think I'll use it till it falls apart next year but I too and finding my answers "redundant". Since it's more of a cookbook than a theoretical book there isn't that much meat in it.

  13. Karen, you are so right about Celebrations! In previous years we always did a final presentation to the parents with refreshments and such like. The kids helped plan it and really enjoyed it and always rose to the occasion. This year, since we were packing for our upcoming move it fell by the wayside. I ended the year on a very "unfinished" note. I am going to make a strong effort not to have that happen in this upcoming school year.

  14. @ Of Life, Education, E-bay, Travel & Books - LOVE the idea of sending them down to the library!

    @ Karen D. I absolutely agree with you on the steps!

    I believe that planning should be a crucial aspect of a phenomenal unit. I like to keep the TEKS in the front of my mind but I also like keeping the end in mind. Where I want to go with the learning, etc...

    I will continue to pre-assess my students and use the data to align my small group instruction (knowing that there are ALWAYS going to be a few that need extra help and a few that are ready to progress onto to bigger and better things!)

    Create menus from which the children will work through lessons either independently, with partners, or in groups. I think Blooms should be part of this as learners are at different stages in their knowledge & being able to apply what they have learned! For 2nd graders, though, a lot of technology would need to be introduced so that students could use the iTouches and Dell 2120's, as well as Web 2.0 to create projects.

    Checking in with students in small group, or having them reflect on a blog or wiki, will help the teacher monitor for on task behavior and for understanding! As part of this step, I think having the students to reflect on each other's posts, will help them review what they have learned.

    Lastly, I think that the student reflection / teacher assessment should depend upon what the learner is capable of. In other words, if a child can easily whip out a trading card, or powerpoint, then maybe challenge that person to create an Animoto or something that not only uses their creativity but also their brain to problem solve.

    Finally, I love the idea of celebrating! I can't think of a more appropriate term! This could be done using SKPYE, OOVOO between 2 different schools. I dabbled a little with this with Frostwood Elementary and it was AWESOME! My class really enjoyed discussing what they had learned about birds. If you are curious to learn more, check it out on my classroom blog:
    Karen Justl helped hook us up with Sally Craddock and I am so thankful she did. :)

  15. In Response to Karen...I like the way you listed the 7 steps, with #7 of course being my favorite. So easy to do, yet so easily forgotten!

  16. I would say that first of all we need:

    1. Plan the lessons up front with the
    TEKS, Concepts and Unit objectives
    organized as shown on page 130.
    2. Pre-assess your students to see what their
    level of knowledge is.
    3. Plan for large and small group instruction
    taking into account, student’s learning
    styles, abilities and interests. Be
    creative, using “real world activities” and
    making the lesson relevant to the students.
    4. Check for understanding throughout the
    5. Have some form of reflection or self-choice
    product to show mastery of understanding.
    6. Have an arsenal of supporting materials for
    differentiation of the lessons.

  17. I have to say that once again, I agree with Theresa. We both teach second grade and celebration is very much a part of our lessons. Our technology has allowed me to differentiate in the classroom more so than any other avenue I have had.

  18. Responding to "of Life, Education.." I love the idea of creating an animoto video of the letter of their choice. I used animoto a lot last year, and this is one more way to use it with my GT students.

  19. I believe the 3 key points would be- preassessment, well organized planning, and choice. If I know where my students are, I can plan meaningful activities that engage them and make learning more enjoyable for all. I believe that once you know your students that their learning styles, then it takes careful planning to create lessons to meet the needs of all my students. Finally I know that when students are given a choice- discipline is a piece of cake. It takes all the tension out of the room because the students feel empowered to make decisions for themselves.- Sharon G.

  20. Planning, pre assessment and a menu of activities to choose from. The ability to differentiate requires planning, pre assessment to see where the kids are (and this will help with the menu later) and a variety of activities to challenge and engage students, as well as empower them to make their own decision.

  21. In response to Theresa’s post on July 11th: I am continually impressed with the way you always add technology into your thinking. I love the idea of a menu of products, or ways to show what you have learned, so that students have choice in how they respond to learning. I will definitely incorporate that next year! I also think having students respond to learning on blogs or wikis will make my life easier in that I can read the blogs/wikis at home without having to lug home tons of notebooks! Great ideas, Theresa! Thanks!

  22. I think I would follow the unit outline that has been in all the chapters. I would start with the standards being addressed, then the unit concepts and generalization followed by the unit objectives. I would also lay out what the students will understand and what they will be able to do as a result of the unit. Like the authors of the book did, I like having a list of instructional strategies and supporting materials used. With a structured plan like this, it is easier to incorporate technology and activities that play on students' varied needs and learning styles.

  23. When I wrote my post I left off a critical component that Karen discussed on July 8, her step #7 - to celebrate! I think it is so important to celebrate students' successes and acomplishments and should be part of each and every unit!

  24. The number one thing that teachers have to do is work together to develop units of study. While there is a lot of differentiation that each teacher can do once the units are developed, the backbones should to be a collaborative effort. It’s also nice if there is consistency from class to class within a school. The other important point I would make is integrating as much writing into the units as possible. Pre-assessments and interest surveys are so important to reach every child at their level. Constant feedback and checking for understanding is also key to make sure that each student is being challenged appropriately. Fluid group is also essential. While mixing those important elements and making sure we are drawing on the students’ multiple intelligences, we will have a successful campus-wide differentiation plan.

  25. In response to Theresa's comment on skyping with another class- technology is such a meaningful tool in education. I feel that it's a major component missing from this book!

  26. In response to Of Life's post on July 11th- send them to the library! I totally agree. While at times it is important to have students help each other and students have a much better grasp of material if they can explain it, that is not differentiating. It's using the same Bloom's level over and over. Having students do challenging activities either in the classroom or in the library is much more meaningful for their learning.

  27. The key actions... 1. Start with the TEKS, of course, and examine how they fit into a various grade level road map. 2. PLAN! Planning for units such as this one are essential. 3. Pre-assess and see where students are. 4. Plan activities and choices that are varied and have a WIDE range of ability and interest levels. 5. Offer students many options that are NOT wholly pencil-paper tasks. 6. Assess in varied ways. 7. REFLECT and modify for next time!

  28. In response to Carrie on July 12... I agree that consistency within grade level classrooms and even across grade levels is SO important. It's difficult to be the only one on a "team" doing something, especially in elementary school.

  29. In response to "Of Life"... I of course agree 100% about sending them to the Library. When your gifted kiddos are finished and are milling around getting into trouble or reading or any one of a number of other things that might not be positive, have a folder of "extensions" ready, give them a task, and send them to your Library! We're ready and able, at least in SBISD, to handle it and to stretch their learning!

  30. In order to be successful with differentiation, I need to:
    1) Pre-assess and develop units and plan based on assessment; continue to assess formally and informally throughout the unit and make adjustments; don't just assess knowledge- assess interests, as well. Try to provide students with a variety of ways to show what they know
    2) Be clear on what students should know, understand, and be able to do
    3) Be flexible when grouping students
    4) Be flexible in use of time, space, and materials
    5) Get the students involved in their learning and give them responsibility in making the class function effectively
    6) Place the importance on individual growth, but make sure that all students understand the expectation to complete quality work
    7) Differentiation is always providing students with more challenge as opposed to less
    8) Specialists are welcomed and recruited to help those with special needs
    9) Differentiation is intentional and based on purposeful planning

  31. cythiamer, I love that you identified one of the key actions as student choice. I agreed that this is one of the most important ways we can help our G/T students. You are so right that technology really assists when trying to give students this opportunity. I know my students really appreciate any chance they get to use technology to show their learning.

  32. Carrie, I find it helpful to read your comment about the key being collaboration. I believe that is important, as well, but I did not include that in my list. Thanks for reminding me. You are right that it would be very difficult to create the high quality units that are included in this book without a team.

  33. In response to what Miss Roth wrote on July 9, I agree that the differentiation should not be only focused on the gifted students. There are more special population students being mainstreamed these days and less support being offered from the special ed. dept. due to budget cuts, etc. While participating in my GT refresher classes, I find myself thinking just as much about how to differentiate for those students as the gifted.

  34. If I could completely restate the last paragraph on page 129 before the Mathematics Standards Adressed - I would. I believe providing "flexible lessons" that accomadate different styles of learning, different levels of readiness, and different rates of learning will make our teaching and the students learning more successful.
    I have noticed that at some point in each unit, the author has included some form of leveled task, a choice task (which tend to include multiple intelligence task), a project based product, some type of mixed readiness grouping along with partners activities. All of these options allow the students the best opportunities to learn and be successful.

  35. What great ideas of using technology! I have come used to using the activeboard as an instructional tool. But using skype or blogs is one way to put the kids in driver seat of technology.

  36. I agree with Karen and Teresa about Celebrations! We are always in a rush, but if teachers would take the time to celebrate (doesn't have to take a lot of time) they would see the value in those critical moments. The celebration forces students to reflect on what they have learned and studies show that students that reflect on their learning will retain the information easier and longer that students who do not.

    Key Steps actions:
    1. Plan
    2. Pre-assessment
    3. Revise plan
    4. Learning opportunities
    Checking for understanding...reteach or
    5. Reflection of learning
    6. Assessment
    7. Celebrate

  37. @ everyone who would like to use more technology....

    I'm here to SKYPE or even OOVOO with anyone... I can just about make it work to meet the needs of K - 5 and have older kids working as "learning buddies." OOVOO is a cool download because it allows one to share their desktop with the person on the other line. It also allows 3 people to be connected for free.

    Here are my "handles":
    Skype: tschwab-trevino
    OOVOO: tschwab-trevino

    Give me a shout! OOVOO comes over my iPhone 4 wonderfully! I haven't even needed to be in a WIFI location!

    Anyway, these are all going to be fun to explore especially for our new technology roll-outs. :)