This is a professional development blog. We'll be discussing books we read as a group. Our discussions will be focused on gifted children.
I found this statement by professior Eliot Eisner to be significant: "The more we stress only what we can measure in school, the more we need to remember that not everything that is measurable matters, and not everything that matters can be measured" (181).I was also inspired by this statement: "When a teacher knows the students and their stories, backgrounds, interests, strengths, and weaknesses, she can hook into those factors to motivate the child to learn in school. She realizes that there is no child who is incapable of learning and no chld who cannot be reached"(183).We all know this, but somehow, once the school year gets going and the stress and millions of deadlines kick in, these simple truths get lost. I plan on making more time to focus on my students individually.
In Chapter 12 I feel it is imperative to have all the following: higher level content and expectations, constructivist environment, self pacing, constant assessment and feedback, and an administration that supports gifted education. The challenge comes when finding the happy medium that works in your classroom with all the new incentives every year. I have found success in my classroom with a learning menu. After I have taught something, I allow the students to choose from a learning menu that have ideas for extending their learning. If teaching math, I found that the Navigators learning menus are a fabulous resource and the ideas have been researched, evaluated, and effective!
In response to e.foye. Wonderful quotes chosen! I agree sometimes the stress takes over and we forget that we are building the future. I find that if I keep in mind that I want to know everything about every child I teach and I show my interest in their lives they are motivated to learn and extend in my classroom when the stress is high!
Several areas in this chapter are critical for the "classroom that works." One is the area of higher level content as mentioned on pages 175-176 as well as students learning how to learn. I believe that so often elementary GT students at their home schools do not experience rich, challenging curriculum. How terribly devastating and demotivating that must be to them day after day. We know that research shows that the GT student needs very few repetitions of new content in order to understand and retain it. And yet how often do we see these students sitting in classrooms where the "new learning" is reviewed and reviewed over and over and over until all students "get it". I work to stress to educators the importance of providing the GT students with the opportunity to move ahead at a quicker pace and have meaningful content and curriculum that challenges them and keeps them seeking greater knowledge and the use of their metacognitive skills. I also agree that the classroom for the GT student must include opportunities for self-pacing as well as immediate, consistent, accurate and specific feedback(as stated and explained on page 179). I have seen GT students just thrive when self-pacing procedures are utilized.
In Chapter 12, for the "classroom that works" and as I think of my own classroom, two very important aspects are high expectations and ongoing, continual (formative) assessment. The subject I teach (chemistry) has very specific parameters and markers. Often, students (and parents) can't believe that I actually expect them to learn what I do expect (and know) that they will learn. I use constant assessment in the form of oral questioning, quizzes, opportunities to work problems in addition to formal tests (summative)at the end of a unit. I often begin a unit or lecture with diagnostic questions to see what students know or don't know before beginning the new concept.
Many things are needed in the classroom that works but they all stem from 1 thing and that is a teacher who understands our culture and the youth that are in their classroom. The very first 2 quotes on page 112 dominated my thoughts as I read this chapter. “American education is in need of an overhaul. No Child Left Behind and other educational reforms are attempts to make American students competitive with those in other countries, notably India and China.” First of all, we are culturally different from India and China hence simply cramming more math and science down our students’ throats because we want to keep up with other countries is a waste of energy. We need to accept and, dare I say, recognize that we are culturally different from India and China and make educational/instructional choices that will improve the educational experience of American children…. children who are soaked in a culture of choice, information, defiance, celebrating the underdog that overcomes, successful rule breakers, a billionaire college dropout, an amazingly successful and talented high school dropout grill master and chef, postal workers making 60,000 a year sorting mail, etc. etc. Secondly, in life they will/do choose (friends, jobs, colleges, clubs, social events, etc). The classroom experience should be more like life in that we should provide our students with some “freedom to choose” (p. 133) and “self-pacing” (p.177). It seems that by doing so we would create engagement that could lead to increased learning/interest in learning and could increase the American students’ ability to compete with students of other cultures.Currently, I am experimenting with self pacing using a social network and netbooks. I think this experiement has been way more difficult for me and my comfort zone than it has been for the majority of my students. It has definitely been a bitter sweet experience. A big selfish part of me does not want to accept that subtracting my teacher talk is actually improving student learning :(. It is definitely not a cure all, but the one thing that I have noticed most is the significant improvement in the performance, learning, and behavior of my most able students (those who are hiding in the academic class to avoid the rigors of the AP class) and on level students.
I like the idea of bringing up rather than dumbing down. The one thing that W got right was when he talked about the soft bigotry of low expectations. (His solution wasn’t all that great, though.) We must have high expectations for every student. Every student has a right to make good progress during an academic school year. The chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, was on TV yesterday, and when he was asked about education of the future, he said that the most important thing is to teach students what kinds of questions to ask. I thought that was really interesting. We have to ask those higher level questions and get students to explain their thinking in many different ways.
In Chapter 12, a couple things stood out to me:pg. 175 "Tomorrow's problems will require mulitdiciplinary, creative, and sophisticated solutions." I think this goes well with Patrice's comment on what Eric Schmidt said.On page 176, as it was talking about training teachers as well as students to raise expectations, "Just as dramatic as the children's progress were the changes in the teachers who were trained in the new curriculum. They substantially altered their viewpoints about what children in poverty could accomplish, and they modified their teaching strategies to include greater rigor." I find this really important because it is frustrating when people think that just because I teach on the North side of I-10, my kids aren't going to be as successful. It irritates me that we are okay with mediocre because of low expectations. I certainly expect as much out of my class as I would if I taught at any affluent school.The section of feedback was interesting too: "Good feedback is also positive and constructive. A mistake is viewed as a learning opportunity, not a character flaw." As cheesy as this sounds, I connected this to the feedback the judges on So You Think You Can Dance give to the contestants. Rather than insult them and make them feel little, they give them valuable, honest and immediate feedback. I know I shouldn't have admitted that I watch that show...
Chapter 12 was filled with numerous little gems that an educator would want to include to create a classroom that works. First, the attitude and expectation of the classroom teacher is one of utmost important. Creating a classroom environment where a high expectation for students is definitely a key element in a classroom that works. The first sentence in the last paragraph located on page 175 set the charge for each of us to remember and strive towards, “The hope for America lies in its most talented students, and greater emphasis should be placed on preparing exceptional students to lead innovation and change”. Another challenge in creating a classroom that works is using curriculum that leads to higher levels of abstract thinking which creates a rich environment for continued learning (page 176). I found this to be true when teaching. The last sentence on page 176 seems to summarized the book with very few words…”without opportunities to exercise their [gifted students] intellectual gifts in an atmosphere that promotes experimentation and growth, their motivation to learn in school is likely to dry up”.
karend...I did not know we thought so much alike!...you took the words right out of my mouth!!!!
In Chapt. 12 pg 179 where it talks about the importance of immediate feedback was something that I strive to do all the time in my teaching because as a kid it was something that I usually had to wait a week for. I think that feedback for anything a student is working on requires immediate and constant feedback which will encourage the student to do better. Giving a student a tidbit of information about their work in a positive- not criticizing way helps them to develop boundaries for what is good/bad in their own thinking. It helps with reteaching because my feedback is something they can always go back to if they should get stuck on something. My students know their grades the next day after an important benchmark/quiz because that's when it counts in my opinion. Getting those grades at the end of a week/semester isn't much motivation to do better.
The part in chapter 12 I thought was most important was the teach students “to learn how to learn”. These students don’t need a day by day item by item curriculum. They need to know how to learn anything that they choose to learn. I would like to try this in my class by giving more open ended projects and fewer point specific test.
In response to sasha luther about wanting to know everything about students in the class I disagree. What happens outside the class does effect a students performance but I have no control over that aspect of their lives. I can understand, try to motivate and show concern in the class but I am never going to be able to change the external factors that may effect the students motivation. In some school you probably don't want to know everything about your students because their circumstances are so difficult. I fix what I can and work with the time I am given.
Re: loliver on "to learn how to learn". You are so right! I like you idea of giving open ended projects as a means of aiding our students aquiring this skill.
I found the most inspiration in the "constructivist environment" section on page 177. I like how teachers are leaders in a journey for information, and not the be all and end all of education. Students blossom in a classroom where they are making decisions about what they learn and how. I thought that what the authors said about "open-ended, higher-thinking" learning being a hallmark of this classroom was very true, and something that I strive to have in my room.
I really like the part about constant assessment and feedback. I am going to try to assess more (informally). Right now I use a post it note activity for a form of diagnostic testing. I ask the kids a question before we begin a new topic and they write their answer (anonymously) on a post it and stick it to the wall. They seem to enjoy this and I know right away what they know coming into a unit.
The part of chapter 12 that I related to the most was the idea of higher level content and expectations. Often, within my own team, we struggle to convince other teachers to push the students beyond the minimum level. Some teachers are weary about the students' performance if we push them beyond the minimum expectations. But I have found, that with proper guidance, students can be and enjoy being challenged in the curriculum. I also think that constant assessment and immediate feedback is very important. I have seen the advantage of that with the integration of our Activboards and ActivVotes
A classroom that works needs to have options for the students to work with. Not all of one teaching technique. And to keep the higher level content going. With the World Geography classes that I teach I try to bring in current events with all areas to show how we can elaborate with the textbooks, and then explain how those events happened. What occurred to cause that event to happen? The item I am using this week is the new ruling in Switzerland that Mosques cannot have minarets. My question to them will be how will that affect other aspects of culture in Europe and what other issues have we seen there? And as I said the active board lesson. Put something up there, let them ask a question, gather data and analyze the data. You get to see the way they are thinking.
I agree with what S. Acevedo said about our culture and learning. We are different that those cultures and our society or group of students are no longer the ones who are willing to sit obediently and take in material. I think, as the book mentioned, that the emphasis should be on teaching students HOW to learn. This would mean that in any situation, they would be able to adapt and solve the problem.
Another comment. - I liked being reminded about a technique I learned this past year which was the minute writing to find out quickly if they got an idea. Easy for them to do, easy for me to grade and it does a good check along the way to see what they are learning or missing. I do believe in the diagnostic test before I start a unit so I know what I need to focus on to develop the main idea of the unit.
I loved page 181 talking about inservice training that is not suitable: "often one-time-only content-driven presentation that shows them how to improve some minuscle aspect of pedagogy." What I appreciate about Spring Branch ISD is that I have gone to many inservices that are interactive and leave me with enthusiasm. I appreciate all the GT book studies, especially. It is a wonderful atmosphere to be a part of.
response to katie kavanagh: I, too, teach on the other side of I-10. I am not sure if I have the same expectations of my students as another teacher with affluent students, but I expect the best each child can offer. I expect the best and keep pushing and inviting and urging. The progress may not look the same, but it might be super for our community.
I agree with all the points made in this chapter because all these factors have a place in the classroom. Giving students quick feedback and knowing your children really well makes a huge difference to know how to really help them when they truly need it. Especially to guide them effectively so they take ownership of their own learning. Allowing choice is another important thing that motives children to show their own independent thinking that is why I allow choice for some things in the clasroom so that children can also display their personality in their work and have be authentic.
responding to loliver, I agree that it is impossible for us to control the outside factors our children face outside the classroom so I believe that it is important to pick your battles carefully in the classroom so that we can address our students needs and guide them to excel academically. There needs to be a balance.
responding to melanie, I understand what you are saying because not all children have the best conditions that encourages learning so easily and provides experiences that can be tied to learning situations in the classroom, but I believe that if we show our children that we honestly want them to be successful and care they will work hard and attempt to do their best always. I have found that once children have tasted success they want more so they work hard to keep tasting it over and over again.
responding to skhenderson, I agree that allowing children to do minute quickwrites allows teachers to find out a lot about what our children can do and where to start. Children bring knowledge into the classroom even though it is not always the kind we want but the more we learn about our children will also guide us to help modify our instruction.
There must be intentional teaching of ‘learning how to learn.’ (page 175) This has a direct bearing on developing student responsibility. When the student experiences various ways of approaching the task of learning, then he or she now has personal resources to apply those learning strategies throughout the lifetime. Keeping a constructivist outlook and knowing our students, will keep us searching for those ‘hooks’ that open vistas to our students. “A rising tide lifts all boats.” What a great phrase! I was glad to be reminded that higher expectations are good for all students.I have been challenged to provide even more assessment and feedback to my students
In reponse to patricet: In teaching our students ‘what kinds of questions to ask’ we are also stimulating their curiosity which I think is a key factor in motivation and ‘learning how to learn.’ “Soft bigotry of low expectations” is a powerful and convicting phrase. I had never considered expectations in those terms.
In response to S. Acevedo: Wow! I was impressed with your response. You are so right that our culture is different than India and China. I agree that we have to approach our kids in a different way than they do to motivate them. I have also tried more self-pacing and social networking with my students this year and will be continuing to experiment with it next semester. I am seeing some interesting results.
To Katie Kavanagh: I don't think you are cheesy for watching "So You Think You Can Dance." I love that show. You are right. They are really great about giving specific feedback to the contestants. I think that is a great example.