This is a professional development blog. We'll be discussing books we read as a group. Our discussions will be focused on gifted children.
Aha's* Patrice McCrary said "I don't want my students "running in one spot over and over" I want them to run and jump into new adventures all the time." (page 10)* Unconventional Ways to Learn - (page 42)Not every child needs to copy notes in class in order to do well. Some may listen, sketch random notes while others may not only need to take notes, but also may need to borrow someone's else's in order to have all the necessary material to learn. This was a huge Aha moment for me that we as teachers get caught up in "our way of doing things" that we need to be open to unconventional ways of learning and provide that for our students.
I thought the first page of Chapter 3 was hysterical because I can name people who fit those categories: I've Always Done It This Way, and Teach to the Middle. I just found that humorous.Some other thoughts: pg 30: While I have high expectations for my students, not all are at a point where they have high expectations for themselves...it is a work in progress though.-pg. 38-New Ideas: I love this section. Maybe because I am one of those people who throws a lot away and starts again, but I love coming up with new ideas to teach concepts..
I loved the idea of having different topics to describe skill levels. "It is critical that you see movement in all students. This may mean you have to be creative in introducing topics..." pg24. This eventually leads to discussion of differentiation in the classroom. Awesome for inclusion classes!
Responding to Katie...pg 38 New Ideas--I love being open to new curriculum ideas and resources. I love being trained!
I had a few Aha's through reading chapters one through three. I am a teacher who needs high structure and routine. Having a differentiated classroom is going to be a huge challenge for me as I am not accustomed to chaos.(P38)As well on page 39 I identified with "Moving Beyond What They Already Know." As a teacher of many Gifted Students it is sometimes easier to keep them all on the same page rather than being comfortable with the GT kids doing differentiated activities. I would like to incorporate the use of menus to utilize "Student Choice" (Page 40).
My Aha moment was on pg 40-41, when they talked about the student choice, allowing students to decide how they want to demonstrate skill mastery. The book discussed the Love and Logic idea of "shared control". I would love to devise ways to allow my students to choose how they will show me that they can do it!
I guess the AHA in these chapters is on page 35, “Also damaging is the faulty understanding of excellence.” Schools need to actually differentiate instruction. Honors is not GT, the curriculum should not be the same and GT should definitely not be just more of the same thing. Even Pre-AP probably does not meet the needs of the GT students. GT students simply think about the material from completely different points of view.
In response to brollins comment about kids learning in different ways, I encourage my kids as we are learning to record information as they wish, through the use of notes, definitions, pictures, connections, etc. I am a high need visual learner and sometimes forget that not all kids learn in that way so sometimes it takes a child to tell me they would like to see it in a different way for that light bulb to go on.
One "Aha" from the first chapter I found on page 6. Even though it was not new information for me the point that student time being more productively used when differentiation is built into the curriculum. Even though this makes perfect sense I think as educators we fall back into the three responses of why we don't differentiate: not enough time, don't know how, and the idea of the students making it on their own. If we get past the three "excuses" then we realize that differentiation is best for our students.
In response to "scentanni"'s comment about structure in the classroom I guess I have found that structure in the GT setting is a nice idea that I have never seen work. These kids are going 100 miles per hour in every direction and I kind of like that kind of a class. You know where you are going to start but you never know where you are going to end up. And every class is different.
Katie - I like what you said about your students and high expectations (pg 30). I agree that we have high expectations for our students, but sometimes they do not have the same level of expectation for themselves. I think the true gift is when we can help a student internalize that they can reach those goals that we have for them. Like we read in the Rigor book on campus I think that one way to help those students believe in themselves and to have high expectations is to support and challenge them a little bit at a time.
One thing that was mentioned that stood out to me in Chapter 3 was creating a culture that understands and respects differentiation in the classroom, and that this culture goes beyond communication between teacher and student. Parents also need to be aware of why students are completing different products, what classroom choice looks like so that they walk away with a complete understanding of what equality in education really means.
responding to Melanie/Katie...Interestingly I too find myself always searching for a new, better way to teach a concept. I have kept files and binders of old activities, methods, resources but will want to do something different much of the time - knowing the students are different, knowing the flaws of the previous method, knowing that I can teach it just a little better this time. I think the enthusiasm you have for this translates to the students as well, they know you are trying to be your best to help them be their best.
My "A Ha" moment in reading chapt. 1-3 came in reading about interest inventories on pages 26-27. I have done interest inventories in the past to get a better understanding of what kids are wanting to learn about and read, but the " My Way- An expression Style" inventory was a new and exciting way of looking at planning projects. It is sometimes challenging to come up with different ideas for how kids can present what they have learned, so I am giving my students this inventory so that they can tell me how they would like to present what they know. I will give feedback on how it goes- S.Gabriel
My "aha" moment was on p. 14, where they take on the levels of academic success. So many times, we are happy with the students getting good grades that we don't see them enjoy it. One of the things that we have been challenged with is to teach the students a joy of learning. Then the question becomes what can we do to facilitate students moving up the levels of academic success. I feel like though sometimes it takes a little more time and effort coming up with the differentiated instruction in the long run we are helping to create better students who enjoy what they do.
I have already translated the interest inventory in Appendix D (pp. 196-197) into Spanish. This week would be a great week to administer it, though sometime in Sept/Oct would be very good. Step 1 of my new plan, Step 2 being to develop communication with my students to get them to take a leap from the inventory and connect it to learning in the classroom. Why? I love the positive outcomes that may result as per the quote made by Barbara Clark on page 43: positive self-concept, developing responsibility and an inner sense of control, opportunities for choice, sharing responsibilities and self-evaluation. Step 3 at this point might be to get at least a few of my students to want to expand their learning.
My aha moment includes s.gabriel's comment on the Expression Style Inventory (Appendix B). After giving it a second look it I have to agree that there are a lot of great ideas that could activate one's thinking and creative energies.
Page 19 exposes,as Katie Kavanagh acknowledges earlier in the blog, the mentality that we've always done it this way, or the "Friday I'm too worn out to keep all the balls up in the air". Page 20 has/should have/will have the rest of the week on it, a differentiated classroom that respects diversity, maintains high expectations, and generates openness.
My biggest "ah ha" moment was reading about No Child Left Behind (p. 33) and it referencing that expectations are set so low that gifted students are left out and not being challenged enough. Our government (society) is most worried about the lower level kids, they forget about the gifted kids and that they too need not to be left behind. The next "ah ha" moment that I had was reading about gifted learners easily getting good grades and not reaching their potential (ladder explination p. 15). It makes comoplete sense. We are fostering lazyiness in our gifted students if we are excited about them mastering lower level content and staying at the status quo.
I also had the same, My "aha" moment was on p. 14, where they take on the levels of academic success. So many times, we are happy with the students getting good grades that we don't see them enjoy it. I think one reason why we do not see the students enjoy their moments is that we are unable to show grades publicly. Yes we can post papers on the wall but, grades showing would be 'unfair'. How can expect students to work hard and produce exceptional work for recognition when everyone gets to be on the 'wall'. There is no incentive to do great things and extend their learning if, in many ways, there is no way to better themselves. By this I mean that some competition is good competition to strive to be and do better.
I agree with what svankampen said about exploring the use of choice with her students using the Love and Logic approach. It really works! Just think of choices that would be comfortable for you- and then let the kids decide how they would like to show you their learning. I've experimented with choice in all subject areas, and it is really helping the kids who don't really like a certain subject for whatever reason- because they feel empowered to make choices in their demonstrating what they are learning.
My A-HA moment took place in Chapter 3 on pages 29-30. The quote about "proficiency" being the "goal" of education as a result of NCLB, and, if this is the case, "then no one is really concerned with what lies beyond that except of course those children who find themselves in that place or predicament." In the very last class on the very last day I was in college, the professor told us a story about a failing school program (with a bad reputation even among the students) that she and some colleagues revamped and turned in a program that kids were begging to get into. She went on to argue that the choices we make as educators is what makes the difference. We can choose to have proficiency as a goal for our students or..... we can choose to be mediocre and fly under the radar or.... we can choose to ........etc, etc, etc. I always think of her and her short, but, seemingly loaded statement: "You make the difference" when reading or hearing something like the quote on page 24. We can make the difference in the learning experience of those students who NCLB seems to neglect. We can choose a different goal...one that includes learners that come to us already proficient.
Pg.39 My A-HA moment was that often times the focus are the weaknesses instead of the strengths. As a resource teacher I provide strategies to help learning take place through challenging tasks. I want to be more open to share enthusiasm and knowledge for subjects by experiencing the needs, interests, and abilities of my students. Sometimes you have to jump start or dig deep to find the motivating force to trigger the spark to make the difference in learning.
In response to mcushing "aha" I had my own "aha" moment.You are so right about why as educators we fall back on the three responses of why we don't differentiate. Mine is - "don't know how" guess I want have that excuse for to much longer.
The research on underachievement by McCoach & Siegle cited on page 16 was very compelling evidence for doing all that we can to prevent any student from becoming an underachiever in school, and ultimately in life. Whether it’s a student who needs more support or a student who needs more challenge, they all need to achieve success. Teachers are in the business of turning minds on, not turning them off!
There were many "aha moments" for me, but the one statement that genuinely made me smile was on page 39 of Chapter 3. It states, "Teachers must be open to the fact that we all have areas of strengths and weaknesses, and that "all" includes teachers." I teach 4th grade, and my happiest moments are when my students share their vast background knowledge on a variety of topics. The way I see it, my students and I are learning together. I am not merely a pedagogue, but a participant in the learning process. As stated on page 39, "It's a win-win situation."
I liked the examples of the “How Do You Learn It?” activity on page 25. I especially identified with the beginner in golf. I like the authors’ writing style; it seems as if they are in classrooms often enough to get an authentic feel for how classrooms operate. I agree with the section on setting high expectations on pages thirty to thirty seven. How did the concept of excellence get so watered down over the years? Are we as a nation trying to shield our students from hard work and challenge? The TEKS are supposed to be a minimum set of expectations for each grade level. Why are so many satisfied with mere mastery of the TEKS? Isn’t that a celebration of the minimum? If we define learning as continuous progress as the authors do in chapter one, excellence can be differentiated for each learner. We can set high expectations for every learner, and excellence can be achieved overall.
Katie, I too had to chuckle at the "I've-Always-Done-It-This-Way" comment on page 19. Several years ago I moved to a smaller town in Texas to teach in a district that was not nearly as innovative as SBISD. Many of the teachers on my team had taught the same material year after year. One day, I suggested that we might want to update the lessons to reflect multiple learning styles and assessment methods. I was met with a defensive, "We've done it this way for 25 years! Why should we change, now?" Needless to say, I did not last long at that school...
in response to Christa - NCLB has been such a big thing for all of us, but I, too, didn't think about the gifted learner in the process. And even for the non-gifted students, isn't it just sad that we have set the standards so low and not allowed for creativity?
in response to rebecca j - I love the win-win situation described in the book. I think that one of the hardest things for teachers to do is let go of some control in the classroom. It's hard to just let the kids take something and run with it, especially if it's not something we are comfortable with.
Katie, I liked the references to the different kinds of teachers, too. Some teachers are very satisfied with the results they've gotten, but others are just scared to try something new. Change is scary, but if you bite it off in small chunks, it is more manageable and less scary.
Two things stood out to me in chapter 3. One was that teachers should "strive toward the goal of continuous progress for each child" (p 21). To me, that means doing all you can for every student to be successful. I know this isn't easy, but if the effort is expended, the rewards will be great. The other thing that struck me was also on p. 21. "emphasize the differences among the students to the students themselves - and the importance of using those differences in the learning process." Sometimes just letting the kids know that we are all different and learn in different ways is enough. Sometimes we have to completely change the way we do things for individuals or groups of students. It is also vital that students see their own strengths. I've had students who didn't think they had any strengths because no one had pointed them out. They have to have a foundation to build on and sometimes we have to show them where to start.
My "Aha" moment was the idea of emphasizing the differences among the students to the students themselves, on page 21. Differences should be celebrated and if the feeling tone in my classroom is one of acceptance, then hopefully children can respect one another. The experiences and challenges that our kids face will hopefully bring them together.
Rebecca j: I agree that the "I have always done it this way" is becomming a thing of the past. I do not think that principals today are allowing this to happen like they did a few years ago. I think that teachers are definately being held more accountable and this includes modifying things to address the different learning styles and learning levels. I get fustrated when I sometimes see teachers being lazy and not willing to make the effort to improve their teaching.
The sentence on p. 6, Children learn more quickly when the learning experience is made relevant to them, was a big aha for me. It reminds me the importance of getting to know our students so that we can meet their needs and interest as learners. We constantly need to be changing our small groups and teaching styles in order to make each lesson challenging, and to avoid causing stress or frustration in our students. Careful planning of a lesson will make sure your students are getting the most out of every valuable second in the classroom.
Scentanni, I can relate to the feeling of needing to have structure and routine in the classroom and I think it is important for the kids to have routines in order for them to be successful. I think with trial and error we will be able to develop differentiated classrooms that meet the many needs of our students with controlled chaos! We need to remember it is always important to keep challenging ourselves in the classroom, in order for our student to continue to grow.
I had several “aha” moments while reading the book. Page 20 “a differentiated classroom respects diversity”- this is so true. My school is very diverse and has a very good climate in which both teachers and students respect each other. I have run into a few teachers over the years who do not end up staying at my school because they talk down to the kids and do not try to engage them in activities they can relate to. Another “aha” moment was the large section of chapter 3 devoted to No Child Left Behind. It is sad that GT kids are basically sidelined because of this legislation. We are doing our country and kids a disservice by catering only to “average” students. I really liked the example activities that help create student inventory and interests. I do this at the beginning of the semester in economics so that I can use relevant examples when teaching. For example, I had a student who raised snakes as a side business. When we learned about business organizations and market structures, I liked to talk about the “snake” business!
There were several aha's for me as I read through Chapters 1-3. On page 6, I love the answer to the question, "What is fair?". Teaching 5th graders who are very aware of not only what they are doing but also what everyone else around them is doing, I often find this to be a topic of discussion. The kids don't understand why, for example, I pull my little sweetie, "John" to my back table to administer his math test orally, but when "Tom" asks me what a word means, I can't answer that for him. I plan to use this description with my students to help them see it in a different light.
In response to Patrice, I agree, small chunks are more managable and not nearly as scary. Although sometimes I frighten myself!
My biggest ah-hah was in relation to the idea of continuous progress on p. 3. I had just never thought of learning exactly in this context. Ironic when I consider the gradual release model we are so familiar with in SBISD.My next big ah-hah related to the key questions on p. 9. I do the planning bit, well trained in DDI, but I rarely plan to preassess--other than observing what kind of prior knowledge my students seem to access when introducing a new idea. I think of mods and accommodations, but am increasingly aware as I read this book that I haven't always given enough thought to how I differentiate. I am looking forward to the tools I'll gain in this book.
I agree with Patrice about the celebration of the minimum with TAKS. Especially when after looking at National Standards, I discovered that a lot of our State Standards are lower. Yet when I reflect on continuous progress, I am forced to ask myself "Is it reasonable to expect that all students will arrive at the same destination?" When we look at our success rate compared to other countries, we often forget that every child is not offerred equal opportunities to education in many countries. If our only measure is TAKS, then how do we measure progress for those both below and above grade level? It seems we need a marker for progress in addition to minimum standards.
I agree with Corrin and the excerpt from the book that talks about how a class that celebrates differentiation celebrates diversity. I also agree with debra who asks how do we measure progress aside from TAKS. I think we need to find a way to measure progress differently in such a way that the students not only learn the needed material but also find a way to gauge their continuous progress on their own paths.
My "aha" came on p. 20 when the principles of creating a climate of differentiation were set out as respecting diversity, maintaining high expectations, and generating openness. I was struck by how tightly that dovetails with a TRIBES classroom. The similarities continue on p. 23 where debriefing is spoken of as a critical component in "discussing the different strategies needed to increase learning..." In TRIBES this is called 'reflection' but the end result is the same. Perhaps if we promote TRIBESas an essential part of a differentiated classroom that happens to have a social-emotional component, rather than the other way around, more teachers would use that process in their classroom.
The analogy of the dinner party (page 1 -3) in chapter 1 was a priceless gem for me because it offered a clear explanation of differentiation. This visual will stay with me as an “a-ha” in meeting the needs of all student…especially with the gifted. Another “a-ha” is the weaving of a few simple yet profound statements throughout the chapters crystallizing the concept of allowing students to proceed in on-going learning without a ceiling. The last paragraph on page 11 seems to state the bottom line. In addition, steps 1 -3 (pages 21, 26, & 29) are key elements in providing a gifted child balance within their learning and life…also stated wonderfully in Barbara Clark’s quote on page 43.
I completely agree with tiggeronmars...the viusal of the dinner party is absolutey the perfect analogy for diffentiation. I had never heard it presented that way before...and I won't forget it! Patty...I love your comments about TRIBES and reflection.
The power a teacher has to build a classroom climate (page 19) that encourages differentiation as the norm helps the fairness issue be a non-issue. If students know that others will be doing different assignments based on interest, learning style, or ability from the beginning, they will know what to expect and be able to handle it. The communication of this from teacher to class is absolutely necessary. "A differentiated classroom respects diversity, maintains high expectations, and generates openness (page 20)", which sets up a climate for success.
The Aha of “fair is not always equal.” Fair is what each learner needs in order to learn. I love what is said on page 6 about how “fairness is not that everyone does the same thing; rather, fairness is allowing everyone to participate in the learning experiences needed to make continuous progress.” Also, I just love the dinner party analogy…I have never heard of differentiation in those terms…that is what I think I will always remember about this book.