This is a professional development blog. We'll be discussing books we read as a group. Our discussions will be focused on gifted children.
p.140 The "Ah-ha moment that struck a cord with me was that the example of the struggling third graders having difficulty in mastering the multiplication facts. My inclusion and regular fifth graders struggle not only with not knowing the multiplication facts but are still counting addition and subtraction on their fingers or using manipulatives and/or other supplementals. The pressure that is placed on the teachers and students to have go back and constantly reteach concepts that should of been learned in a previous grade is frustrating to all concerned. So differentiation is a MUST and small group intervention has to be implemented so the success can be determined for passing TAKS and self-esteem boosted. I feel that differentiation is a reinforcement that lets those students receive the level of instruction and gives the students the tools to succeed.
I thought these 3 chapters were an excellent way to end the book. I especially liked the excerpt entitled "Prisoners of time" on page 147. It gave credence to the fact that there is just not enough time in the school day or year to cover all the material with the depth you would want to. If we are given proper planning time, we can ensure that students are differentiated for and that "optimum learning occurs during the time we have."As well I enjoyed the "Final Thoughts about Assessment" on page 165. I would like to copy these and keep them visible to remind myself about this "end" product that should be happening each and every day.
I like what Wanda said about the third graders not knowing their facts. At my school, we have implemented vertical alignment so we can communicate to the grade levels above and below what we want the kids to know and what we see that they have trouble with. This information gives a target for the following year and helps to close gaps in learning. As well, they skills in need can serve as topics for small group intervention.
My ah-ha moment came throughout the chapters as it has throughout the book. There is a road of progress that the students must be on in order to succeed. Out goal must be to find where on the road the students are to help them get the most of out of all the lessons. There is no reason however, to reinvent the wheel. Many of the ideas at the end of the book are dedicated to summarizing what it takes accurately assess a differentiated lesson. Many of the ideas in the book are easy to adapt to an individual classroom which is very helpful for me.
One of the things that very much resonated with me was in Chapter 8 p. 138 where it discussed mixed ability grouping. It mentions the value of cooperative learning in mixed ability grouping in terms of social responsibility and interpersonal skills but its misconception that it funcions as an effective tool for learning new concepts. I think I have been living under that misconception that the more experienced students could mentor or tutor or act as models for the less experienced learners when they really need different instruction. I will defninitely be changing the way I group students in the future.
Sara Russo made a very valid point, that we must find where the students are on their road to progress. Our preassesment and post assesment are our constant monitors so that we can track where they are on this road, and it is our job to take ownership of all of our students no matter where they are on this road. We can do it, and this book does provides us with not only ideas on how to address all their needs, but very useful templates that we can adjust and make our own just as she mentions later in her post.
3.I guess the “Ah-ha” moment is illustrated on page 167, “Teaching can be an isolating profession due to the nature of the beast.” I think with GT this is particularly true. Each student is unique so what we teach and how we teach it is unique. Lesson plans in GT usually are only very broad statements about where we want to end up. Each class gets there a new way.
I like what wanda.lewis said about students being frustrated and boosting their self esteem. I have students tell me that what is in the curriculum that we are doing today is something that they have done 6 times over since 3rd grade. They are bored and they loose interest. That puts the burden back on the teacher to be creative and come up with something new that will keep the student engaged.
My ah ha moment was on page 169.“It isn’t possible to go from little are no differentiation to differentiation all the time. You won’t be able to differentiate every lesson every day (and still except to maintain your sanity!).”I love it when they say take one lesson are unit and work on that until you’re comfortable.So, I will take what I have learned from this book and continue to work on differentiating instruction to address the abilities, interests, and needs of all students.
The authors acknowledge in Chapter 10 that building a strong, cohesive faculty devoted to the methods of differentiation can be difficult. Not everyone will be on board for various reasons. Personally, I have experienced teams that are not trained or dedicated to the principles of differentiation, and it can be very isolating to plan and execute these student learning experiences on your own. I took comfort when the authors stated on page 168, "Just because you're alone doesn't mean that you're not right." I must fine tune to my differentiation techniques, but I will continue to provide these experiences for my students. This book study reawakened my interest in this topic, and the authors offered useful strategies and resources to assist me with my future efforts.
My aha moment was the information on page 169. "Don't just try one strategy at a time. All skills develop with practice and become more comfortable as you try them out." I think asking my students for their feedback is a great idea.Overall I feel this book explained things in a nonthreatening way and gave lots of examples to help implement the suggestions.
Several ideas are particularly valuable: Administering interest, learning style, and multiple intelligences inventories at the beginning of the year (139-140) will give me the knowledge for my flexible grouping (p. 139). The DAP tool (pp. 153-158)I can't wait to use. I know this will be a process requiring reminders to back away periodically to reflect on the quality of implementation. The questions on page 170 remind me that attention to the big picture and details is necessary almost simultaneously. I have to learn the material/process well enough that I can keep critical pieces of information in the back of my mind while working on other pieces.
I thought overall, that it was a good book that did not alwasy read like a textbook. Which for me was a great relief! It contains many extensions to ideas or practices that I have already implemented in my classroom over the years. The extended organizers for one, is a great tool that I have already tried in the classroom ffrom when we read about them. It also gave me reassurance that the new things that I have been trying and putting into my class curriculum is okay. The worries (time managament on page 144) are felt by more educators than just me and that again reinforces my teaching style. Therefore I am glad that I read it and was apart of the book study.
One moment for me that comes up time and time again is not an A-Ha for me, but it is a great thing that everyone should know and remember and is so critical in anything was on page 145. "The more prepared you are, the better you can manage your time." It still amazes me how many people do not plan ahead and are scrambling at the last minute to come up with activities for students. When I visit classrooms you can quickly tell who these individuals are. Another thing is found on page 169 when the author points out to not just try one strategy one time. I know that I am quick to abandon things when they don't work out the way I planned them to, but instead of jumping the gun I need to stick with it and try it several times before making a judgment as to whether to keep it or scrap it. Like the author stated" the more times you implement a strategy, the more comfortable it feels."
Some of my “ah-ha” moments included- always have a strong reason for grouping kids. This is something I have struggled with and it was interesting to read about all the different types of grouping. For chapter 9 I really agree with pg. 165 “assessment needs to be authentic and linked to the real world”. Too often we get into the standard m/c test that is not necessarily the best assessment tool for some of our students. Chapter 10 asks what happens when a faculty as a whole is not interested in differentiation? I feel that a good leader will not allow this attitude to persist on the campus. Differentiation should be handled like special education modifications. It should be something you naturally do, and that you understand the importance of.
I agree with everything Sarah said. I like when she said “There is a road of progress that the students must be on in order to succeed.” We definitely do not have to keep reinventing the wheel. This is especially true with the internet and the thousands of lesson ideas from wonderful teachers around the country. I like all of the ready made activities that can be easily adapted to any curriculum. The book also provided tips to differentiation that made sense.
This book is very helpful and easy to use. I agree with Sandy G., "Overall I feel this book explained things in a nonthreatening way and gave lots of examples to help implement the suggestions."
Continuous student progress requires knowing where students are starting from and to where they need to go, as well as how they are getting there. Sara Russo says this well in, "there is a road of progress that the students must be on.... Out goal must be to find where on the road the students are to help them...."
My "ah moment" was on page 168 when the authors write that the perfect situation is to have a principal who understands differentiation and then leads the entire school in the process. It cannot be an option. We would like for all teachers to inherently have that feeling inside where they want to perfect their craft and become better teachers. This process involves differentiation because we now know that all kids do not learn the same. Teachers should not have the option of teaching the same as they have done for the last ten years. There needs to be a higher accountability for teachers. I loved reading this book because it gave me so many valuable tools that I can use. The authors wrote it in a very interesting format.
My big Ah-ha was on p. 149 when it says, “Just as grouping and regrouping are ongoing so is effective assessment; it is not simply some test you give at the end of the unit so you have something to put in the grade book before moving on to the next unit.” When I first started teaching, this is exactly what I did. I am glad to say that my teaching and assessment have changed dramatically over the years and this book has helped to give me so many so many ideas to continue to make sure that every student in my classroom is making continuous progress everyday. It really isn’t about the grade on a test, but making sure to focus on the level of learning for each student in the classroom.
The whole assessment piece was a huge "aha" for me. I have always hated paper and pencil tests and I have a son who is very bright, but is not a good test-taker. So why should he be punished for that? Why should any of us? Authentic assessments that produce real-life products are so much more timely and accurate for assessing students!
I agree with s.hardie. I thought this was a great book, which was easy to read and relate to. I feel like it was written by authors that understand the struggles we face in the classroom with time management and they gave us lot of helpful and practical ideas for assessment, grouping, and differentiating in the classroom. This will be a book that I will continue to look back in for ideas when planning in the future.
Like Wanda Lewis I was struck by the math facts example on p. 140 and reminded that children learn from each other in a variety of ways. Differentiation is for all students not just GT. This book has given me so many new ideas I know I will continue to use it.
Like Sara Russo, my ah-hah moments have been ongoing throughout the book. Other ah-hahs have come from the postings of the group which gave me clear ideas on how to simplfy first implementation of ideas. Finally I am sure like Matthew stated there will be times that are not so successful. Then it will be time to reflect, redesign and try again.
Some of my Ah-has are the two quotes within the grey boxes located on p. 134. These statements can not be stated enough. Another Ah-ha on p. 134 is “Whether your intent is optimal learning or social development, definitively decide why you want kids together or working alone and then consider how you want kids grouped”. Having one’s choices be intentional is great for life choices as well as for the differentiated classroom.
Oliver L. – I agree with you 100% regarding your statements and lesson plans for the gifted are only the pathway---but how each class or student gets there is a new way. Thanks for the insight.
I really identified with the scenario in chapter 10 where you're isolated at a party. I have felt like that so often in my teaching career. I am thankful to work in a place where I now feel supported in the paths I choose to take to help the teachers and students at my school.I also thought Appendix A "What a Child Doesn't Learn" was spot on. I know some of the people that the authors were describing.
I agree with what Sanchezh said about cooperative learning--I never looked at it that way that once a student has mastered something, he/she isn't learning anything new by 'teaching' other students. It's pretty much a waste of their time. As sanchezh said, this section will be on my mind when I group students in the future.
The section on page 139 about flexible grouping helped me see a familiar concept in a fresh way. I like expanding the concept of “flexibility” from simply meaning that a student could move in or out of a group as ability level changes. Grouping students based on instructional purposes, areas of interest or expertise and multiple intelligences preferences certainly would make things more interesting for everyone! I especially like the fact that it would give students a chance to work alongside, and experience peer learning from students they would not ordinarily be exposed to if the criteria were simply based on academic performance. Page 135 mentioned grouping and regrouping in the classroom. I think it’s good to stress the “regrouping” part of this statement and flexible grouping would certainly accomplish that.
I think these final 3 chapters were an excellent finish to the book. Of course, the obvious ah-ha's were already addressed in questions 1 and 2, in discussing management and assessment. Two pages that really hit home for me as far as summing things up in a concise way were pages 165, with the "final thoughts about assessment", and 170, with the "three important questions" about planning, preassessing, and differentiation. These are simple questions that I think all of us need to consider mpore often in planning!
There were definitely some "aha's" for me in this book, along with a good many "oh, yeah's" (ideas that I have known on some level, but hadn't articulated before). A sentence that has stayed with me from Chapter 8 was on p. 147 where it talked about how perceptive students will come to the conclusion that the last chapters of a text are not important because there is never time for them. That, better than anything, speaks to me of the importance of "intent" when planning content as expressed on p.134. The other strong reminder I got was at the very end of Chapter 9 (p.165) where it states "instruction should be a response to assessment", rather than the other way around.
I agree with sanchezh that using mixed ability groups to promote learning is to be operating under a false assumption. (p.143)I think this chapter made it clearer to me how mixed ability groups can put all concerned in an untenable learning situation, and I was especially struck by how it put the gifted child in the role of mentor that is truly uncomfortable to him/her.
My ah ha moment in Chapter 8-10 was in looking at all the rubrics within chapt 9. I was amazed by how you can differentiate within the confines of a rubric and still get the same basic "product" grade. I always have seen rubrics as more rigid and sturctured but the three tier aspect for every part of the presentation helped me see things alot differently.
I totally agree with sanchezh statement that not all "experienced" students lend themselves to being the best tutors for other students. I think as teachers we sometimes like to think that if a student is doing fine then we can just pair them up with another to help " teach" them- You really have to know the students strengths in order to know if they will be a good mentor/tutor for someone else. I've had it backfire before and it really takes knowing your kid's talents and traits.
I agree with some of the previous posters about not just trying one strategy at a time but rather constantly practicing so that they become easier. You will also learn which strategies work best in each class since what works in one may not work in the other.
One of the "ah-ha" moments I had while reading, was being reminded about different effective grouping styles. Firstly, students do not need to be doing group work unless there is a purpose behind the groups. Giving students specific roles and tasks that are important to success as a group is key. Remembering that gifted children get frustrated with careless grouping or even mixed-ability grouping is important. I really enjoyed the section about "flexible grouping" on page 139-143. Students can be grouped by interest, learning style, multiple intelligences, and/or ability/readiness/level of achievement. By changing up the way students are grouped, an instructor is less-likely to "inadverdantly nurture a negative self-worth in those students who might always be placed in the lowest achieving group" (page 139). I loved Chapter 8 in particular.
Sorry for the confusion, but I have the 1st edition so my page numbers are different: 2nd to last page of Chapter 10. “It isn’t possible to go from little or no differentiation to differentiating all the time. You won’t be able to differentiate every lesson everyday (and still expect to maintain your sanity!)” Okay, so after reading Ch. 10, I wished it was Chapter 1 because the insanity warning was valuable information I needed in February prior to attempting 100 % differentiation. I reached the point of insanity about 2 weeks ago Seriously, I reached a point in which I was so overwhelmed and exhausted from designing different choice, tests, rubrics, etc. that the instructional quality started to decline and I started to feel like a failure. This chapter was a much needed splash of reality that I think will help me to one day attain my idealistic vision of 100% differentiation and continual student progress.
RE: Sara RussoI agree with you regarding not reinventing the wheel. There are many resources available already that teachers can use. We should instead invest our time in assessing our students' needs and intentionally select quality readily available resources to enable our students to learn unknown information and skills.
I echo what sanchezh and sharon g said about mentors and peer tutors. Even though students may be excellent students and make good grades, but they lack in other areas that would make them good mentors to other students. Sometimes the way that they think about a problem would end up confusing other students if they tried to explain it to them. They know how to do it their way to get the desired results, but cannot actively communicate that to other students.
I loved page 150-151: Teachers must start somewhere and break away from traditional pen and paper assessments...The assessments of products can by analytic, objective and detailed or it can be impressionistic and global. It made me feel hopeful that I am permitted to try new ways of assessing. I also feel hope that I can encourage other teachers to just begin...just start.
I really liked how the author summed up how to plan for differentiation on the last page: 1. Planning question; 2. preassessing question; and differentiation question. What do I want students to know, understand and be able to do?; Who already knows this and can demonstrate?; and what can I do so they can make continuous progress and extend learning. A lot of times I focus on the first two and forget the last one, which is where a lot of my GT kids are. Rather than have them be stagnant, they need to be challenged and pushed too, so this was a good reminder for me. I think these will also help our team planning as ways to guide our activites and implement our roadmaps.
p.168 I concur with what rebeccaj said about being alone on huge task of differentiating in the classroom. As the years have come and gone the need for differentiation has increased dramatically. In my school the mobility rate of the students is very high and it is very challenging especially when the differentiation is built into the accountability system. This has been a great resource to learn about the differentiation process and needs to be implemented it in all teachers classrooms. I think college bound students in education should be required to take a class in this area.
My “Ah Ha” moment was at the conclusion of Ch. 8-10 in the appendix, rather than in the actual chapters themselves. On page 177, under the “Work Ethics” section, it states that “they [those living in Asia] look at education as a privilege-and it is.” One of my favorite authors, Hal Urban—who was previously a high school teacher and university professor—writes about how life is really a series of choices. He writes (in Life’s Greatest Lessons) about when his students asked if they had to do the assignment, if they had to read a certain book, if they had to write in complete sentences, if they had to turn in the work tomorrow…his response was—“You don’t have to do anything in life, but you get to do a lot of things. And one of the greatest things you’ll ever get to do is become educated.” Like the authors of our book for this study say (page 178) “ no matter how bright, our children will not succeed personally or professionally without a strong work ethic.” They end with “life’s not always about fun or about what you want and when you want it. It’s about sacrifice and work ethic (page 181). I think that this sums up the book in so many ways…in that the power of having differentiation present in the classroom—is, in my opinion, a lot about making choices and working hard (for teacher and student!)…it just may not look exactly like your neighbor.