This is a professional development blog. We'll be discussing books we read as a group. Our discussions will be focused on gifted children.
One Ah-ha moment I had was when I was reading page 83-84 with the explanation of how to use mulitple types of Venn Diagrams...it seems so obvious now, but it did turn on a light as I was reading it. I showed the ideas to two middle school teachers and they got excited about the ideas also (after we all figured out how to read the four circle one!)I have already been thinking about the Think, Tac Toe, but I did like the ideas on page 106&107 to use them as assessment tools instead of just enrichment. Given all students the choice of how to show what they learned will give them much more ownership than just taking a test. My learning curve will be steep as I attempt to incorporate the ideas in my curricululm planning, and head toward using these types of assessment instead of paper test. That will be my challenge.
My "Ah-Ha"moment is from page 106 - "If the main educational concern of your student is learning content (instead of skills).... then how they show what they've learned the concept is far less important than what they show." So many times teachers get bogged down in the project and forget what the project is supposed to represent. The Think Tac Toe chapter so impressed me that I went ahead and bought the book mentioned on page 128 - The Ultimate Guide For Student Product Development. BTW, there is a 2nd edition, c2009 edition of this, which incorportes technology. I do love me my Amazon Prime. I'm hoping it will inspire me when working with teachers. I'm soooo bored with the posters and trifolds. I'd hope the book would inspire me with working with my PGP kids but most of "products" are beyond of the scope of a 6 year old (at least the 6 year olds at a north of the freeway school).
One of my "Ah-ha" moments after reading chapter 6 is "the key to differentiation is not more but different." (pg.86) Also when the author stated, "Everyone tackles the same concepts, but on his or her own level." (pg.85) GT kids shouldn't have to do more work because they already the concepts. I have to say I would never have thought about using venn diagrams as a way to differentiate. It seems so simple, yet it really does get complex as you had ovals.My second "ah-ha" moment was in chapter 7 when the author stated, "the main educational concern of your unit is children learning content, then how they show they've learned the concept..." (pg.106) I can get so bogged down in a product and sometimes the content gets lost. This year, I plan on really thinking through what is the concept(content) I want my students know walk away with rather than what kind of product can my students create.
My "ah-ha" moment in chapter 6 was on page 90. I loved how the author used the Venn diagrams as a way to prewrite. I would never have thought of teaching paragraph formation this particular way.In chapter 7 my "ah-ha" moment was on page 113. I did not use interest inventories when creating Menus this year. I look forward to giving my students an interest inventory before our weather unit. Hopefully I am able to create Think-Tac-Toe options from the results of the interest inventory.
Venn Diagrams are not new. I wasn't very excited about this chapter when it was time to get started reading it. However, what jumped out at me was Figure 6.1 on page 85. I never considered a Venn Diagram as more or less than 2 maybe 3 ovals. This figure totally changed my thinking. At first I wondered, what can students show you with just one oval? After reading, I discovered that there is so much that can be done with these diagrams, whether they have one oval, or many. Another big idea from chapter 6 was the debriefing on page 99. I've had students make Venn Diagrams many times, but left out the debriefing. This is something I definitely plan to incorporate into my classroom in the fall.The idea of using Think Tac Toe is new for me, so I think I'm going to need more time to process this and work with others to plan out the best way to use them. It's a great tool and I plan to utilize it whenever possible. I need to take small steps on this one. Can I say the whole chapter was an "aha" or is that too much?
In response to jchoy July 7 9:28pm, I agree with your comment about chapter 7. I get too bogged down in the product too. We want it to look just right. We want it to be neat. That doesn't really tell us what kids have learned. I too need to stay focused on what kids have learned, as opposed to how they present it. The product needs to be less important than the learning.
I never thought about differing the number of circles/ovals in a Venn Diagram as a form of differentiating the process and content. I have used two ovals in the past but I have never had students that were struggling try one oval nor have I allowed my advanced learners try three ovals. I think this is a wonderful way to differentiate and lower frustration/boredom levels. (pages 83-85)I love the idea of requiring the same number of items in a Venn Diagram regardless of how many circles/ovals students use. The examples in Figure 6.2 do a great job of showing what that would look like. Differentiation should not mean less work for those using one circle/oval and also should not mean more work for those using three or four circles/ovals. (pages 86-87)I will definitely try using a Venn Diagram as a preassessment tool. In the past, I have used it after the lesson to check for understanding. But using it for preassessment, I will have a deeper insight into how much they know prior to the lesson. (page 89)I also am impressed by the use of Venn Diagram as a collaboration tool. Each student can choose one of the circles to do on their own. Then two or more students will meet and merge their circles together to form a deeper understanding of the subject matter. (pages 89-92)I think the Y organizer and I organizer are great equivalents to the one circle and two circle Venn Diagram models. I see the information more clearly and look forward to giving my students choices between the Venn Diagram and Y/I/Z organizers. The Z organizer is more challenging but still may be the preferred method of comparing and contrasting information especially for students that have great understanding of the lesson according to preassessment data. (pages 99-101)Think-Tac-Toes are a great way of making sure that students’ various learning styles prosper. By allowing them to demonstrate understanding in the way they feel comfortable with, a teacher will maximize the success rate of their students. Only a small percentage of students learn best through compositions or written tests. If students are forced to show knowledge through these means all the time, motivation will suffer. Students do need to know that they will have to write at times because state mandated tests are often times performed through writing, but variety will keep their minds fresh and their attitudes positive. (pages 110-112)I was reminded of how important the interest inventory will be to my students at the onset of the school year. This will enable me to create appropriate Think-Tac-Toes with their interest and skill levels in mind. I also need to establish the importance of differentiated learning with the students to allow different Think-Tac-Toes which, as the author states, “….it’s more of a Cracker Jack scenario (‘What’d you get?’) than a competitive one”. (pages 114-115)I am definitely guilty of being reluctant to leave my “content comfort zone” in order to reach all different types of learners. (page 123)
Ah-ha moments - Overall I was able to connect the purpose and use of both the Think tac toe and the Venn diagrams beyond merely the use as product choice and organization for students. Within each of these strategies, you can differentiate the level of Bloom's Taxonomy, interest, talent, and preferences within the same activity period. Students can appear to be doing the same activity without being singled out which is important to most middle school students. Also, differentiation doesn't have to mean the teacher is working harder than the students by running from table to table to keep the entire room working. Student engagement in the work at their readiness level will self direct their own learning. This seems easier to me than trying to keep an entire class working when there is disinterest, boredom, and a high level of disengagement.(pages 89, 92, 96, 97, 105,110, 112 and 113.)
In response,July 10, 2010 2:55 PM William Allen (Rob), after I saw how you can require the same number of responses per circle with varying readiness levels, the differentiation component and how I could really use it became clear. I agree with you. In response, July 7, 2010 3:39 PM jchoy, I think the easiest way not to get bogged down in the product is to write the rubric heavier on content and light on product style. If your rubric starts out high on content, then it will steer you to stay focused on that component more.
L. Davis, I remember seeing many a "project" that looked "perfect" - it was neat, it was colorful etc. etc but when you really, really looked at it, it was quite apparent that the student hadn't really learned anything but how to glue something on a poster board. I was at Weschester last year for a class and the walls were decorated with "country" posters. They looked very attractive but when I stopped to study one, it was apparent that the information had been "cut n' pasted", printed, cut and glued on. There were also pictures of a flag, a map and so on. Pretty product, but pretty poor learning.
In response to April Tavilson's a-ha moments. I agree 100 percent that the key to differentiation is doing so without students (or parents/guardians) feeling "singled out". It is very important to elementary school students, similar to middle school students, not to feel they are being treated differently. I also like the point made that working different does not mean one student is worker harder than another. I think differentiation is not about how hard a student works, but how smart they work regardless of what they are working on.
My basic ah-ha moments in chapters 6 and 7 were that these strategies can even work in my music class. "The key to differentiation is not more, but different," - pg.86 - pretty much says it all. "It's not 'what did you learn?' but rather 'how do you want to learn?' - pg. 92 The Venn diagrams as well as the "Think-Tac-Toe" strategy are great assessment tools. -pgs.92 and 106 Holding everyone responsible for important concepts but allowing students choice in the manner in which they obtain the content is my ultimate goal in the classroom. pg. 129
I really like 2 things in Venn Diagram chapter. On page 84, "The beauty of this strategy is that all students, regardless of their complexity of thought, can contribute equally to the discussion". This allows ALL students to feel they are contributing to the growth of the class. Also, on page 85, "Everyone tackles the same concept, but on his or her own level--that's differentiation". I like the fact that we are not encouraged to just give the GT students more work, but we are to give them more challenging work.
In response to Marty:I too like the idea of using "Think-Tac-Toe" as an assessment tool. I think the kids will embrace this strategy with relief over pencil and paper testing!
An ah-ha moment (page 106) for me was the main educational concern of the units for children is what they are learning and not how they learned it. I agree with this 100%, and this is why at times I might feel most comfortable to include an assessment worth 50 points as well as options for products to complete the 100 points. I don't think I have ever used a Venn diagram at the end of a unit as an assessment like suggested on page 92. I think this is a great way to see what they learned, as well as what they already know (preassessment). I liked the idea of students completing 1 oval on a Venn and get with other students to further analyze the information (90). By doing this, everyone is contributing in the learning and discussion (84). I will end by saying that the key to differentiation is not more but different (86). I think this will put a lot of higher level students at ease: less is more.
My A-ha from chapter 6 about Venn Diagrams is two-fold. First the idea of matching the Venn diagram to the student. Some students will have just one oval and some students will have two ovals, some three. This is based on the pre-assessment. This allows for all students to contribute valuable information to a discussion. “The beauty of this strategy is that all students, regardless of their complexity of thought on the topic, can contribute equally to the discussion.” [p. 84]. Also, the idea of time intrigues me. According the Roberts and Inman, “If the students are pre-assessed correctly, each student should devote roughly the same amount of time to the exercise—regardless of the number of ovals.” [p. 84] What a great idea-in theory! I would love to see if this actually works with a group of children. This tenet is one of the roadblocks to differentiation so if this idea of manipulating time solves the management problem-terrific! Secondly, from chapter 6, I whole-heartedly support this idea of debriefing after the Venn Diagrams are complete. Sometimes, this is scary because we as teachers don’t know where the conversation is going so we feel like we might lose control of the class direction. But the Venn Diagrams are useless if we don’t talk about the decision making process that went into making them. Several people have mentioned the statement from Roberts and Inman about making sure the learning is at the forefront and not the project. What better way to determine the amount of learning than to ask the student “Why did you choose to put ____ in this spot in the Venn Diagram?”As far as chapter 7 about Think-Tac-Toes goes, I have found the repetitive theme to be one of ‘teacher’s intent’. Each decision that the teacher makes must be intentional to what is to be learned. “You must thoughtfully and intentionally design your rows to meet your goals for what the students will learn.” [p. 122] “Remember to be intentional!” [p. 122] So again focusing on the idea of this key question, “What concepts do I want everyone to know and understand when they walk out the door?” [p. 120] Again, keeping our thinking focused on what is to be learned rather than the ‘how’ of the project, will result in success for all of the students in our classrooms.
An Ah-Ha moment for me in chapter 6 was the importance of the debriefing/reflection of the diagrams to cement the learning that took place(p.99). I think it is something that often gets neglected due to time restraints and yet so key to learning. I also liked the idea of using the Venn for note-taking to organize and analyze ideas(p.89). In ch. 7, I liked the option of having the students choose their favorite product to grade because grading the three products is overwhelming (p.129). I like the staggered due dates as well.
Ahh, too many to list them all--loved these two chapters. Pg. 97, "be intentional about your concept and your expectations"--our friend the planning beast creeps up yet again, but this helped to remind me that the complex ideas and skills I want students to be focusing on need to be clearly delineated for them, and I need to know what I want them to know before I create or assign a task. Pg. 117, "...choose a favorite unit and then remove your blinders that dictate this method you've designed is the only design possible." I liked that--reminds me how much I've enjoyed PDs in the past that were more out-of-the-box, hands on, differentiated activities, and how that holds true for my students. I should get feedback from students after they finish a unit to see how they might have learned it alternatively and use that information to help create alternate assessments. These two chapters really got me excited to start planning more for next year...but I'm with all of you who check out in July and wait until August!! :)
I think my #1 aha moment, and one that I need to keep telling myself throughout the year was mentioned twice in Chapter 7, page 106 and page 121. What they learn is more important than how they show they've learned it. This was what was holding me back last year. I was never satisfied with the activities I came up with. In chapter 6, I personally think a venn diagram with more than 3 ovals is ridiculously difficult to read. I had not seen some of the alternate graphic organizers they showed. I really like the Z format for comparing. Also there were some great organizers in the appendix as well p. 224 (5 concepts) and p. 227 (4 concepts). I would like to introduce some of these alternate organizers this year!
I really enjoyed the paragraph on assessment on page 130. How freeing to not have to grade “everything!” Varying the way you assess every time will keep the students on their toes. I also liked the author’s suggestion to make the product visible to others as much as possible. If we truly are creating a community of learners, the product should not just be for the teacher’s eyes alone. An opportunity for students to share their work lends authenticity to the project. Otherwise, it could turn in an activity almost as meaningless as the traditional paper and pencil test.
In response to l davis’s first comment: I also was skeptical of the “single” Venn Diagram, having mostly used the two and three circle Venn Diagrams. However, I realized that the simple figure is a great tool to define what something is and what it is not. That is necessary to be able to move on to the next level of comparing and contrasting.
KHarrell – I was so excited about this book that I sat down and read it in one weekend (it’s been hard going back to answer specific questions.) The weekend I read it was just before summer school. We had written our lessons and had everything planned….then I read the book….even though I was working with NOT GT students, the stuff still worked…and may have worked better. I realized that differentiating instruction means teaching the content…not the product (chpt 7) As we started working on the “final product” I realized that what I had in my mind was not what the kids had…the important thing was they had learned the concepts. A big AHA moment! Pg. 120…what do they really need to know…did we accomplish that? In response to RobAllen in response to April – I loved your statement “the key to differentiation is doing so without students (or parents/guardians) feeling "singled out". It is very important to elementary school students, similar to middle school students, not to feel they are being treated differently.” It is important to differentiate, but so that kids don’t even know you are doing it. The craft of creating a lesson/activity/environment to make differentiation work takes a lot of planning…it doesn’t just happen. It is very skillfully put together to insure that students feel good about themselves and learn the necessary information.In response to ebay….yes, I too have see the products that are beautiful, yet you wonder how much the student learned. This past year I worked with some first graders that were not identified GT, yet were advanced. The hardest part to get across to the parents was that it was not about how the final product looked, but what they learned. The best product was a video that a boy made where he just talked about what he had learned. He had put together a beautiful poster, but within seconds into the video he had dropped it and was just talking about what he read. His mom wanted to “do it over” because the poster wasn’t showing…but I held my ground. He knew more about the animal than the poster showed and he just shared “stories” that he had read in Time for Kids. He even knew where he got the information! We need to remember the real reason for the project when we create the rubrics!
The best parts of chapters 6 & 7 for me were...-The realization that Venn Diagrams can dig far deeper and be used for much more than I ever realized (for example the diagrams with 4 circles) and that they can be simplified by using the Y,Z, and I organizers (pgs. 100 &101) which could be helpful for younger learners or students who are confused by the overlapping circles.-Being able to plan assessments using the Think-tac-toes that span several content areas (p. 107).-The suggestions on how to grade Think-tac-toe products (p. 130). I especially liked the suggestion of randomly grading only ONE of the three products. I plan on using this by first telling my students that I will only be grading one of their three final products, but they will not know which one so they must do their best on all three of the products.
In Chapter 6 on page 86, the authors encouraged students to “meet a minimum number but let them know additional examples are appreciated and rewarded. Each is getting a challenging assignment that strengthens her brain and provides continuous progress.” Yes, I want to keep asking myself that question next year. Did it provide continuous progress for all students? If not, what can be changed so that it does. In chapter 7 on page 122, the authors remind us again to “remember to be intentional.” The Think-tac-toe 'must embody the critical attributes of the concept.” Again, what is our goal for the learner... I will continue to remind myself that it is about the what and not the how. On page 121, I liked the Think-tac-toe on poetry. I was hoping for some ideas for using it in writing, too, and that seemed to be a good fit.
Although the topic of Venn Diagrams and Menus is not new to me, I have a few ah-ha moments throughout these two interesting chapters. One came from page 99 where the authors verified my "confusion" for the overlapping oval issue - I can discern what information is there and the comparison/contrasting segment up to three ovals, but after that, forget it. I spend so much time figuring out what section I am reading on the 4-oval that I lose track of the actual content being presented. I liked the alternative presentation style of the I, Y, Z, and even W much better, plus it is nice to have a variety of organizers to utilize.Another ah-ha moment I had was the actual assessment ideas given on page 130. I liked that it was suggested to initially have the student select which one he/she would like to be graded, and also giving the criteria for evaluation at the onset of the project. This is of the up most importance, I believe, and even adult learners would want the same courtesy. I also embrace the idea of sharing and/or displaying completed products. This is a great way for kiddos to be proud of their creations and also to give other learners ideas of what they can achieve on future endeavors.
kharrell ...in response to lbacon...(after reading sguillory), let's think of what we attempted with your classes last year...do a menu/tic tac toe (so that students have choices and they don't all look alike) and then upload them to a wiki to share...
A big aha moment for me was that we could use Venn Diagrams as a pre-assessment strategy. I would have never thought to use it as a pre-assessment tool. I really liked figure 6.4 on page 89. I also really like the fact that Venn Diagrams can be used for learners at all levels and using them to differentiate is a wonderful tool. I never really used them other than for compare and contrast so I will definitely utilize a variety of Venn-Diagrams to meet the needs of all of my students in order to ensure continuous progress. Think Tic Tac Toe utilizes 4 learning styles: visual, oral, written, and kinesthetic, pg. 110. I guess I never thought about it that way. It also hadn’t occurred to me that you could use a Think Tac Toe as an alternate form of assessment at the end of a unit studypg 107 these were big aha moments for me.
In response to the comment Ann M made on July 7th I have also created learning menus and not used interest inventories. I will use interest inventories to help guide my learning menus to make sure my students will be interested, engaged and more meaningful. I can’t wait to share this with my team. Great idea! Thanks!
I really liked the statement on page 106 about HOW they learn isn't as important than the student showing WHAT they have learned. This is so true. It's hard to keep in mind, but if some of the students demonstrate their mastery of the concept and a few others can demonstrate mastery in a different manner then really it's all good.
My aha moment was when I was reading Differentiating with Venn Diagrams on page 87 and I saw the one oval. I have used the Venn Diagrams before, but always started with the two ovals, and it occurred to me that I should start with one oval first so the students can get the idea and the purpose of getting the information with one. Once they have that, we could work with the two ovals venn diagram, and add the 3 and 4.In response to William, I totally feel the same way about the venn diagrams. I never thought about having struggling students work on one oval and the advanced learners working on three.