Monday, July 19, 2010

Session 4 - Question 3

What were your “Ah-ha” moments while reading Chapters 8-10? Site the page numbers.


  1. Ah-ha moments for me included managing a classroom isn't harder or require more work. It does require different work because you change the style of the classroom 133. DAP tool is a god send to the creative, non-linear side of my brain. It keeps me focused by keeping assessment congruent to the learning objective without weighing me down 156. The appendix section is extremely beneficial and applicable for me 184-254.

  2. Assorted "Ah-Ha" moments - on grouping I very much agree with the author in regards to mixed ability (p.143) grouping. That's the grouping I tend to see when classes come to the library to work on a project. It always results in 1 or 2 students in the group working and the other 2 goofing off.
    Appendix A (p. 177) describes me to a T "If during the first 5 or 6 years of school, a child earns good grades and high praise without having to make much effort - then what are all the things he doesn't learn". I didn't learn how to study and college was a very rude shock.

  3. Before I can share my ahas, I have to say this. I didn't find a use for Chapter 10. I understand that not everyone will be on board with differentiation in the way the authors describe in the book. That will always be the case, because, just like students, we are all in different places along our own paths as educators. We also have different ways of teaching and different philosophies. It's so easy to bog yourself down in the negative that you forget that we do this because we love it. Otherwise, why would you bother? I surround myself with the go-getters in my school - the people who aren't afraid to try something new and take a risk in order to share our passion for learning with kids.
    As far as ahas go, I have to say that the Keys to Successful Grouping on pg 144 is going to be posted by my desk so that I can keep this in mind as I plan and organize my days. I tend to spend lots of time planning and organizing material, and when it comes time for grouping my planning is not as purposeful. That is something I want to improve this year.
    The appendix section is great! I'm so glad they put examples of each of the strategies they suggested in the back. I will definitely use that.
    This was a good read for the summer. In other book clubs I've done this summer, I've had a chance to talk to other participants in this study, and we all agree. This book is terrific!

  4. In response to l. Davis :Yes, the appendix in this book is very helpful - lots of good information and suggestions. I really hope I can suggest the Keys to Successful grouping to some of my teachers. 1 high, 2 medium and 1 low just doesn't cut it.

    I enjoyed this book study too and I actually spent more time on it and on reading the book and writing comments than I've ever done at a "live and in person" book study.

  5. The reflection portion of the DAP assessment tool (page 155) was an “aha!” moment for me. I have used different products and different rubrics throughout my teaching career, but rarely have I required the students to produce a written reflection. I see now, however, how key the personal reflection is. Without it, it will be difficult for me to assess the students’ growth. It also places responsibility on the students for their own learning, which is crucial if we want to create lifetime learners.

  6. "Ah-ha" moments for me throughout these chapters were basically to simplify my thinking about differentiation. Grouping students doesn't have to take more planning time on my part just smarter planning. A support group of teachers who are using differentiation within a building is a fantastic idea! pg. 168

  7. William Allen (Rob)July 25, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    The author states that, “Engaged, interested students stay on that task. It’s that simple.” While there is some validity in that statement, in my opinion, it does not take into account external factors such as what may be going on in a students’ home life and other family-related issues. Sometimes, students act out to get attention and cannot distinguish between positive and negative attention. I have been impressed by what the author(s) has had to say throughout the book. It’s just, once in a while; they seem to take an idealistic approach that may not be as full proof as it sounds. (page 133)

    I personally cannot stand “tracking” as I feel it is way teachers put students “back in the box”. I was often labeled as a troublemaker just for having a different viewpoint. I could have easily been placed in the “he will amount to nothing” track. Thankfully, I had some teachers that peeled the layers and saw what I was about. (page 134)

    As they discussed flexible grouping, it struck me how vital those interest inventories will be in the first couple of weeks of the school year. For me to vary groups, I have to understand students in many different ways at a time of year when they may be hesitant to share because we are new as a learning community. (page 139)

    The author really hit on a point I have always agreed with. In the “real world”, employees do not complete tests. They make real-world products that are used in meaningful ways. So why are we so attached to paper and pen tests in school? (page 150)

    Another good point is that, “Teachers need to learn about products…..and what indicates excellence.” What immediately came to my mind is the fact that I am hesitant to teach poetry because I do not feel qualified to say what is and what is not an outstanding poem. I also am not efficient on identification of outstanding poems for certain reasons (ex. writing style, imagery, iambic pentameter, etc.). I need to force myself to become a better assessor in areas where I am not in my “comfort zone”. (page 151)

    I am very excited to use the Rubistar to create rubrics. It is always nice to have examples from those who have already done so. (page 152)

    Big a-ha moment for me. DAP tool = content + presentation + creativity + reflection = a way for teachers to differentiate the product for each student but be able to assess without feeling overwhelmed by workload. (page 155)

  8. In response to l Davis:
    Unfortunately, I'm sure there are schools where trying new things is treated like the plague. I think Chapter 10 holds rather good advise for teachers just beginning their journey. Agreed - this is a great book and definitely one that will be used throughout the year and those to come.

  9. Pages 146-137--A-ha! I enjoyed the section that discussed how cluster grouping differed from tracking. It made me stop and think about a number of things in my classroom--how, as a teacher who teaches writing, I tend to cluster students in my head based on preliminary writing that I see at the start of the year. Every year, my eyes are opened by a student who finds a poem or a passage or exercise that really speaks to him or her, and they hit one out of the park, writing-wise. I need to sit back and put my preconceived notions aside and feel confident in my grouping of students--they get so much out of it!

  10. In response to the post by ldavis--I share your sentiments! I looked at that chapter as something that was perhaps put in to encourage new teachers who people who are afraid that admin is looking of their shoulders as they teach. Like most other philosophies and teaching styles, I believe that most teachers who are truly concerned about reaching every student are already differentiating their instruction.

  11. My "Ah-ha" moments were that you can differentiate assessment as well as products. I have never really thought about this but it makes perfect sense to be able to differentiate assessments (p.157).
    One of the final thoughts on page 165 states that "instruction should be a response to assessment". I think that we need to be careful with this. Let’s not forget to watch the content of what the children are finding on their own.
    I plan to focus on the 3 questions reviewed on page 170 referring to planning, pre-assessing, and differentiation. I think this will help drive my classroom to be more appropriately differentiated.

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  13. I agree with kevetts that the idea of differentiating assessments was new to me. I always considered that a bit "unfair." But if "fair" is continuing growth, then it is perfectly logical to have differentiated assessments as well.

  14. TIME! On page 144 the authors mention, "Teachers often cite time constraints as one of the main reasons why they don't differentiate..." This is a major concern in the area of education. Typically, the most dedicated and amazing educators are those who are not able to leave when their official contract time is over. Period. I agree that time is short and that actual time spent in the classroom exposing learners to opportunities, but this text fails to mention the amount of time outside of the classroom "teaching" time that it takes for one to prepare differentiated activities. Yes, Venn diagrams are mentioned and DAP tools are given that can alleviate some of these daunting tasks, but as support to many teachers, I also found myself taking much time to create activities, assessments, grading tools, pre-assessments, project opportunities, etc just to help teachers build their toolbox with items they could integrate into their practices. We cannot force teachers to differentiate to the extremes mentioned in this book, even though that would be fabulous if they all decided that it was best practice and that would be tier personal and professional missions, regardless of the time it took outside of the normal workday. Either way, it is so imperative that we continually sing praises about constant and purposeful differentiation so that it will not be forgotten when time runs a bit short. It is our job and our choice of career to support our learners and give them what they deserve, so perhaps admin and support staff need to place a greater emphasis and possible accountability so that differentiation finds its way into classrooms.

  15. Kharrell - I had lots of aha moments - many I can't remember at this time, but I know that as I read the book at the end of May I put many of the items into play during summer school. I really liked the various ways of grouping and actually breaking down rubrics (chapters 8 & 9) But during summer school I really like the chapter on Bloom's taxomomy. Pg 66 & 67 gave me some concrete ideas and reminded me to let students have CHOICE. I also liked the chapter on the variety of Venn Diagrams...something I had never thought of. I was blessed to be able to try things as I read them. I found this book to support most of my beliefs already - The book was a quick read and made sense. Time management is the biggest thing to consider...

    In response to Kate Evetts ... I think that we need to be careful with this. Let’s not forget to watch the content of what the children are finding on their own.
    I agree with that...sometimes I have a project in my head...but I forget that students may learn more and more effectively with their own guiding questions - that will make lesson differented immediately.

    In response to ldavis and kd - In response to l Davis:
    Unfortunately, I'm sure there are schools where trying new things is treated like the plague. I think Chapter 10 holds rather good advise for teachers just beginning their journey. We are fortunate that SBISD gives us flexibility to meet the needs of our students. I have been in some schools where everyone did the SAME thing - no allowances for differentiation - one very HARD year! We have to remember we are to support and provide for the needs of our students. I've loved this book study and will continue to use what I've learned.

  16. This book was filled with good ideas! Time however, is always the issue. Hopefully, we can all take some of the best ideas and implement them this year!

  17. Since I teach fifth grade, I would like to try the gender grouping in the spring(when the girls start becoming more self-conscious around boys). When I have allowed book clubs to write-in their choice on book club ballots (this means they must purchase the book as a group and is not a book on the menu that I provide) these clubs usually end up being just boys or just girls and they are successful clubs(p142).

    Some ideas I wanted to remember throughout the reading:

    The statement…remember the openness component to differentiated instruction as it related to kids working alone if they choose to do so. P. 144

    P145 I like the reminder to foster an environment that encourages differentiation at the beginning of the school yr so that students understand that all people learn in different ways, bring different experiences and learn at different paces.

    p.147-I liked the reminder to choose differentiated units carefully looking for depth over breadth.

    p. 149-Differentiating is not just doing something different.

    p.151-Increasing interest is the key to creating a classroom in which everyone is learning.

    In response to S. Guillory on July 26th...

    Thank you for being bold enough to point out the time constraints that teachers face. As a teacher that considers herself a lifelong learner, I am always interested in best practice. It is, however, a daunting task to differentiate in the many ways suggested in this book. I think the key is to take small bites and do what you know is best for kids based on what you are learning.

  18. “It is essential for children to learn what they don’t already know at levels that are appropriately challenging.” (p.168) Ongoing assessment is the only way that this can be a reality in a classroom.
    “Start with differentiating one lesson or one unit, and then plan for the next one. Being intentional continues to be important: Why are you teaching this particular concept to this particular student in this particular way?” Those questions will continue to impact my thinking, planning and assessing this year. I also like the permission to do one lesson or one unit, and give myself time to learn, too. J Of course, the important three questions will continue to drive me down the path of continuous progress for each student. (p.170) The Dap Tool will be fun to tweak and utilize for a variety of projects. I really enjoyed this book, and reading the blog. I got great ideas form the authors and from the fellow bloggers.

  19. In response to melissa a on 7/27, I can totally see gender grouping with fifth graders..... especially in the spring.

  20. In response to s.crump, I agree that time is one of the major issues. Not necessarily time during class, but prep time and time going over assessments, creating rubrics, grading, and setting up appropriate groups and activities.

    It is one of my goals to assist classroom teachers more this year with these sorts of tasks so that they can serve our children as best as possible. It is not just what the homeroom teacher can do, but what the entire school can do!

  21. melissa cernosekJuly 28, 2010 at 5:41 PM

    My biggest a-ha moment is the realization that I do not do enough "tracking" of my students to have evidence of their continuous progress. In the back of my mind I have always known that but when I read "differentiation without documentation is whimsical" (p. 149) it made all my "attempts" to differentiate for my advanced students seem like a joke and I think I may have finally stumbled upon why I have never truly been successful in differentiating.

  22. I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the resources such as the interest inventories,venn diagrams,the blooms charts etc... The big aha moment for me was on pg 149 when the author stated that you assess throughout the unit. I am guilty of just assessing at the beginning of the unit and at the end of the unit but must admit I have never assessed during the unit, not good! On pg 165 I liked the authors statement" you must reframe assessment in your mind:" I will make sure that I have ongoing assessment so that my students have a richer learning experience so that they love learning and become life long learners.

  23. Aha - placing a low ability child, mid ability child and high ability child will not result in 3 equally working/learning students. I have had an issue with mixed ability grouping for years b/c the higher and mid ability students seem to do all the work. Key with mixed ability groups is intent.

    In response to SGuillory's post on July 28, time is always a concern. Teachers are expected to constantly do more and plan more however, there are not enough hours in the day to tackle everything that we want/need to do.

  24. One of my ah-ha’s – what true differentiation is and how to differentiate effectively. "Differentiating is not just doing something different." (pg.149) I like the various examples of grouping chapter 8 discussed and I will be trying these out this year.

    Another ah-ha – pre-assessment is crucial so all students are making continuous progress. “It is essential for children to learn what they don’t already know at levels that are appropriately challenging.” (p.168)Intent or purpose is so important especially when we are constantly running out of time! (pg.170)

    I appreciate all of the examples and resources the book provides in the appendix and throughout the chapters.I like the DAP Tool examples since this is something I will be trying this year.

  25. In response to Dani Pico, I too haven't required my students to write a reflection after a project. As I was reading that part of the chapter, I realized how many times we as educators must reflect after a training...generally before you are allowed to leave you are asked to complete a survey or write 3 ideas you will take away. We are asked to reflect at the end of the year or after benchmarks, so why shouldn't we have students reflect more? I will say that after a benchmark when we go over it as a class in our discussions I have discovered students who appeared to understand a topic when it was introduced, didn't really have a firm understanding of it when it was assessed. I will be using written reflections more after projects are completed this year.

  26. The aha moments mentioned by most of the other participants have been my moments also. As Melissa Cernosek said the documentation is important for why I group or give different assignments. I also agree with Dani Pico that I have not used the reflection part of the DAP before. That should show where the real learning has happened. Now how do I model it so I get the results I want...I will have to think more on that idea. This has been a great book for making me think on how I have been doing this important work. I hope to find a review time before we start to remind myself of what I have read this summer

  27. My ah-ha moment came in chapter 8 page 143. I have always been uncomfortable with mixed ability grouping for academics. When I spoke with other teachers they were for the mixed grouping saying their low kids learned so much.I found my high and high average students always ended up do all the work rather than waiting for the others in the group to catch up. I do like mixed grouping for social skills and Tribe's activities.

    My other ah ha moment was on page 149 assessing throughout a unit. I've always given a pretest and used that to decide who and how to differentiate. I know I need to assess more often.

    I found this book very helpful and eye opening. I plan on trying many items in the appendix.

    In response to kevetts, I honestly did not differentiate on my preassessments, didn't think of it. I will try to this year.

  28. I had a lot of aha moments throughout the book. I really enjoyed reading it, and it gave me really great ideas of what to do this coming year. I'm really excited to use the appendix items and use the 3 key components while I'm planning a unit.
    In response to s.guillory, time overall is a really huge issue with me. I will definitely need to work on that, and balance it all out.

  29. My a-has for this session begin with the three planning questions on page 133. Without knowing that this would be one of our questions for this session, I wrote in capital letters with 3 exclamation points, “HUGE!!!” next to these questions. I’m not sure if this is a new a-ha for me or a confirmation, but either way I loved the way Roberts and Inman stated the questions easily so that can be remembered and used.
    I also like the repeated mantra of ‘teacher’s intent’ in chapter 8 when thinking about appropriate grouping techniques. Whether it’s cooperative learning groups or cluster groups or flexible groups what the teacher has in mind determines the technique used. I am going to be more mindful as I plan workshops for teachers about my intent. What is it that I truly want teachers to understand?
    Last, I am intrigued by the idea that ‘products are the vehicle to students’ continuous progress’. I had not thought about products in this way; however I can see clearly why Roberts and Inman say “Appropriate use of a range of products facilitates differentiating to ensure that each student is making continuous progress.” [p. 151]. By using the DAP tool to assess products, a teacher can easily see the knowledge the student has gained.

  30. Amartin - I too have encountered teachers who grouped high / low because it helped the low kids - but what about the high kids? They either end up doing the work or teaching the low kids and they often don't learn anything new - or they don't learn as much as they could. It's a pity our test driven systems puts so much emphasis on the low kids and bringing them up to standard rather letting the high kids soar beyond the standard.

  31. While reading page 133 it discusses that a student's behavior is usually related to their work or interest in the work. This wasn't new to me but the plan of attack to remedy the problem was. I also really liked the DAP Tool (pg 158) and hope to successfully use it this year.

  32. I’m still learning from you but I’m improving myself I absolutely liked reading everything that is posted on your blog keep the posts coming. I enjoyed it...