This is a professional development blog. We'll be discussing books we read as a group. Our discussions will be focused on gifted children.
The following ideas impacted my in Chapter 1: P.2 when it talked about how much more successful lessons would be if teachers questioned themselves about their learners beforehand.p.3 stated that differentiation is making modifications to the curriculum rather than writing curriculum that differentiates.p.7 speaks to the problem of underachievement that is difficult to reverse in gifted students that aren't challenged.
The section titled, “Who benefits from differentiated learning experiences and how?” on pages 10 and 11, impacted me. The book states on page 11 that all students win when they are learning at appropriately challenging levels and this results in fewer disciplinary problems and increased motivation to learn. I have to differentiate because I have students at a variety of learning levels. I always try hard to accommodate all of my students’ needs. However, I want to learn ways to make the differentiated learning more interesting.
What made an impact on me as an educator was on page 7. “Equity in the middle grades requires that all learners have an opportunity to participate in curriculum that is rich in the meaning and focused on thought and application. Excellence requires support necessary to show continual growth in knowledge and opportunities to work at degrees of challenge somewhat beyond their particular readiness levels, with support necessary to achieve to new levels of proficiency.” The equity part stands out for me because it impacts all learners to have opportunity to interact with content whether it is above or below. All students are engaging in the learning on their own level. The excellence part stands out for me because it is learning plus one. Students build work ethic and take ownership in their learning which becomes more meaningful to them. A Mitch
In response to illgl: I agree that a more successful lesson starts questioning before the lesson is implemented. A critical component to good lesson planning is creating higher level planned questions for students. A Mitch
"Differentiation allows continuous progress for all students!" I think sometimes as teachers we forget that. It's very easy to fall into the routine that once something has been taught (and hopefully mastered), that's it, let's move on to something else. We want our students to keep learning, not just say "ok, done with that, now what?" We want our students to be lifelong learners so we need to instill that in our students. We are never finished learning anything, there's always more.
Oops, forgot the page number: page 6. "Differentiation allows continuous progress for all students!" I think sometimes as teachers we forget that. It's very easy to fall into the routine that once something has been taught (and hopefully mastered), that's it, let's move on to something else. We want our students to keep learning, not just say "ok, done with that, now what?" We want our students to be lifelong learners so we need to instill that in our students. We are never finished learning anything, there's always more.
In response to illgl on June 3rd: Yes, differentiation is just another form of modification. We take what we already have and modify it for our different learners. That's what we do for our students who read below, at, or above grade level for example. Thank goodness we are not starting from scratch
In response to kimberlym on June 4th: We all win when students are learning at appropriately challenging levels- fewer disciplinary problems (win for us)and increased motivation to learn (win for us all). I too am interested in finding ways to make differentiation more interesting for my students, and for me as well.
"...,the brain changes physically and chemically when challenged (Clark, 2008)." p.6Am I challenging all my students?"Fairness is not that everyone does the same thing; rather fairness is allowing every student to participate in the learning experiences needed to make continuous progress." p.6I must remind myself of this as well as the parents and students.I also found the "Key Questions Leading to Differentiation" to be quite helpful.
In response to Kimberlym: Appropriately challenging levels - that's the heart of the matter. How does one know at level a student is and when they are ready to move on to another level. I believe continuous assessment is the key.
In response to illgl, I agree that we, as teachers, should question ourselves about our learners to create more successful lessons. We need to make sure the lessons really benefit our students and we use every minute of class as efficiently as we can. I also agree with the statement that underachievement is hard to reverse in gifted students if they aren’t challenged. If we don’t challenge our gifted (and all) of our students, they will never push their selves to try anything that asks them to go above and beyond the norm.
One of the passages that stood out for me is on page 5. “Most of us consider needs to stem from our weaknesses or inabilities. Please remember that needs for students who are gifted and talented are created by strengths rather than these deficiencies. They really don’t look needy, but the needs are there.”Something to consider for children and adults. Pgs. 5-6 “The reason to differentiate is to allow each child to learn on an ongoing basis. …Let’s even rephrase it for greater emphasis: Differentiation allows continuous progress for all students!”Differentiation means more relevance to the learner.
In response to a mitch on June 4th, that quote reminds me of teaching at the PZD (Proximal Zone of Development—Vygotsky).Nlopez—I see we picked one of the same quotes.
In response to ms gio on June 5th, I also noticed the 3 Key Questions that the author states are “critical .on your differentiation journey” I hope we have enough luggage packed for this journey.
For someone who has always been a picky eater, I found the metaphor for differentiating teaching to the different appeals for different foods (the “dinner party – page 2) to be quite amusing and so true. As a teacher, one must know the different learning styles of every child in your class and teach to those particular styles and needs and strengths. In order to address the needs of each student, you certainly must make modifications in order for students to produce their best work (page 3). The phrase “continuous progress” repeats throughout this chapter 1 and knowing that each child must meet this continuous progress means one set lesson plan for all will not work. Sure, it takes a lot more work on the part of the teacher to differentiate. My feeling is that if you are doing the best job at teaching and you care about the learning progress of each of your students, then you will put in the extra effort to make the modifications needed for each child. You should always want the best for your students. It is our professional duty to teach to the unique strengths and needs of every individual student.
What made an impact on me from Chapter 1 was that when children have the opportunity to learn at their challenging level, at their interest level, at their needs level, then they will meet with success. Accommodations must be made in order for students to be successful and teachers should apply the strategies for differentiation consistently for every lesson. As a teacher who does apply these strategies, I see the difference in the child who is given this opportunity to develop their interests, focus on their strengths. They are motivated to learn! A teacher recognizes this love for learning and knows that continuous differentiation for every child is indeed a motivating and rewarding factor for the teacher thus continue this good, essential teaching practice for every lesson and it’s a “win-win” for teacher and, more importantly, the child.
I agree with Theo when she says: “It is our professional duty” to provide learning experiences for every child in my class that allows them learning experiences at their appropriate level of understanding which opens the doors for them for “continuous progress” (page 11).
At the end of this course, I would like to be able to offer various strategies to allow the students to differentiate and grow in a specified content area. Presently, I offer a lot of choice in reading and presentation of their work. I would like stretch my repertoire as a teacher where I could allow the students to test out of "the norm" and be sufficiently motivated to move on to a higher level independently of the class.
Okay...so I pasted the answer to #1 in the wrong blog! Sorry! However, on page 7 "When gifted students discover during elementary school that they can get high praise for tasks or projects they complete with little or no effort, they may conclude that being smart means doing things easily. The longer they are allowed to believe this, the harder it is to rise to the challenge when they finally encounter one." struck me. This impact of this quote was two-fold in that I often see two "camps." When something is really easy...turn it in for a completion grade...some students will often just let it go. Others, when they come across the slightest resistence, buckle and don't try to solve it. They don't do that on video games. How can we ignite that persistence in learning?
In response to KimberlyM on June 3rd, I totally agree with you and the book when you wrote that when you differentiate the students will have fewer discipline problems and increased motivation. If the work it too easy and not challenging, the gifted student will sometimes give up and have no motivation to complete the assignment. This can lead to discipline problems that could have easily been prevented if the original assigment was differentiated.
In response to Amanda and KimberlyM's comment on how using differentiation creates a more harmonious classroom and working environment leading to fewer discipline problems. When the students are engaged, they are focused on the assignment. Nothing feels quite like it when the classroom is humming in different directions and everyone is engaged.When challenged, students often accept the challenge forgetting the usual focus of the grade, and they instead increase their effort and processes to solve or complete the assignment.
In response to ms.gio (June 6th), "continued assessment" is absolutely critical in determining the next "teaching move" to be presented to a student. Assessment guides our decision-making and helps us provide the most appropriate tasks for nurturing the "special needs" of our children in the classroom. Excellent comment!
My students are successful as I provide the appropriate level of understanding to meet their developmental needs. The thought of providing strategies and learning opportunities that ensure their "continuous progress" as mentioned in Chpt. 1 p. 11 is an ongoing challenge.
The fisft one was on pg.3 "basic differentiation is concentrated on making modifications to the curriculum rather than writing curriculum that differentiates." I completely agree with this statement because it isnot about reinventing the wheel instead its about knowing how to make the modifications necessary to help our students based on their needs, build on their strengths and clear misconceptions they may have. As I was reading chapters 1-3 I was thinking of how in one of the readings for graduate school mentions the importance of differentiatin for all our students and that equal education is not about students getting the same thing espcially since we know that students have different needs and come into our classrooms with different academic and personal experiences. The second one was on p.7, "Underachievement results from the one size fits all curriculum." Based on my experience I have learned that when expectations are not high and I as the teacher do not challenge my students than my students will not excel as they should. When teachers set the high expecations and children see and feel there is a purpose to their learning students will show amazing growth and excel in astonishing ways. Therefore, it is vital that teachers use what students bring into the classroom to find ways to scaffold and challenge their students all the time.
The dinner party scenario described on pages 1-2 in chapter 1 made an impact on me. How many times has a teacher planned and executed a lesson that she thought was wonderful, but in reality she reached less than half of her class. The section titled "Key Questions Leading to Differentiation" on page 9 also made an impact on me. It will be a goal of mine to use these three questions when planning instruction in my classroom. I want to know my students so I defend my teaching practices and make learning meaningful.
p.6: “Without challenge, the brain doesn’t increase in its capacity or speed of learning, and neurons don’t fire. Just think –you as the teacher make the difference in whether each child in your room has the opportunity to become a more effective learner.” My subject is quite challenging, so that is never an issue. I tend to have the opposite problem. With 90 minute long classes – the students can become overwhelmed with so much information. I want my students to learn because they want to – not just for a grade! I know if they are learning and see their capacity and speed of learning increasing – they can find it fun. The more they learn, the more they CAN learn. My greatest challenge this coming year will be to keep the neurons firing every day, all year.
I was blown away by the first few paragraphs (Pg. 1)! I had never thought about learners like guests at a dinner party, but that is a perfect explanation. Kids learn different ways, have many different needs, etc. I am very interested to read the rest of this book.
In response to Theo: We were at a training yesterday and read something about being in this profession because we wanted to influence a child's life and be that guide in their education. This statement really hit home when you stated, "You should always want the best for your students. It is our professional duty to teach to the unique strengths and needs of every individual student." It will always be a work in progress and will sometimes be a challenge. Great thoughts!
In response to Susan: When I was in college we learned all about the different levels where the students should be met - interest level, challenge level, and more. When students are met on each of their levels, they feel complete and may not even know it. They are challenged and learning throughout the day.
Re: nlopez: I totally agree. It is easy for me to fall into the trap that once I have taught something, it is time to go on to another TEK. Students can always go deeper than I take them, and I am thrilled when some do!
I need to make a correction to my June 6th posting. It is ZPD--Zone of Proximal Development--not PZD. I guess I've been around too many capital letters lately: DRA, OS, QRI, ARI, NRT, ILT, CIP, CIT, OMG, and IOU.
In response to Ms. Gio who posted on June 5, 2011 at 5:58 PM. The statement about how the brain changes physically and chemically when challenged (Clark, 2008) made an impact on me as well. Students who are not challenged and students who are under stress because the material is too hard will not make continuous progress.
I agree with Illgl that it all starts with good planning in order to provide effective and meaningul learning experiences for our students. Also, I agree with Theo and Susan with the statement, "it is our professional duty" to empower and challenge our students at all times. Despite the fact that teachers have a full plate we cannot forget that we have a committment to our students because they are the future of this nation.
I found myself highlighting many interesting points. On p. 5 "Please remember that needs for students who are gifted and talented are created by strengths rather than these deficiencies. They really don't look needy, but the needs are there." I think all educators participating are here because we know these students need support.On p. 5 - 6 it succinctly states, "Differentiation allows continuous progress for all students!" That is what I want to accomplish every momement of every day of every year in my classroom.On p. 7 "Without appropriately challenging learning opportunities, underachievement sets in and becomes very difficult to reverse." This is what I obviously want to avoid. I want my students to be prepared for whatever challenges they may encounter, inside or outside of school."Differentiation and assessment should go hand in hand to lead student learning." (pg. 8) "You make modifications based on information, not whimsy." We use the data from preassessment, guided practice, post assessment, and observations in the classroom to formulate our lesson plans."These teachers also work to ensure that each student consistently experiences the reality that success is likely to follow hard work." (p. 11) I want my students to be engaged learners eager to accomplish new things, not passive lumps sitting and waiting to be handed work because they are supposed to do something in school.
Chapter one was profound n many ways. The students outlined on page 4 are found in every classroom. I had a different name for each child that matched a student in my class this year. The reasons for not differentiating basically come down to time and preparation, which I sympathize with but do not agree with. "Reasons offered for not differentiating are based on teacher needs and beliefs or the teacher's lack of preparation to differentiate" page 5. Key term "teacher's needs", we are here for the student's needs. That is why we are teachers. When planning lessons keep in mind the 3 key questions located on page 9; "What do I want the students to know, understand, and be able to do? Who already knows, understands, and/or can use the content or demonstrate the skill? What can I do for him, her, or them so they can make continuous progress and extend their learning? These questions will always guide you in lesson planning to differentiate for student's needs.
In response to susand on June 6@ 4:30, I agree with your insight. Students need to know they are valued as individuals and given choices to validate our love of their individuality. Out of all this come continuous progress, happy students, and a lot less behavior problems in the classroom.
In response to teresah on June 6 @ 1:41, I agree "differntiation means more relevance to the learner" sums it all up. If students feel validated and appreciated for their uniqueness, they are more willing to take risks and achieve meeting the high standards set by teachers.
The statement from page 7, "When gifted students discover during elementary school that they can get high praise for tasks or projects they complete with little or no effort, they may conclude that being smart means doing things easily. The longer they are allowed to believe this, the harder it is to rise to the challenge when they finally encounter one." This statement really hit home because I often conference with parents of G.T. students about two issues. First bright students often become teacher pleasers-doing exactly what is asked of them knowing they will earn an A. Second some gifted students become "problems" acting out due to boredom. If these kids are never challenged they give up the first time they have to work at a solution.
In response to wattb on June 6th; If elementary teachers pretest the gifted kids why are they doing easy tasks?
In chapter 1 on page 3, the author pointed out that differentiation is not making a new curriculum, but simply making modifications to the curriculum you already have to make it meet the needs, interests and ability of your students. I think this was a great thing to point out in the beginning of the book because it just reinforces that differentiation doesnt have to mean you invent new curriculum. It also really hit me to read on page 10 that "when bright students are presented with curriculum developed for age-peers, they can become bored and unhappy and get turned off from school." It is awful to think that a bright student would be turned off from school because their teacher was not willing to meet their needs by differentiating.
In response to solorzono (June 6-8:39 pm), "underachievement results from one size fits all curriculum," is a profound concept. In my experience, children who are given a prescribed set of activities with little choice tend to "perform" rather than excel. It is important to let "continuous assessment" drive our instruction and offer students an opportunity to expand their experiences of learning. The term "underachievement" should be eliminated from our vocabulary.
It seems that too often the term "differentiation" is used more as a "buzz word" than as a means of truly addressing all kids needs. It is for this reason that the following quote, found on page 9, really resonated with me,"If the strategies are to be defensible, planning and preassessment must precede differentiated learning experiences." In other words, differentiation is not something that can be done "on the fly", simply by putting kids into homogenous groups, but rather it is an intentional decision made with the purpose of teaching ALL students as specfic to their needs as possible.
In reference to Solarzano's comment, "teachers have full plates", I agree that this is often a reason given for not working to meet all of our kids' needs. I also agree that this is not excuse, because, at the end of the day, shouldn't our plates be full-of our students! It is our professional duty to insure that we are meeting all of our kids' needs, with no excuses.
In response to nlopez: "We want our students to be lifelong learners so we need to instill that in our students. We are never finished learning anything, there's always more." It is exactly that attitude I want to foster in all my students. When they go above and beyond, ask questions that extend the lesson, go find information on their own... then I start to feel, "YES!!!" I really want to encourage an appetite to learn.
@BrookeC - I totally agree with the statement, "You should always want the best for your students. It is our professional duty to teach to the unique strengths and needs of every individual student." It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day teaching of the content that we forget we actually aren't teaching the content, we are teaching STUDENTS. I think this statement brings this truth home!
Page 7: "Underachievement results from the one-size-fits-all curriculum." and the comments that immediately followed made an impact on me. I can relate as a learner that I felt "smart" when it took little effort to accomplish academic tasks in school and when challenges did arise I found it difficult. I keep going back to the analogy in the beginning of the book and how there were "silent sufferers" who still made it look like they had eaten of their plates (learned something.) I hate the thought of students feeling like that in my classroom!! This is inspiring!
What spoke to me was on pg. 11 where it says that "winning means that each student is learning at appropriately challenging levels...when this happens, motivation to learn is high and disciplinary problems are few." I completely agree with this statement. I need to continue working towards finding the appropriate challenging levels for each of my kids and finding just what keeps them motivated to learn at their optimal level.I also was intrigued by pages 1 and 2 as it spoke about the "silent sufferers". I want all the kids to learn and feel as though they are an important part of the classroom.
In response to moneyj, I worry about the children who are "quick learners". I think about how quickly they must realize that often finishing work early means that you receive "enrichment work" or things of that nature. How long does it take them to feel as though they are being punnished for finishing quickly? Also, just because they already were able to answer to the questions so easily, doesn't really mean that any learning took place. In response to swagner, I think we are genuinely there to help individuals and do what is right for the kids. I think we have to make a whold hearted effort to remember that these kids also have needs and should not be forgotten. Great point!
In response to ms.gio June 5th:"Fairness is not that everyone does the same thing; rather fairness is allowing every student to participate in the learning experiences needed to make continuous progress." p.6This is really a difficult concept for parents to understand. Even my g.t. kids work on different tasks and levels which causes parents to want to conference more often.
Chapter 1 was very eye opening and relatable for me. The phrase "continuous progress," is a term that makes sense and I look forward to using. The idea that one way of teaching a concept would fit all the students needs is crazy. I like the way the author related it to a one- dish dinner. It makes sense! I can see how this book will be a tool to take the existing curriculum and show us ways to "tweak" it to modify and in turn accomplish differentiating for our students. This is so true, "Children learn more quickly when the learning experience is made relevant to them" (pg. 6). I think we forget about this simple phrase and just teach the concepts to teach them because we are expected to and this is when we need to teach it and this is how long we have for it. Stepping back and making the teaching relevant will benefit all. I love the key questions and can see how they extend the students learning and that's what we should want to do as teachers.,
On page 3 of Chapter One, I like the statement that, "we haven't mentioned writing new curriculum." That we should make modifications to what we already have on hand. I always think about how I might have to change what I already have, as opposed to just finding different ways to share the material. I also could relate to "The Big Question" on page 5. The number one reason teachers don't differentiate is time!! I know that with all the different things that have to be done besides teaching and planning, I sometimes don't want to add another thing to my plate.
in response to piccolar on June 7th, I hate to think that I have "silent sufferers" in my classroom that are losing out because I am not meeting their needs on a daily basis and will lose interest in learning.
I love the dinner party metaphor for teaching! That makes perfect sense! However, I think I'm one of the "cooks" who is missing my "silent sufferers" (2). I'm probably too focused on the majority of my students, but not on everyone. I need to give up the "one-dish marvel" and make sure all of my lessons will reach and challenge all of my students.And, as a picky eater, this metaphor really works for me!
In response to Ms. Gio, I, too, connect with the quote: "Fairness is not that everyone does the same thing; rather fairness is allowing every student to participate in the learning experiences needed to make continuous progress" (6). I think I have a lot of thinking and planning to do as I try to differentiate for all my students.
In response to piccolar, I also agreed with the quote: "Winning means that each student is learning at appropriately challenging levels...When this happens, motivation to learn is high and disciplinary problems are few" (11). I have definitely seen this in my classes, and I just need to find a way to continue this daily. It's awesome when students are engaged and motivated to challenge themselves, and they're too busy to get into trouble. I love that! Yes, please!
on p.3 I really like the statement about " one-size-fits-all theory doesn't work with all children in a classroom." I liked this statement because it reminds us in this testing filled educational state that we need to focus on the needs of the individual students. Districts are so worried about their scores and how they look on paper and in numbers, that teachers don't always have the opportunity to focus on individual needs. That only hurts the students and it certainly doesn't make them life long learners on test taking learners.
In response to nlopez...You hit the nail on the head when you said teachers think once they ave taught a concept and mastered it , we can check off our list of things done. We are all guilty of doing that and I think because we have to answer to the TAKS test makes that way. However it doesn't stop us from taking those students higher who need to go higher, but we fail to remember to differenciate.
In response to Robin Chavez... Differenciating can be very challenging for teachers who have a very diverse classroom with spec. ed, esl, regular students and GT, which is what I had this year. I found that trying to differenciate for all of them didn't always happen. GT was the easiest for me to differeciate for, but sometimes I failed to do it for my esl kiddos, so I would have to go back and pull them to make sure they understood the lesson. It can be very trying.
Amen! to ratliffb's statement about how high-stakes standardized testing does not help to make students into life long learners by intimidating teachers and schools into teaching concepts at a surface level to ensure the entire curriculum is covered.