Week 3 Reflection

Week 3 Reflection

 

I had to spend a considerable amount of time looking over blogs, because I am playing catch-up. Just like the week before it is so awesome to see how much we have grown in our confidence to differentiate instruction. I really enjoyed reading about how others are able to justify to their colleagues, parents, and students why DI is worth everyone’s time.

 

One thing that really popped out at me was a picture that Chelsea used in her blog to depict what DI meant to her. I like this picture so much that I screenshotted it and put it next to my own desk. Heck, a picture is worth a 1,000 words and I might even use this in my own classroom. It is in image that compares to images of people looking over the fence. In one picture all are standing by the fence on the same size boxes in which only one can see over. Whereas in the second picture they are all standing on different size boxes, but they all get the same view. I think this made perfect sense to why we need to differentiate instruction. We need to differentiate so that we can all work towards those standards that are mandated, but also so that students can grow with reasonable expectations. Great picture, Chelsea!

 

Another thing that I learned through collaborating with my peers is that we so commonly overlook the fact that we might have to justify our use of technology. As Jules stated, it never occurred to her that she would have to justify having her 7-year old behind an ipad. She’s right I just assume that everyone is so use to technology in my district and that they know what I am using it for. I’m lucky in the sense that I work at a school district that has been heavily using technology for the past 5 years so many parents and students are accepting of technology. However, I never thought to justify what I am doing is the best method.

 

Much like JIm I realized we can justify ourselves with assessment. I also read about this in the readings this week. Assessments should be used from the start to end of a unit according to the reading. My plan of action throughout this class has been to get better at using assessments to guide my lessons. This is a skill I realize I can improve on and know I will after reading and researching the benefits of doing so.

 

I look forward to finishing our final products that should be exemplar models of DI and use of technology. I love technology and I am starting to be quite fond of DI so it will be my pleasure to read over others’ units as they have posted in their later blogs.

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Week 3

Week 3

 

Classrooms of today are different from classrooms of the past and therefore require a different approach. According to an Edutopia article by Susie Boss (2012), A Parent’s Guide to 21st Century Learning,  “In today’s progressive classrooms, yesterday’s rows of quiet listeners have given way to small groups of active learners, thoroughly engaged in discussions and explorations. (p.1)”  Crowe (2004) also states, “Classrooms today are often so different from those of a generation ago.” With that being said, the modern classroom is much different that the times of yesterday.  I know if I were not a current teacher, I myself, would be a bit confused with the methodology of modern classrooms and would need the help of the school system to feel comfortable. Therefore I find it reasonable to ensure that parents and students are informed on why DI is what’s best for them.

 

In a differentiated classroom you might initially find your parents of your students and students  a bit apprehensive because it is a much different approach to education than they have experienced. However, there are ways to ensure they become onboard and supportive of DI. Tomlinson (2001) points out that DI is needed because of the differing needs of students through his numerous analogies such as what would happen if we forced a child to walk before he was ready to. His point is all kids eventually get there, but on their own time. I couldn’t agree more and that is why it is my goal to ensure to students and parents that I will try my best to differentiate to each child’s needs so that they grow to their fullest potential as an individual. I think most parents and students would agree they all come to us at different levels.

 

Most parents want their child to be successful and a differentiated instructed classroom is ideal for this. Tomlinson (2001) suggests that you can help them by: differentiating instruction so that everyone grows in all key skills and knowledge areas, the teacher carefully assesses and analyzes knowledge learn to help plan all lessons, lessons reflect the teacher’s best understanding of where the student is academically, teachers welcome discussing with parents their child in order to better serve them, and a goal of DI is to help students become independent learners. Another positive aspect of DI is it allows for the higher quicker students to be challenged and working hard at new concepts, instead of waiting for the majority of the class to catch up (Tomlinson, 2001). I know for many parents knowing that the teacher is now trying to assist all students in reaching their fullest potential is enough to get them on board with DI.

 

One common obstacle teachers will face with parents and students is centered around the idea of fairness. Because in a DI classroom what is fair is not always equal among students, because of the notion that not all students are created equally. It is my belief as an educator that we need to remind our parents and students that they are all different and as a sole individual you will do your best to accommodate their learning needs. Tomlinson (2001) suggests our message as educators might be, “I see the potential in your child. I am excited about being a part of developing that potential. (p.43)”  

 

It is important to note that a DI classroom better prepare students for the future. According to Boss (2012) it better prepares them for the future because DI allows for more, collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical skills. These are all skills needed to be successful in college, careers, and life. With that being said, DI makes sense and with efforts to communicate this to parents and students they themselves will be on board to make the best out of their education. I look forward to meeting and communicating with parents, students, colleagues, and administration the need to make sure DI is taking place in the classroom.  Lastly I would like to leave with my closing thoughts my Smutney (2004), “Fundamentally, differentiating is about honoring the individuality of the child and letting that guide what he or she learns and how.”  For me it is about honoring each unique individual.

 

Resources

 

Boss, Susie; Edutopia.org (2012). A Parent’s Guide to 21st Century Learning. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/guides/edutopia-parents-guide-21st-century-learning.pdf.

 

Crowe, C. (2004). Wonderful Wednesdays. Retreived from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/wonderful-wednesdays/.

 

Earnst, A., & Wegdam, M. (producers). (2011). Differentiating Instruction. New Teacher Survival Guide.  Podcast retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/differentiating-instruction#video-sidebar_tab_video-guide-tab.

 

Smutny, J. (2004). Differentiated Instruction for Young Gifted Children: How Parents Can Help. Retrieved April 17, 2017, from http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10465

 

Tomlinson, Carol A. How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. vol. 2nd ed, Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2001. EBSCOhost.

 

Week 2 Reflection

Week 2 Reflection

 

Well I have been busy playing catch-up since I started this class late. In some ways it’s challenging to go back and try to interact with older blogs, but at the same time it is a bit interesting to see how much we have grown as educators. While reading through the blogs of others, I found it to be consistent among everyone that in the beginning they were less confident in their approach with DI and technology. I could hear the timidness in the voices of the blogs of Week 2 which is a vast difference from the present blogs. That was wonderful to see this growth. Yahoo!

 

I made sure that I checked out the blogs of the same students that I usually do as well as a few others. I wrote on Jules, Kendra, and Jim’s blog. This was a the first time I left a comment on Jim’s blog. I thought I would mix it up a little.

 

Jules really inspired me to always set goals. I loved how she painted the perfect classroom for herself and how she is striving for it. I think that is all we can do is strive for excellency. I really could relate with her, because I myself aspire to help all students equally. And again equally might not be the same thing for one student. She made a comment about how she is the type of teacher who asks questions that sometimes veer students away from the essential question. This had me thinking because I also have the tendency to do the same thing. However, I wonder if these question do or do not add to the critical thinking that is necessary in order to make sense of the essential question. This is something that has me pondering and when I have time I plan to research this a bit more. Another thing I liked that she stressed was having centers to have DI in the classroom. I agree! However, because I have older grades I tend to have a different approach with centers. I have a lot of options students can chose from and they usually tend to be in an electronic format. I couldn’t imagine trying to differentiate without technology. Technology makes my life easier!

 

I also took the time to respond to Kendra, who always does her best to articulate herself in way that thoroughly responds to the prompt. I appreciate that about her. I was a bit shocked with Kendra’s approach to teaching this year because it was such a major change. I guess I struggle with change a bit. I am with her on allowing students time to struggle and helping them individually, because I think it works as long as we have great classroom management skills. From the sounds of her blog she does have great classroom management skills. I for one do not take as much time and thought with my seating arrangement and she has inspired me to do so.

 

The last blogger I interacted with was Jim. I really like how he is short and sweet. For him it is about getting to know your students’ strengths and weaknesses. Then from there you are responsible for diagnosing them through the use of data. He was all about a data driven classroom. Way to go Jim.

 

Overall most of my peers seemed to have the same approach to DI or at least an understanding with an ideal goal in mind. I think we are all striving to get there and by furthering our education we are on the right path. Way to go guys!

Week 2

How do you make decisions about your own actions for students in a differentiated classroom? What is your criteria for intervention.

 

BBC active defines differentiation” by the Training and Development Agency for Schools as ‘the process by which differences between learners are accommodated so that all students in a group have the best possible chance of learning.”  Let’s just say this is a task I think we can all accomplish if we use the rules of thumbs for DI provided by Tomlinson (2001) which are: clear key concepts, assessments as road maps, lessons for all students that emphasize critical and creative thinking, engaging lessons, and a balance of teacher/student selected materials. For me it is a matter of taking these concepts and rolling with the obstacles that get in the way. In other words, I need to just breathe and be flexible.

 

I’d like to say for sometime now I have considered myself more of a facilitator of learning rather than a traditional teacher. Which according to Tomlinson I am on the right track with his statement, “When teachers differentiate instruction, they move away from seeing themselves as keepers and dispensers of knowledge and move towards seeing themselves as organizers of learning opportunities (p.16).” I believe with the advent of the internet and technology we have a powerful tool at our fingertips that allows us to steer students in the direction that will lead to maximum growth, a tool that was not available to traditional teachers. These tools allow us to differentiate learning in way that makes us more of a facilitator of learning knowledge rather than a keeper of knowledge.

 

First and foremost, I always start with some sort of pre-assessment data. Tomlinson (2001) states, “In fact, assessment is most useful when it comes at the outset of a unit or along the way in the unit. At those points assessment invites us to adjust our teaching based on current information (p.20).” I tend to give short quizzes that cover the topics I am trying to teach as well as using data provided by the school district I work at. I like to use NWEA Maps data and Skills Navigator. I prefer the skills navigator because it allows me to set up the specific skills I am looking to assess and I can reassess after the unit using skills navigator. Most of my pre assessment methods are in the form of a test. I do think I need to get better at making authentic assessments. This is something I plan to learn how to do as I am taking this class. Another plan of action I would like to do take part in is assess more frequently throughout a unit so I can use ti to guide my teaching.

 

Although the assessment data is helpful in designing the content that will be taught there is one vital element that has to be in place in order for learning to happen which is a healthy student/teacher relationship. According to McCarthy (2015),  “The core of DI is the relationship between teacher and students.” I could not agree more with this statement, because without a relationship with my students I won’t be able to reach my targeted goals outlined in the pre-assessment data. Therefore, I spend time developing a relationship. I try to foster relationships but letting students know I genuinely care, by greeting them, creating an environment in which all students are respected, dimming the lights, playing music, offering student choice. Tomlinson identifies a key characteristic of an effective learning environment as one is which, “everyone feels welcomed and contributes to everyone else feeling welcomed (p.21).” My hope is that students will see that I value them and their education and in turn they will be ready to engage in the activities I have planned for them.

 

One way in particular that helps me to tremendously pull of DI is by using technology in my classroom to meet the vast range of my students’ needs. I’m not sure I could pull it off without technology. White (2017) also uses technology as one of her key components for pulling off differentiation. Technology allows me to quickly assess and provide leveled choices to all my students. I like to use IXL in both language arts and math to quickly assess my students needs as well as providing them with choices at their levels. IXL has a wide range of skills that are leveled. I leave it up to my students to choose a level that they are comfortable with until I have a chance to decide if they need to move up or down a level. Another thing I really like is the immediate feedback it gives my students. I also prefer to use online worksheets that immediately lets the students know if they are on task. My idea to increase student learning through the use of technology is supported by McCarthy’s (2015) claim that technology tools greatly aid in helping students reach their higher potential  in which he provides a list of 50+ media tools. It is my goal as I aim to be a teacher who practices DI to always include technology in that it provides students opportunities to in a vast array of ways.

 

Because all students do not learn at the same rate or are ready for the same content in a DI classroom fairness has to be redefined. According to Tomlinson (2001) a new type of fairness is required in a DI classroom which allows the student to get what he/she needs in order to grow to their fullest potential at the moment. To do this Tomlinson (2001) further points out we need to scaffold our learning approach so that students can learn and succeed with challenging work. Tomlinson (2001) provides an array of strategies to meet this challenge. Some of my favorite and more used approaches are: less is more, directions with more structure, reteaching, teaching through multiple modes, manipulatives when needed, study guide, and organizers. It is important to note that what works for one student, is not always best for another. This is why differentiated instruction, which is not always equal, is the new fair. In other words, we need to be flexible. Tomlinson (2001) states, “We need to plan with flexible grouping in mind (p.26).” In my classroom I always want to keep the notion in mind that nothing is static and with continuous assessment I will find that regrouping and re-teachings will be needed.

 

Sometimes, I find it all too easy to think that DI is way too overwhelming, but then I remember that research shows it is what’s best for students and that I can do it. I have to be flexible and willing to take the time to learn my students needs, create a relationship and provide an array of learning options to my learners. According to McCarthy (2015),  “When considering your students’ needs, reach even higher in your practice–that extra strength is inside us all and students will benefit,” It is my goal to step back, reflect on my students’ needs and do my best to make sure they are reaching their maximum potential by providing DI.

 

References

Bubbl (n.d.). Mind Mapping. Retreived from https://bubbl.us/034753596794715214.


Educational Publishers (2010). Methods of Differentiation in the Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.bbcactive.com/BBCActiveIdeasandResources/MethodsofDifferentiationintheClassroom.aspx

McCarthy, J. (2015). 3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-ways-to-plan-john-mccarthy.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

White, J. (2017) 4 Proven Strategies for Differentiating Instruction. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/4-proven-strategies-differentiating-instruction/

Week 1 Reflection

This week I found myself feeling frantically busy! I am trying to play catch up. I find it a lot of work to keep the previous weeks I am trying to catch up and the current week separate.  Most of the time, I find the concepts relate and I am wanting to go back and forth. I must say I appreciate all the hard work that has gone into the blogs, because it is making a challenging task a bit more bearable. Thank-you to all you amazing educators and peers.

 

I really enjoyed reading through other’ experience with differentiated instruction. It was reassuring to know that I am not the only who is overwhelmed with the process. I am also not the only one who finds the job as an educator stressful. The overall consensus I was getting is the job itself is challenging and DI will require more work on our behalf as educators. Although it is a challenging tasks, I believe it is worthwhile to practice DI for the both students’ learning needs and our sanity as educators. Right now the traditional methods of education don’t work more than ever on our current population of students. Throughout the required readings, it was made clear we are teaching a different population of students with different learning needs.

 

I agree it might be more work on top of what we are already doing, however, I want to make it clear, I believe that DI will eventually lighten the stress load because our instruction will have become better and students will have less gaps because of effective DI. The whole one size fits all motto is a really archaic principal. When I am feeling overwhelmed this is what I will have to tell myself, because it is to easy to fall back on the familiar.

 

One thing I would like to mention is I was really proud of the fact that we are all taking part in professional development as educators. We all have a huge stress load and we chose to do something constructive to alleviate the load. Kendra felt like I did before about how I lived and breathed being an educator and as a result my personal well-being took a toll. I eventually learned that I needed to take care of myself from a mentor teacher. It was some of the best advice I have ever gotten. I was happy to hear Kendra is making advances to take care of herself. I also could really relate to Jules as a once first year teacher pursuing higher education. It is so overwhelming and I had to commend her for her efforts. I also have to admit that even with 9 years under my belt, I also still struggle with DI. I would have to say it gets easier and from experience I have learned that technology helps tremendously with DI.

 

As the weeks go on, I look forward to learning from others through blogging and collaborating electronically.

 

Week 1

What is Differentiated Instruction?

 

Differentiated Instruction (DI) is, a classroom initially set up for success for all students through a complex instructional approach that is differentiated based on students’ needs while managing to address the curricular requirements.  According to Tomlinson (2001),  “In a differentiated classroom, the teacher proactively plans and carries out varied approaches to content, process and product in anticipation of and response to student differences in readiness, interest, and learning needs” (p.7). The complex idea of DI can be a bit fascinating and overwhelming, because it challenges educators to rely on research based strategies for learning among a diverse group of students.

 

There is an increasing need for DI as current educational trends indicate the homogeneity of the past has been replaced with widespread diversity in the student population (Subban, 2006). Because of the diversity within the classroom, it calls into recognition that what is fair does not always mean the same for each student, a concept within itself, that is hard to get across to young adolescents’ minds. In order to successfully incorporate DI into the classroom a teacher has to acknowledge and accommodate the different learning speeds and styles assuming that all students have different learning needs.

 

In the past, the traditional method of teaching had been to apply a single approach to the homogenous group and reactively responding when the lesson failed. It is important to note, that DI is the exact opposite, it is proactive, a classroom set up for success from the start!

 

One way, to help with daunting task of meeting curricular goals is to realize that DI emphasizes qualitative over quantity.  With that being said, more time can be carefully planned so that instructional time is better spent. In order to accomplish this, the educator must be avid about assessments. By using the assessments to guide their curricular instruction, the curriculum is now designed with the students’ needs and curricular goals in mind. DI also requires the educator to have multiple approaches to content, process, product, and learning environment. According to Tomlinson (2001) by differentiating what students learn, how they learn it, and how they demonstrate what they have learned encourages substantial growth in all students.  Weselby (2017) reports that research has been conducted and reported that the DI approach benefits a wide range of students, from the advance learners to those with disabilities. Weselby (2017) further states a pro of using DI is that when, “Students are given more options on how they can learn material, they take on more responsibility for their own learning.” Therefore, DI allows for multiple approaches in learning while accommodating a range of students in order to get the greatest individual gains in education.

 

(Tomlinson, 2001, p.6)

In order to meet this complexity of instructional methods, the student-centered instruction is a blend of whole-class, group, and individual instruction that is carefully monitored by the teacher so that adjustments can me made when necessary. In this sense, a teacher is never fully prepared for the next lesson as the instructional methods change with each lesson.  It’s is always about making the classroom a better match for its learners with the greatest educational achievement in mind from the starting line.

 

References

 

Subban, P. (2006). International education journal. [Differentiated instruction: A research basis] Issn 1443-1475, 7(7), 935-947.

 

Tomlinson, C.A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms.

 

Alexandria, VA: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

 

Weselby, C. (2017). What is differentiated instruction? examples of how to differentiate instruction in the classroom. Retrieved 2017, February/02, 2017, from http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/teaching-strategies/examples-of-differentiated-instruction/

Week 12 Reflection

Week 12

 

So I started this week feeling overwhelmed and that feeling only heightened as the weekend approached. To relieve some of my anxiety, I had to email Dr. Marylee Graham to see if I was on the right track. It just felt like I had so much going while feeling tired that I became very unsure of myself. I really appreciated the timely response from her because I was able to relax this weekend knowing I was on the right track.

 

I took Friday off of work so I was able to periodically check and read through others’ blogs. I really do appreciate those of you who can get your blogs done as soon as possible. Heaven knows I try! Lately, it feels like I am sitting frantically behind my computer pushing the midnight deadline wishing I was sleeping instead. I tried my best to make this a relaxing weekend, so I could regain myself. I did get to read over quite a few blogs. I really enjoy being able to learn like this. It allows us to pursue higher education in a way that allows us to be successful because it is so accessible. Whenever I have time I can log in and spend a few minutes on my class. Being a working mother means time is limited so I really enjoy this format.

 

Since I find this setup to be very accommodating and helpful I was a little surprised to read a comment about how this blogging format might be considered a little something of the past or something to that effect. However it was in regards to how students chose to learn and that is an approach I haven’t quite tinkered with. Throughout this class I was inspired to try journal entries online, however, I never did have students set up a blog. I am really curious to see how it would turn out though, but a little apprehensive because it sounds like students don’t really like to blog. Nevertheless, I will probably try it when the time is right. I almost feel like students might take their work more seriously if they know it is going to be published. It is important to note that I might work with older students since I am middle school which this format might not be as appealing to younger elementary students.

 

Although I was sorry to read Kendra was feeling overwhelmed I was also comforted knowing I was not alone in my frenzy to get stuff done this week. It really was super overwhelming to me. I also had a chance to comment on Chelsea’s blog and read what other’s commented. I could relate to both of these ladies. I was much like Chelsea in feeling like how do I document this. One thing I realized and stated in my comments is I forgot to take lots of pictures and screenshots. These pictures and screenshots would have helped me tremendously in finishing my reflection piece. Although I did get some pictures, in retrospect I am wishing I had taken more. The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is so true. I know now it is going to take me longer to reflect, but I was too into my lessons at the time to stop and take pictures. I blame my engrossment in the fact that I had such a well planned unit, because things were flowing and students were engaged.

 

I’d like to end this week with saying that researched based strategies are really worth trying. I plan to promote using the Ubd design and Di with technology approach with my colleagues. I also look forward to reading this week’s upcoming blogs and meeting together for one last meeting. It is a little bittersweet because I am enjoying becoming a better teacher. However, I am ready for a short break before starting right back at it this summer. Kudos to all of you pursuing higher education!