Sunday, October 26, 2008

2 Units - Differentiation in Practice

I choose to look at the the first (ABC) and third (community helpers) units.  I was very grateful to see that there were some units differentiated on a younger level.  It seems like this semester we have been getting a lot of higher grade examples in our other classes.  It helps me to see it on the younger level, since that is what I am student teaching and want to teach after graduation.  

In both units, the KUDs are very explicit.  I like how easy it is to tell what the students are expected to know, understand, and be able to do by the end of the unit.  I did not have to try and guess what the unit was going to be teaching.  

Also, I like how the differentiated components were off to the side so it was easy to see what and where the differentiation was occurring.  Going along with this idea, it was easy to see that not every part of the unit was differentiated.  Sometimes when I am in class I start to think, "how am I going to differentiate all my lessons?"  But, I don't have to!  Also, not all the lessons are differentiated the same way.  I think this is good because it allows for variety and flexible grouping.  It was helpful that the instructional strategies used were listed at the beginning of the unit as well.  The samples backed up what was being listed.  Everything was organized and easy to follow.  

It was nice to see that most of the strategies used, I was already familiar with.  I don't have to be some magician and come up with new strategies, because the ones that I have already learned, will be useful.  

The unit plans were very clearly written and organized in a way that, if I wanted, I could use them in my own classroom.  

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fulfilling the Promise pgs. 120-162

The reading for this week was very easy to follow.  I liked seeing all the different examples of what can be used to help students.  For example, the first couple of graphic organizers I had never seen before.  I thought they were excellent and would have helped me to organize data better when I was in elementary and high school.  The reading was very beneficial because it gave clear examples of exactly what was being discussed.  

In particular, the Interactive Notes on page 122 made me think about another book I am reading for Literacy Methods II.  It is called Make it Real by Linda Hoyt.  It is about how to read and teach students how to read and understand informational (non-fiction) texts.  It also provides more types of interactive notes that students can use when reading to help them better understand what is being read.  (If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it!!) 

The two ways that the KUDs were listed was helpful to me.  As I am beginning to think about what I will be teaching in the classroom, it is helpful for me to see other ways of visually representing the KUDs I want for my lessons.  

The Menu idea was a lot like the Ticket and learning contract ideas.  I think these three ideas are great and allow for students to have some choice in what they are completing in class.  However, the teacher still has some control over the activities the students are doing.  If need be, the activities can be tiered or differentiated for students.  

I am glad there were examples of rubrics.  I have had them my whole high school and college career but they are not always easy to write.  It was good to see some general ideas all together.  I know it is important for students to know what is expected of them.  I, myself, do better if I know what I need to do.  

This book is a great resource that I am planning on using as I student teach and later on when I have my own classroom.  It has many wonderful ideas that can be adapted to use in many subject areas.  

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fulfilling the Promise and Tiering

I loved reading the different ideas presented in this reading.  I am starting to see how I can adapt the different activities to my own classroom.  Below is my response to your questions:

Do you understand what tiering is?  

From what I have gathered from class and from the reading, I think I am beginning to have a real understanding of what tiering.  To me, it brings to mind that it is differentiation for readiness.  It is making sure that each student's needs are met by giving them tasks relevant to the topic but also appropriate for the cognitive and instructional level that they are currently at.  Tiering is apart of differentiation.  I loved how on page 136 it gives steps on how to make sure an activity is tiered correctly.  

Are these activities tiered? If not, how could they be tiered? pgs. 130-135

The Think-Tac-Toe activities are differentiated but not necessarily tiered.  It depends upon how the teachers handed out the versions of the boards.   Also, because the student is choosing the activities they are doing, the teacher needs to be purposeful in the tasks she allows them to choose from.  If the tasks are written on the different versions according to what the students are capable of achieving and the student is given the options that are relevant to them, than it would be tiered.  Also, the book that the student is doing the activity for could be the tiered part.  Some books would be easier to answer the questions, while others would require a little more critical thinking. 

The RAFT activities confused me at first.  I had to reread them a couple of times before I understood the charts.  The activity as it is, is not tiered (for either one).  However, if different RAFT charts were given to different students/groups with different activities on them according to their needs than it would be tiering.   The levels of difficulty or each task could be changed to accommodate students that either are more advanced or need extra support.  

Are these tierable? Explain. pgs 149-162

Learning contracts are very tierable.  Each student can have activities put on their contract according to their needs.  If the teacher is planning on meeting with students in groups, some of the activities can be the same if the need of the student is the same or similar.  I really like the idea of a "Ticket".  

Think Dots can be tiered as well.  If the students are grouped in groups according to student's knowledge and understanding, the Think Dot activities can be tiered for the groups.  Groups that are more advanced in the area of study can do activities that use more critical thinking.  This can be done all the way down the spectrum.  More support can be given to students as the need is there.  For example, the Solving Equations think dots.   The students are all participating in activities that lead to and focus on the same big ideas.  However, the level of difficulties varied depending upon the students in the groups.  

The journal entries can be tiered by what questions that the students reflect on.  The math journal is an excellent example of this!  The students are doing activities for the same ideas but just on different levels.  

Tiering does not seem as hard as I first thought.  I think it shows respect for the students and their abilities.  It still says that they may not be perfect but still they can be high achievers!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fulfilling The Promise Chapters 5 and 6

I love reading this book because it is inspiring and gives hope to me as a teacher that I can be a good teacher to ALL my students.  I liked the quote on page 57, "we rarely succeed in teaching subjects unless we teach human beings as well."  The examples of the algebra teacher afterwards made this statement even more powerful.  I thought about how much more I wanted to be like the German teacher affirming my students instead of the Algebra teacher who just wanted them to be quiet and listen.  I think it is so powerful when the teacher is sure that her students can complete the tasks and learn.  It is so discouraging to have the teacher who doesn't believe in his students.  

We are learning all these awesome strategies on how to teach information so it can be learned but sometimes it is discouraging to think, "how will I ever cover everything?"  There was a quote on page 58 that reads, "We cannot teach the breadth of the entire world and at the same time achieve any depth of understanding."  I love this quote because it is so true!  It is important that we make the learning process fun and engaging while still teaching.  Sometimes I think we worry that every little detail needs to be taught, but that isn't the case.  As long as we teach the required information from the state, we do not have to finish the textbook or teach every detail.  Students cannot possibly learn and remember every little detail.  I ask myself, "What is most important? What do I want my students to come away with?"  That is what should be most important.  I think pre-assessment and using backwards design help with this.  we know what we want students to know before we plan activities.  Sometimes we plan activities that are awesome, but do not teach what we are trying to teach.  Like building a pyramid out of sugar cubes.  Also, pre-assessment allows me to know where I need to begin with each student.  

I like the section where it discusses demanding classes.  It is true that you have more respect for yourself if you have try and work to gain your knowledge.  Also, you remember so much more than if it is just given to you.  I have heard other students from other cohorts complain about our classes being "too" hard.  "They are being taught like master's classes."  And so on.  I disagree.  We are never given anything that we cannot do.  We are not given work just to keep us busy, but work that is important to our understanding.  At the end of the semester I feel a sense of pride in knowing that I completed a semester that seemed too hard at first.  We need to do the same in our classrooms.  Give the students tasks that are meaningful and make them stretch.  The work than becomes more important to the individual.  

I like how so many times in the reading it focuses on "every" or "each" student.  It is so important that we think about each student and what they need.  How can we help them if we do not know?  

Chapter 6 was amazing!  It has so many ideas on how to make the classroom successful with everyone on different levels.  Some of the ideas that I really enjoyed were the student self-evaluation sheet on pg 79.  This is so powerful because EVERY single student can do each one of these items!  Also, another one that I thought was very useful was the New American Lecture Format.  There will be times when I will need to use direct instruction, but I can do it in a way that still involves the students.  I also loved the idea of a "keeper of the book."  This allows each student to have an important role in the classroom at least once.  Also, it is a good way to keep track of information and the students can refer to it when needed.  This can give the teacher more time to help students if she is not constantly answering questions about "what was our homework" and other such questions.  It is also teaching the students responsibility.  There are so many more good ideas that I can use in my classroom.  

This reading helps me to see that it is possible to differentiate in a classroom.  It is not impossible if I use good teaching strategies.  I can do it!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fulfilling the Promise Chp. 3 &4

These chapters really spoke to my heart.  As I was reading, especially chapter 3, I really related to what was being said.  It inspired me to be the teacher who cares and sees the possibilities.  I want to live what I believe and not get disillusioned.  

On page 26, it says that these teachers "see the possibilities more clearly than the impossibilities."  This statement is so important to being a good teacher.  Attitude is such a big factor in the classroom.  If I think positively I can, and so can my students, accomplish more.  If I am negative and think that the students are unable to complete the work, they probably won't.  Possibilities are endless if I allow them to be!  

Sometimes this thought of being the greatest teacher is overwhelming.  I loved the statement on page 26 that says, "such teachers are not perfect."  Such a simple sentence allows me to be human.  As long as I continue to try and grow,  I will be fine.  I won't always make the right decision but if I keep learning and evaluating how I am doing, I will be fine and so will my students.  

I really needed to read the different bullets in the different section.  As I was reading them,  I felt good.  For example, "You are unique and valuable."  We all need to hear that, even as adults.  All the bullets had such a good message.  As I thought back on classes I have loved, these feelings expressed in the bullet points were evident of what occurred in the classroom.  Students will be more motivated if they know they are important and can learn no matter what disabilities or differences they may have.  

I loved the statement, "Opportunity requires hard work."  How often do I think life should be easier.  However, if everything in life was easy, I would never learn anything.  It is nice to know that someone is there to help you through it.  That is my job as a teacher, to be there for the students.  We can be partners and grow together.  We can help each other out.  As I do this with the students, I will learn their individual needs and how to address them.  As we become partners, the trust will build and the students will want to work hard.  

There is so much I want to say, before the sake of space I will move on to Chapter 4.  I loved the ideas presented in this chapter!  

The first idea that struck me, was the statement, "I need you to join me in making our class work for each of us."  By allowing the students to become a part of the planning and letting them know their ideas are important, will make the students feel comfortable and welcome.  Also, one thing I noticed was most of chapter 4 is what we are talking about in classroom management.  Isn't it amazing how many of our classes overlap!  It just shows how important these topics are!!

I will just discuss some of the sections.  I liked the one on celebrating success.  All too often we focus on the negatives. All this does is bring us and our students down.  If we just have an attitude change and think of the positives, than so will our students.  Not only will more learning go on, but there will be less disciplinary problems.  

I LOVED the idea of dialogue journals.  Sometimes I think about how will I ever get to talk with my students all the time and still discuss the curriculum.  This allows the students and the teacher to communicate about topics that are important to them while practicing their writing.  It is nice that it can be on whatever is important to the student at that time.  Students can learn to trust the teacher in this manner. 

I loved the idea of already having some groups in place so that students can move from one activity to another without much delay.  Also, it allows for flexible grouping and students can work with more of their classmates.  As this happens, students get to know each other and learn that everyone has something to offer.  

There is so much more I could say, but this post is getting rather long.  These two chapters were so wonderful.  The first one invoked emotion in a positive way.  I want to feel those same things that it says students need to know and feel.  In the second chapter, it gave so many ideas on how to make this happen in the classroom.  This class teaches us how to be good teachers and how to reach out to all students.  

Monday, September 22, 2008


This weeks reading was beneficial to me.  I have been thinking a lot about what kinds of questions I would like to have answers to about my students at the beginning of the year and than possibly doing it again in the middle of the year.  I started thinking about it when I watched my cooperating teacher with her Kindergarten students.  She had sent it home and had the parents write the answers the students gave them.  When they came for Kindergarten testing, she than talked about their answers with the students to get to know them even better.  

I really liked the inventories in the Fulfilling the Promise book, however, I could not use them in the Kindergarten class.  The first one (where it asks the students to place the phrases into the two categories) I might be able to incorporate some of the same ideas but make it simpler for the younger students.  However, it would be good for first and older grades.  You might have to read some of the questions for the students in first grade, but they could do it.  

On Blackboard Vista, I liked the variety of pre-assessment activities that were provided.  Seeing the one on Rome, made me begin to think of how that same idea could be taken into other areas of study.  For example, before starting a unit on the  solar system, you could ask questions about what they already know, what they want to know, and than at the end they can discuss what they learned.  Even though I liked looking at the different options, the only ones that came close to me being able to use them in the Kindergarten classroom were the first three in the "large variety of pre-assessment" folder.  These are more simplified in that they use smiley faces and ask students to draw instead of write.  Most of the questions could be answered by the students if the questions are read to them and if I explain what the smiley faces mean.  

During my student teaching, I probably will have to write or adapt a questionnaire for the students.  Being in Kindergarten, the students aren't able to write their thoughts as clearly.  I will use one where the students mark their answers by coloring in or circling a happy or sad face.  I will read the questions to the students, since they will probably not be able to read the questions yet.  I am not exactly sure what questions I would ask yet, but I will base it on what I am going to be teaching them and what I decide will be important to know about each student.  I might even include a game or activity where we do a thumbs up/thumbs down activity where I ask questions.  (I would explain that there are no right or wrong answers).  I would use this second approach when I just need a general idea of how the students feel and not individual.  For example, if I am planning different center ideas, I might see how many are interested in different activities, so I can plan activities that the students can relate to and I can make sure there is at least one activity that each student will like or will be able to do.  

If I need to know what they already know about a topic, I will probably do small group activities where we discuss a KWL chart.  Sometimes students know something but don't know they know it.  If they hear others ideas, it might register with them.  

There are so many options.  Since I am in Kindergarten, I know I will need something simpler that can be done by circling or coloring an answer instead of expecting them to write.  Pre-assessment is definitely a good tool that I will be using in my classroom.  So much information can be gained.  Also, I can add or even write my own, if I can't find one that asks the questions I want asked.  

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fulfilling the Promise Chp. 1 &2

In this reading, I really liked how the text started out by addressing who might need differentiation.  The list it gave could encompass every student in the class.  I liked how it even covered students who are fast learners or who have given up on school.  I think sometimes these two areas are overlooked when teachers plan and either their needs are not thought about or they are ignored.  I think that they need differentiated curriculum as much as all other students.  I was a fast learner in school and always got the extra busy work when I finished early.  I did it because I liked school, as did my sisters.  On the other hand, both my brothers were even better than all of us girls, but they had problems being given the busy work.  My brother just younger than me had to be put in anger management classes when he was in elementary school because he would get angry about the situation.  My youngest brother just acted out.  He would refuse to do work, especially if it was repetitive.  For example, if there are 25 math problems on a worksheet and they have already done 10 in class, he would refuse to do the worksheet because his thought was, "Why do I have to practice something I already know."I think in these cases if the classroom curriculum had been more differentiated, they would have been able to get more out of school and it would have lessoned the discipline problems they added to the class.  Going along with this idea, the book on page 5 states, "Learning environment is the 'weather' that affects virtually everything that transpires in the classroom."  If the learning environment takes into consideration everyone, the students will feel comfortable and learn more.  Also, in return there will be less discipline problems.  

I really liked the metaphor from The Little Prince.  It is true about how we have to "tame" our students.  The more we get to know our students, the easier and more effectively we can teach them.  I thought that it was interesting that it said that taming the fox (or the student) is a risk  but it is well worth it.  I think it is a risk worth taking.  As we get to know the students, we can better relate to them and it makes both teacher and student enjoy the day more.  Reading the excerpt, I now want to read the book.  (I bought it but haven't had time to read it yet.)  
I liked the comic strip on the bottom of pg. 15.  Students, especially younger students do think they are the center of the universe.  That is why we need to take care of their needs.  If they don't feel safe or important, how are they going to learn?  I think differentiation falls into this category of needs.  With differentiation, we can meet some of their most important needs. One of them being that the student needs to feel that they are important, as are how they learn.  They need to be listened to and respected.  Differentiation can help this happen.  We ARE respecting the student and their needs when we include differentiation as part of our curriculum.