Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chapter 1-Differentiated Instruction

1. Wormeli has a multifaceted view of differentiated instruction in a secondary classroom. Select ONE statement Wormeli makes about differentiated instruction which you most agree with. How might this thinking support your work in PLC's?

2. Select ONE of the following to respond to and share your thoughts...
  • "Nobody cares what we teach"
  • "It's what our students learn AFTER their time with us that matters"
  • Ellen Berg's comments about teacher responsibility

17 comments:

Rob said...

1. "What's fair isn't always equal." I agree, but it has taken me years of teaching to internalize this. I am now more open to differentiation / accomodations if it helps students.
2. I agree with Ellen Berg that there has to be a balance between student and teacher responsibility. Clearly, students need to take responsibility for assignments, but that should not supersede learning. I try to remember that I am not against my students. Rather, I am a helper, a facilitator. I never take it personally if students choose not to complete one of my assignments.

Señorita DiSepio said...

"Differentiation provides the appropriate challenge that enables students to thrive." Along these same lines Wormeli goes on to say that "we teach in the way a student's mind best processes information or skills." People are different. We look different, we think different, of course we learn differently! I don't believe that differentiation is making the material easier yet rather making the learning of it more attainable. By teaching the curriculum through various methods, hence "differentiating", we are connecting with a wide range of students and we are challenging them them in different ways, ways that stimulate each of them differently. Does this mean lowering the standards for some? No, just providing more ways for them to get to the end goal where everyone else is at. I would like to relate this back to the pyramid game show of the 70s where you can only give clues to the person to guess the topic without mentioning words in the topic. After giving 3 clues and the person can not guess do you 1) keep repeating the same clues getting louder and louder each time hoping it will click or 2) give 3 different clues that gives the person more chances of making a connection and guessing the answer. Sure then on the pyramid show you would win $10,000 but the point is you got to the same spot, guessing the correct answer. Only you provided many more clues and opportunities for a connection to be made to win instead of giving the answer away with parts of the topic.

I think many of us differentiate and don't even know it. By putting that concept into a different context we are differentiating. Our work in the PLC focuses on identifying those strategies, discussing this with our colleagues, and implementing these ideas that we think are important in the learning process. As the PLC book said, even if we fail, we have tried. With change there can be success and failures. The important thing is that we are open and communicating and trying to find what works best for our students.

Señorita DiSepio said...

In response to Berg's comments about teacher responsibility:
I believe that it is our responsibility as teachers to provide students with the tools to achieve success and to check in to see if our students are using those tools. However, success is only achieved if sudents meet us half way and complete their end of the learning equation. We can't force students to learn. However we can never give up trying to motivate and inspire them to meet their responsibility of learning.

Tracy said...

Wormeli has a number of excellent statements that I agree with. His statement “differentiated instruction does not mean we make learning easier for students” is a contradiction to what first comes to mind for many of us on this topic. I think it is common for teachers to think of differentiation as a way to make life easier for the student, hence, lessening the student’s workload. In reality, differentiation is taking into account specific needs of students and addressing them. I think this goes to the heart of ultimately what the PLC movement is all about: using data collected through assessment to develop ways to improve student learning. Sometimes this data will reflect a trend in which all/many students are struggling or having difficulty with a skill, topic, concept, etc. Other times the data will identify an individual student or small group of students who need additional assistance. In either case, what becomes apparent is that something needs to change in order to improve student learning and it is our responsibility as teachers to try a new approach with our struggling students.

Ellen Berg concludes her comments with the statement, “…I’m not saying that’s easy, but if what we’re doing isn’t getting us the desired results, doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different is not only nonproductive, it creates stress and unhappiness in our lives.” This sounds a lot like Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I wonder if too often as educators if we make our lives and our students’ lives difficult through our own rigidity to rules or inflexibility to how we do things because “we’ve always done it that way.” Differentiation of instruction requires creativity and developing a partnership with their students. It is a puzzle that needs solving and, to this end, there’s no reason that students shouldn’t be a part of the differentiation equation and solution. But this requires getting to know our students and reaching out to them.

k gerlich said...

1. "Differentiated classes are challenging. Students are held accountable and they achieve more." I like the idea that differentiated instruction teaches students to be accountable for their own learning. Thinking about instruction in this way will help me to understand better the purpose and focus for developing common assessments in my PLC.
2. I agree with Berg's comment that teachers who share the responsibility of learning with students are more successful. Frankly, it's burdensome to be the fountain of all knowledge for students. It's much healthier for the teacher to share with students the responsibility for learning. Students also profit more by being active participants in their learning rather than empty vessels we teachers are required to fill. Learning's much more fun when both sides participate.

Jackie Price said...

I like Rob's comment about his role as a facilitator. I came to realize long ago, that I am not the boss of classroom. My role as a teacher is part facilitator, part lion tamer, part counselor,and hopefully part inspirer (is that a word) to be curious about the world around them. Berg talks about teachers in the middle being the most successful. I do not know about the experiences of others, but I do agree with that assessment for myself. I do find it a challenge to maintain that middle position though. On page 4, Wormeli spells out the "rub" for us. He states that "Differentiated insturction does not mean we make learning easier for students. Instead it provides the appropriate challenge that enables students to thrive." I believe this statement accurately describes the sometimes dubious nature of differentiation.

Jill said...

1. "It's a collection of best practices that are strategically employed to MAXIMIZE students' learning at every turn...giving them the tools to handle anything that is undifferentiated." I think this idea struck me because there isn't a day that goes by that I don't have to invent a new way to turn the wheel for one student or another. I am constantly playing with new ideas that will enable my students to apply what they are learning in my class at some point in their lives, whether it be today or ten years from now. Not all things that will come their way will be differentiated, especially when they get to college, but I think that giving them the tools to take on any situation and grasp in a way that makes sense to them is just smart.
2. I also thought the statement that Berg made, "... if what we are doing isn't getting us the desired results, doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different...," hits the nail on the head, especially when talking about PLC. We are taking the ideas that we have been using for a while (some of us) and we are changing them to make them better. Constant re-evaluation and improvement is the way to get results.

Crosby said...

I also like the quote that Rob chose: "What's fair isn't always equal." In our PLC meetings we are spending quite a bit of time talking about differentiation within the structure of essential learnings and common assessments.

I like what Karen said about responsibility: "It's much healthier for the teacher to share with students the responsibility for learning." As we all know, explaining a concept to someone else really requires understanding that concept. Students who see themselves as part of the process ultimately internalize the learning.

Davis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Davis said...

(I somehow deleted my last comment. Goodness!)

I also agree with Ellen Berg's assertion that there needs to be a balance between teacher and student responsibility. I strive to find new ways to engage kids in their learning, not just to improve their grades, but to gain a deeper understanding of a novel, of persuasive writing, of literary theory.

One example this year where I made a simple change was allowing students to retake any reading quiz, anytime, as many times as they'd like. I explained that of course, it will benefit their grade by retaking it, but that the questions on the quiz relate to topics that are built upon in the novels we're reading and will help them understand more analysis-type questions later on. Students have taken ownership in knowing this information and I have let go of the "ah ha! I caught you" attitude of reading-check quizzes.

M. Wayman said...

1. "What would happen if we differentiated for a particular student every single time he needed it? Some of us claim students from such experiences would be highly competent, independent thinkers." In the Biology PLC our essential learning is "Using the skills of critical thinking and problem solving, students will understand the concepts of biology and how they apply to everyday life." This is our EL because we get frustrated that students don't think independently. We witness each week in lab students trying to "copy" answers from others to get "points". We have talked about challenging our students to see the big picture rather than memorize details. I think this quote from Wormeli can give us insight on how to continue to reach our goal of students thinking independently and critically.
2. "Nobody cares what we teach" this was followed by, what matters is what our students learn. I agree with this statement. When I read this it made me think of my early teaching years when I was around very smart people (teachers) who could not teach students. They lacked the ability to break down the information so students could learn. They were also annoyed with any student who needed clarification, extra practice or true differentiation. I witnessed students losing their enthusiasm and confidence because of a teacher who refused to differentiate.

coachahs said...

Such incredible wisdom! Can we start working on our book now?

Melissa and I need to find a way to share your thinking with our new floks!

Keep up the great reflectons. There is comfort in realizing many of us are on the same page in our thinking and are not the loan voice in the wilderness It reaffirms our own philosophical assumptions and makes it easier to move forward with them.

eringrantham said...

1. "When we differentiate, we give students the tools to handle whatever comes their way - differentiated or not". I think that this phrase feeds directly into what we've been working on in our PLC. We've put forth lots of effort to create common assessments so that we can assess the students the same way across the board. But that doesn't mean that we have to teach them all the same way also. It's important to remember that we can take different means to the same end.

2. I like the comment "It's what our students learn AFTER their time iwth us that matters." To me, much of value of education is teaching students how to learn. My hope is that my teaching might spark an interest in the students that makes the concepts come alive for them. Hopefully, through their excitement they will be able to figure out how the concepts in class relate to their own lives and, in turn, be able to remember it.

E. Firchau said...

1. Wormeli provided several statements that I agreed with about differentiation. However, the statement that really struck me was: "Let's examine the real world as well. Is the real world differentiated? Absolutely." Every person has their own strengths and weaknesses. It is our job as educators to find the strengths in each and every student and use them in a way that they can realize their full potential, both inside and outside of the classroom.
In our PLC's we have been trying to save time to share some of the activities that we have used in class. Each member of our PLC uses their strengths in the classroom on a daily basis. By sharing some demonstrations or activities, I am able improve on my personal weaknesses in the classroom to better help my students. It has also been a great resource for more differentiation.

2. I agree with Ellen Berg's comment about students and teachers sharing responsibility for our students' success. I have tried to focus on handing more responsibility over to my students in the last few years. Just like Karen says, when students are giving more responsibility they have more buy-in and take ownership in their learning.

Alexis's Blog said...

"No body cares what we teach" I agree and disagree with this statement.
Of course people care what students are learning. How can we maintain a functioning society with students who don't know anything? But, I think there are plenty of people who care what I am teaching as well. Why are there standardized tests in specific content areas? Why are there standards for 'highly qualified' teachers, that indicate how many credits they have in their content area. I would to say that people care about what we teach AND what students learn.

jgreenless said...

"When we differentiate, we give students the tools to handle whatever comes their way-differentiated or not." What tools is the author referring to? Life skills? Problem solving skills? I am not sure I see it this way, and even less sure how the author tied this to stadardized tests...maybe I am reading it wrong. Any ideas?

Jared said...

1. I most agree that differentiation gets a bad rap for being a crutch for students. Sometimes we forget that the most important thing is that students learn the material. If they do learn the material, they will be better prepared for future grades, even if they learned the material in different ways or with additional scaffolding designed specifically for them. In our PLC's, this is an important concept because we are seeking to find ways to help each student learn. This also further's my belief that PLC's shouldn't lead to standardized teaching because standardized teaching can never be differentiated teaching.
2. The first quotation really is humbling for us as teachers. The way I see it, I am a lot like a coach. I have to be innovative and do what it takes to help my team perform to the best of their abilty. If students see me as a coach rather than as the fountain of all English knowledge, they are more likely to accept my feedback as genuine and aimed at helping them become better learners.