Sunday, February 19, 2012

Instructional Practices with Huge Impact

So, you've done some formative assessment, and the results show you that the route you had planned to take with your instruction actually needs to adapt to where the students are at.

Lesson planning and formative assessment remind me of planning a day trip. When I prepare for a trip, I like to have a plan or a route for where I'll go, where I'll park once I'm there, and what I'll do. Sometimes I need to make adjustments along the way, such as taking an alternative route when the street has construction work or is too congested. Other times, when I get there, the parking lot might be full, or I might find a more cost effective lot to park in.

Lesson plans and formative assessment are similar because I start with a plan, but once I'm there, I realize that adjusting my plan to fit the circumstances and student needs are in our best interests.

The formative assessments provide me with feedback on which route to take, what speed to progress at, and what pit stops I should make next.

I've done my formative assessment. Now what?
Created with Doodle Buddy, PhotoForge2, Photogene, & Collage Creator

I know the direction I want to travel in, however the pathways I choose are most often based on readiness.

If I am able to fill those gaps by building background knowledge or providing enrichment, then that's what I do.

If I need to work with small groups because of vast differences in readiness, then I differentiate the content (such as curriculum compacting, tiering lessons, learning contracts, i-Searches, or webquests).

If I want more flexibility to switch from small group, to whole group, from facilitator's role to a director's role, then I often choose differentiation based on product (such as choice boards, Tic-Tac-Toe boards, RAFT, or options based on interest, learning style, or readiness).

If it's a huge concept that needs to go in deep, I'll look to PBL, which addresses differentiation on multiple levels.

No matter what, I always differentiate the process by helping them connect meaning, ideas, concepts, and information in various ways. I try to address their learning styles throughout the process, even during my "traditional" type of lessons with direct instruction.

Ways to differentiate process and raise rigor

Differentiating the process takes the least amount of time and effort on my part. Differentiating the process helps students with various learning styles and strengths to make connections and meaning for them. It boosts rigor because making these connections go beyond filling in the bubble or completing a worksheet.

Some examples are:
I use several of these techniques daily during instruction. This is what it could look like:
Final thoughts

Having norms and procedures in place to create a positive and constructive learning environment is a necessity for differentiation. Remembering that the purpose of assessment is to provide feedback to improve, and to help us know the best route to take for learning.
  • How does differentiating raise rigor?
  • What are your favorite ways to differentiate the process?
  • What are some other instructional practices that makes a huge impact, with little teacher prep?
This post was written in preparation for AJHS's February 15th half day of staff development.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Formative Assessment and Differentiation

Formative assessment informs educators about student learning, and when done correctly, it also informs the students how to improve and move forward with their next goal. Teachers must know how to use that information to shape their instruction.

We use formative assessments to drive instructional decisions such as changing the approach or changing the target content.
Created with Doodle Buddy, prompted by Stem Resources visual
Differentiating assessment and instruction

I spent February 10th with the awesome staff at Apache Junction High School facilitating staff development. While talking about differentiating assessment and instruction, we addressed the importance of adjusting our teaching style to their learning style.

For example, I'm an exceptionally visual person, and like to synthesize and put concepts together in pictures such as the one above. In school, I enjoyed geometry and calculus, but struggled in Algebra II. In fact, I took calculus as my fun elective freshman year of college. Why? It's visual.

While I was sharing this with our high school faculty, a foreign language teacher talked about how he excelled in algebra but not geometry. He explained that the geometry teacher would show him over and over the concepts, while he needed to hear it and talk through it. He wasn't understanding based on differences in learning styles. I, on the other hand, needed to see it, visualize it, and do it to understand it.

We must consider different learning styles when we check for understanding, instruct, and assess. We also need to take the time to know our students and their interests to really connect with them.

Differentiation and formative assessment



The above presentation was made in preparation for today's training. Below are a few artifacts created during the trainings:

 
Final thoughts

I am encouraged by the discussions from today about differentiation in the 21st century classroom. The artifacts above are various formative assessments letting me know how much we are growing as a professional learning community, and it helps me plan our next steps.
  • Why is “assessment” not a synonym for testing? What are the implications of that?
  • How do you gather information/feedback to structure/guide instruction?
  • How do you evaluate the data collected, and how does this change/drive instructional decisions?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Managing the 21st century differentiated classroom

One size does not fit all. Classrooms must be differentiated.

Created on iPad using Doodle Buddy
What does a 21st century, differentiated classroom look like?

A 21st century, differentiated classroom should look and sound different from the classroom of my childhood. It also looks different from one classroom to the next, because there are numerous ways to differentiate.



What procedures and routines help maximize learning?

The foundational pieces for managing the 21st century, differentiated classroom are:
  • Increase active student engagement
  • Establish a positive classroom climate
  • Establish task expectations
  • Increase student engagement through individual accountability


The presentation was created in preparation for professional development for our high school, which will go to a 1:1 learning environment in 9th grade next year.
  • What procedures, routines, and norms help structure and maximize learning time in a 21st Century, differentiated classroom?
  • How do you create a classroom climate where all students are open to learning and participating?
  • What tips can you share with us as we prepare for 1:1 learning?   
This post was written in preparation for our staff development at AJHS.