Thursday, October 22, 2009

A (non) Rant

I am just feeling like I don't have anything to rant about. I am getting so excited that I am nearing the end of this semester. I can't wait to be in the classroom and start applying the things I am learning. Life is busy and hectic, and a lot of the time I feel stressed, but regardless I feel like my life is just going great right now. I have an amazing husband, great friends, the Holidays are just around the corner, I get a break from School, and I get to start Christmas Shopping! I just can't see how life gets much better than this!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This book has some great ideas that I could easily see myself implementing in the classroom. It has still been a challenge for me to identify ways to differentiate lessons. I understand the concept and the importance of it, I think I just need additional practice in differentiating lessons and it will become easier for me over time.

One activity I liked in the book was the conversational round table. I thought it was a great extension activity for literature we are currently reading in our classroom. This activity would be an easy one to differentiate in a couple of different ways. The first way I would differentiate it is to give different groups of students more or less areas to expand upon depending on their abilities. I also could differentiate that activity by giving students different levels of thinking or expanding. One group could analyze the characters, one could analyze the themes, and another could analyze the different aspects of the voice of the writer.

I also liked the evaluation checklist on 'when you work with peers.' This would be a great checklist especially for older students to determine their feelings about working with groups. I think this is a great resource for me as a teacher to gather information about my students in order to make differentiating lessons. I would also be able to change up the different kinds of group activities I can do in my classroom that the students would enjoy.

While I have been in the program I have learned about using a RAFT activity in my classroom. I have always liked the idea of the RAFT activity, but I love the suggestions the book gave about the RAFT activity. I love that is points out that the RAFT activity is easily adapted for students readiness, interest, and learning profile. This is an activity that could easily be differentiated while also giving each student a worthwhile activity.

This book is a great resource for my future classroom. There were so many activity ideas, rubrics and inventories that I could easily use in my classroom. I feel like with the help of this book I am more confident in my abilities to be a differentiating teacher.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I really enjoyed this chapter and felt like it brought everything "together" for me. I especially liked the list they provided about what effective teachers do in their classroom to become effective. An effective teacher is a teacher who differentiates. How can I be effective in my teaching if I am not reaching every single one my students? I loved the quote in the book that said, "Virtually all learners benefit when they learn in places with high instructional ceilings and lots of ways to climb to the top." This is a principle of differentiation. We need to make a way up and never a way out for our students, have high expectations, and be flexible! I love that it mentioned there are numerous ways to climb to the top. I know it will be a challenge but I need to allow my students the flexibility to learn the way that they learn best. If I allow them that freedom my students will learn more quickly and effectively, and I will become a better teacher.

The book talked about showing each learner how learning has meaning in his or her life and how that life takes on new meaning as it grows in the power of learning. It is so important to engage my students and there is no better way than teaching them how the things that we are learning really are applicable in their own lives. If students can see that relationship their motivation will increase which allows them to reach and even surpass that "high ceiling" within our own classroom.

In the book it talked about how effective teaching is responsive teaching by creating ties with each child. I love that is said effective teaching is responsive teaching. If what we are doing isn't working or reaching students we need to respond to that and teach in a way students can connect with. We can only achieve responsive teaching when we "let loose" and be willing to do something we aren't 100% confident or comfortable doing. I need to be willing to take risks as a teacher, and if I fall flat on my face, pick myself up and try something new. I know that when I am passionate about my students and teaching them I will be able to teach in a responsive way. In the book it said, "The more willing we are to take the risks, the better the lives of our students are likely to become, the greater the fulfillment we are likely to feel at the end of the day." I know that is true and will strive to teach that way in my own classroom.

"We simply have to decide the shape we want our teaching careers to take, and begin moving in that direction." It seems so simple, but it is quite the daunting task. I think I'm up for the challenge! :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

I really liked reading in chapter 5 about curriculum and the positive ways we can teach it in our own classrooms. All of the principles in this chapter are so important and I hope that I will be able to implement them successfully. What I think is so great about differentiation is it is used in all areas of the classroom and they all overlap with each other. I know that I will be a better teacher if I can provide each of my students with curriculum that is engaging, demanding, focused and important. I want my students to enjoy being in my classroom and enjoy learning. If my students are given work that is hard for them, but not too hard, I know they will have greater motivation to learn and have a greater sense of self and pride when they accomplish the task no matter how it compares to other students in the classroom. I want my curriculum to be relevant and important to my students. I liked in the chapter where it discussed that when work is engaging for our students they begin to see the value and importance of it, and are even curious and excited to learn more. It is so important that we know and understand our students the best we can so we can provide the proper scaffolding for them and teach the curriculum in a a way that will be meaningful for them. It does seem like a daunting task, but as a teacher I need to find a way to do that for every one of my students.

I really liked reading chapter 6 because it was of a lot of ideas of practical application in the classroom. I really liked the strategies it talked about for important, focused, and engaging curriculum. My favorite ones were using meaningful audiences, and help students discover how ideas and skills are useful in the world. It would be so much easier to get our students excited about things that are meaningful to their life, and they see a purpose behind! It makes my job easier in a way, why would I not want to do that? I do think that it is important that we incorporate these principles, but continue to make sure that the curriculum is demanding and we have high expectations for our students.

I loved where it talked about using small group instruction as a regular part of instruction cycle. What a great idea I never would have thought of. And the beauty of it is that it doesn't take much planning. I can look for needs in the classroom that need to be met, ask students who need help with that concept to meet with me in the back of the classroom and ten minutes later those students walk away with a clearer understanding. It is a great way to access your students and as a teacher evaluate what needs to be re-taught in a different way.

I also like the idea of establishing peer networks for learning. When I read this I immediately thought of two things. First I thought of how holding morning meetings in our classrooms can create a community of learners and peer networks will already be in place if our classroom is already operating in that way. Secondly I thought of our cohort and how we totally operate in peer learning groups. I think because we learn using peer learning groups, that is what makes learning so enjoyable for us! I really do enjoy coming to school now because it is easier for me since I have a whole network of other students that I can learn together with. Establishing peer learning groups in my own classroom will be a huge goal of mine because I believe it will make the biggest difference between having a successful or non-successful school year.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I am officially overwhelmed after reading chapter 3 and 4!! I know that all of the principles are important and I definitely want to implement them in my classroom, but now comes the hard part, trying to figure out exactly how I am going to do it. Differentiation is a teachers response to learner's needs. I liked how the book broke it down into 5 different teacher responses. The teacher responds with invitation, opportunity, investment, persistence, and reflection. All of these are important and I know when they are implemented they make each student feel like a validated important individual who has something to contribute. I think the hardest one for me will be persistence. I think I will expect a lot out of my students and have every faith that they can succeed. But when a student is having a hard time I worry about pushing them because I don't want to hurt their feelings or turn them off to the idea of learning. My challenge will be finding ways to persevere that will have a positive effect on my students rather than a negative one.

I really liked chapter 4 and the scenarios of classrooms it gave. It really did help me to see how these principles can play out in an actual classroom. Classroom environment is huge for me and I take comfort in knowing that classroom environment is something I can 100% control. I want my students to walk in and feel welcome and ready to learn. Morning meeting is something I plan on doing in my own classroom and I know that with doing morning meeting our classroom environment will be great and continue to improve throughout the school year. Communication in a classroom is also very important for me. It will be important for me to convey to my students that I am truly invested in not only their education, but them as individuals. I also think communication in a classroom is just a great way to build social skills among the students. Involve students in problem solving about issues in the classroom, teach students to applaud successes of their classmates, etc.

As I was reading both chapters one thing really stood out to me, and that is how important it is to establish routines. Students need routines and operate much better when they have one. If I have a set routine in my classroom I know my students will be more productive and have greater learning and so will I!! When students know where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing they can become responsible for themselves which makes it easier for me as the teacher to accomplish all the great things I have planned for my classroom.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It was amazing to me reading through the student profile survey because as I was going through the list I was mentally categorizing the traits for myself. By the time I was done I could really pinpoint the type of learner I was and it was true to the way I really do learn best. I think it is a great way to get to know your students and where their comfort level may be. I would use this survey to help me create groups within the classroom where I would believe the students would flourish. It would be amazing to know that one student is very logical in their thinking, and another is very creative, just think of the ideas and activities they could accomplish together!!

I liked the student interest survey because I think it helps the students to feel like their teacher really does care about them. If I chose to use the survey in my classroom, it would be important for me to really read the information that the students provided and use their personal experiences in my daily interaction with the students. I also think that a great way to differentiate a classroom in keep a "communicating" journal with every student, where they make journal entries and you respond to them. With the information provided on the survey you could really take the opportunity to make those communication journals a rich experience. I also liked that it asked the students what are some things they would like to learn about, and also what are some things they would like to get better at. I think we all are more passionate and eager to learn about things that actually mean something to us, and even if the things the students are interested in aren't in the curriculum, I could maybe find a way to use those topics as a platform or starting point for the curriculum that we have to cover.

I will be doing my student teaching in a first grade classroom and I enjoyed reading through the pre-assessment ideas. It really helped me understand how you can draw information from students as young as first grade about their preferences in learning. What valuable information that is for me as the teacher! I think especially in first grade, where so much of what they are learning is brand new and hard, students really need the motivation in order to want to learn and excel. By differentiating my instruction according to the information taken from the pre-assessment forms hopefully I will be able to provide the material that students will be interested in and motivated to learn. I loved that students don't even have to be able to write in order for me to give them that pre-assessment. They can simply just circle the pictures of things that they like.

I also really liked the writing sample idea. It is a great idea especially for younger grades because students are not limited by their abilities. Since the nature of the writing sample is so open-ended every student will be able to produce something that they are proud of and is within their learning level. Yet as a teacher I will be able to gather valuable information from every students writing sample and use that information to help me in differentiating instruction.

I didn't understand the index of inventory ideas and what they were supposed to be used for.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I loved the quote at the very beginning of the chapter, "Schools are like airport hubs; student passengers arrive from many different backgrounds for widely divergent destinations. Their particular takeoffs into adulthood will demand different flight plans." I feel like this quote sums up my thoughts on differentiation. Differentiation forces me as a teacher to keep all of my students in mind when I am considering the curriculum and what will be the best way to reach every single student. I think so often it has become the norm for teachers to become complacent in reaching the majority of the class. Not anymore. This reading has really helped me recognize the importance of differentiating. I liked reading about the four different student traits, and the four classroom elements. Differentiation seems like such an awe-some task, but when it is broken down like that it makes me feel like differentiating my own classroom might actually be doable. I loved when it talked about meeting the students needs. Affirmation, contribution, power, purpose and challenge are all so important and I really feel like if I can fulfill my students needs in all of those areas the rest will naturally follow. Take for example contribution. I know that if I create a classroom where my student feels like their contribution is important I will be fulfilling the "hallmark" of giving every child respectful and engaging work. It is so important to fulfill the needs of that student, if I can do only that I feel like I will have accomplished much. I also believe that as I begin to fill the needs of my students, they will in turn fill my needs and the needs of their peers. If each individual does not feel valued in my classroom, I will never achieve the goal of creating a classroom and community of learners. Really, everything I can do in my classroom will not be successful if it is not built on the foundation of meeting the needs of my students.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What appeals to me...

I really enjoyed reading the morning meeting packet. I have always really liked the idea of holding a morning meeting in my classroom, but wondered if it was something that I could use with practicality. I loved all of the ideas that were given. It really helped me to realize that a morning meeting can be anything I want it to. It is not necessarily what we do in the morning meeting, but just the fact that we are doing the morning meeting that will unify my classroom and create a community where students are validated and feel like they can take a risk in my classroom.

I liked Sharon's morning meetings and how they were very structured. I appreciated the fact that they were fun and light-hearted but there was still a point and a schedule for the students to follow. I like how the teacher Mike Anderson invited the parents into the classroom to observe and participate in a morning meeting. I love that something so simple can open lines of communication between the parent and the teacher and morning meetings can be discussed as well as other concerns the parent might have. Barbara Klein shared an idea about "share time" during morning meetings. Often times in the younger grades I think "share time" can easily get out of control. Barbara instructed the students to share one at a time and if one student shared something that another student was going to share they could say out loud, "just like me!" I think that is a great way to allow that student to speak out and share that they have common interests. I also loved the idea of sending students a letter over the summer break indicating that they would be given the opportunity to bring a picture to school on the first day to share with the class. This would work well for me because it is direct and to the point. Students are allowed to share ONE picture, and every student is given equal opportunity to share. It also allows the students who tend to be more shy time to prepare and feel more comfortable when it is their time to share. I really liked the idea of students playing small team- building activities during morning meeting. Those activities are great because the students have fun and interact with one another in a way they might not normally do.

Reading the morning packet really opened my eyes to how many possibilities there are for conducting morning meetings in my own classroom. I love that morning meetings are one aspect you can personalize to really make it work for me and my students.