Imagine yourself as a student on a beautiful spring day. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you are practically shaking in your seat with the urge to bolt outside. All day, your teachers have been oblivious to the situation, and all you can do is sit in your seat and watch the clock as minute after agonizing minute ticks by. As the teacher in this situation, you would face multiple problems: How can you redirect the energy buzzing in the room? How can you refocus your students on the learning that needs to happen? How can that happen in a productive, controlled manner?
Research has shown that having your students up and moving about can improve your students' cognitive and affective engagement. Movement can help direct your students' energy and focus them on the task at hand. However, having students moving around the room in high-energy situations without clear guidelines can lead to a chaotic, unproductive learning environment. The Appointment strategy an effective tool in these situation because it allows your students to move around, but in a specific, well-controlled fashion.
For more information on how to use this strategy in the classroom, click on read more below.
Differentiated instruction has been a buzz word in education for a long time. In fact, a search for "differentiated instruction" on the Google Ngram Viewer shows the term has been used since before 1920. However, despite all of the discussions about differentiated instruction, or DI, and all of the efforts of teachers, the mythical "Differentiated Classroom" often remains an elusive goal shimmering in the distance like a mirage. The truth is, every classroom is already differentiated to one degree or another. Think of DI as a continuum that ranges from meeting the needs of very few students to meeting the needs of every student.
Every classroom falls on this continuum someplace, so the question for teachers shouldn't be, "How can I create the Differentiated Classroom?" but rather, "How do I shift to the right on the DI continuum to allow me to meet the needs of more and more of my students?" In that light, DI becomes a much more realistic, achievable goal. In the book How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms, Carol Ann Tomlinson looks at how to differentiate based on content, process, and product.
Every student is expected to reach high levels of learning the classroom, but not every student begins at the same point. Differentiating based on content means varying the degree of complexity in the material based on a student's readiness, interest, or learning style while holding the end goal constant for all students. Some ways to differentiate by content include:
Differentiating process involves varying how students make sense of new learning, typically through a classroom activity. Tomlinson points out that a good differentiated activity must first be a good activity that engages student interest, expects students to think at a high level, and focuses student learning on the essential learning. Some ways to help student process and make sense of new learning include:
An effective product reinforces, applies, and extends students' learning, and by differentiating that product, teachers gives their students flexibility in how they demonstrate their learning. An effective product also focuses on the learning, not the product itself, by having clear learning expectations for students to meet. Some ways to differentiate for product include:
To be clear, differentiated instruction does not mean that a teacher should design an individualized learning plan for every student every day. Instead, the goal for every teacher should be to be responsive to their students' needs and help the broadest range of students access the content, process it, and demonstrate their learning.
For more information about DI, check out Tomlinson's book, How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms and join the conversation on Twitter under the #edchat hashtag.
Tony Harman | High School Instructional Coach
One of the most talked about and debated aspects of education in recent years have been assessments. More specifically, formative and summative assessments. These are the two most commonly used assessments and often times are misused and misunderstood. To put it simply, formative assessments are assessments FOR learning and summative assessments are assessments OF learning. An analogy to sports could be player performance. Performance in practice would be the formative assessment and performance in a game would the summative assessment.
Formative assessments are performed during instruction when learning is taking place and they provide feedback and information to both the teacher and students. This informal process is ongoing and
the information collected should be used to fine-tune instruction and identify areas of improvement. A quality educator is constantly checking for understanding. Some examples of formative assessments that can be used are:
Summative assessments take place after learning has occurred and is used to provide information about the amount of student learning that has taken place. A formal grade is assigned at the completion of a summative assessment. Data collected from summative assessments can be used to evaluate the level of proficiency that has been achieved at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it to a standard. Examples of summative assessments:
Ben Rubey | Middle School Instructional Coach
How can we become clearer on what is being asked of us and reflect in a
manner that brings about deeper understanding for us and our students?
Recently during a building collaboration, we were looking at a teacher-designed unit of instruction, analyzing it compared to the scoring rubric. This simple activity assisted the teaching staff in understanding expectations of unit design, and highlighted for many the clear differences in our understanding of essential and guiding questions. These conversations left me wondering over the weekend. How can we become clearer on what is being asked of us and reflect in a manner that brings about deeper understanding for us and our students? As I was reflecting I began drawing from my earlier experiences with Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Several years ago we had been focusing on essential questions and enduring understandings as a district. I remember what Wiggins and McTighe were proposing seemed to be a far reaching goal that was more of a theory than something that could be put into practice in every subject, throughout the day, on a daily bases. Essential questions serve as “doorways to understanding”. Teachers should use them to probe deeper into student thinking and understanding. Students should be provided them in creating understanding and inquiry in their work and learning.
Good essential questions have seven key characteristics:
All questions are not created equal. As we design our questioning, one has to have a clear understanding of when questions are essential, and when our questions are not essential. Three kinds of questions are useful in teaching and student learning but are NOT essential:
Anyone that has worked with Wiggins, in person or through his written works, can tell you about his love of sports. His love for sports is continually highlighted in analogies that he uses to bring the theories of enduring understandings and essential questions into relevant classroom practice. As a mother of two boys, Wiggin's connection to his children’s sports leaves me continually reflecting on school and education theories and practices on the sports field. Sports is not about winning or losing, it is about setting, moving toward and reaching goals individually and with others. Today, the Common Core Standards and the educational programming in our schools require the same thing. Students need to set, move toward and reach goals individually and with others. The classroom’s culture determines the risks students are willing to take and the authenticity of their engagement. Effective questioning makes our teaching better, and creates an inquiry atmosphere in classrooms.
As you continue to work toward meeting your students’ needs please take the time to stop and reflect on how your questioning and linguistic choices have impacted learning and inquiry in your classroom. Remember all questions are not created equal.
Understanding by Design: Essential Questions
iTeach | Essential Questions
Post by Johna Sutton | Elkhorn Instructional Coach
This will be a resource built by the staff for the staff to encourage integration of 21st century skills into every student's learning.