Tag Archives: Differentiation

Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

I think this video is a very cool real-world version of the philosophy of Differentiated Instruction. The part of DI that I really like is “Knowing the Learner” and then Engaging in “Responsive Teaching”.  On the home page of this   blog is a quotation about harnessing what already resides inside a student, which I think echoes the idea of passion in people that Ernesto Sirolli speaks of in this video.  Listening and responding. So simple.

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Will Richardson: Preparing Students to Learn Without Us

Wow. I read this article when I received the magazine in February and remember it being powerful. But re-reading it now, it kind of scares me.

In a way, the article lays out a challenge to me as a teacher, and in that challenge are calls for, essentially, seismic shifts of the tectonic plates of traditional
education.  ‘Time and place’ learning, personalized learning, even differentiation with a small ‘d’ are not quite adequate enough for reaching and empowering today’s learners who live in a world of personal choice 24/7, who need to be shown how to learn on their own. (Indeed, I have students who already have ‘outgrown’ this version of the school system, and online learning, such as The Khan Academy, facilitates this ‘spreading of the wings’).

Richardson discusses re-formatting the very nature of the classroom experience, the curriculum, and the role of the teacher — and this is scary and exhilarating to think about.  Sacred, time-honoured texts and lessons and activities would be supplanted by learning objectives that serve as the north star to follow, and with this objectives in place, the students choose the content, the product and even the pace. That’s a pretty massive shift in the structure of learning.

Furthermore, the mantra of “We need to prepare them for university” casts a pretty long shadow over — and even extinguishes — initiatives, such as ‘personal learning’, before they even gets a chance to be discussed, let alone be introduced in an experimental fashion.

I do, however, have a few questions:

  1. One element to ‘personal learning’ is that it relies upon or is facilitated by web 2.0. What if computer access is limited in the home and in the school?
  2. What if students are uncomfortable with this form of learning?
  3. What if only one teacher engages in this type of learning and it goes contrary to what other teachers in a department or school are teaching?
  4. What are the mechanics of managing 20 to 30 students in a classroom setting?
  5. What are the mechanics of managing ‘assessing in the moment’?

Nonetheless, I am definitely intrigued by the ideas Richardson puts forward here, and perhaps part of the scariness of this article is that asks me to ask myself, “What is my role as a teacher? The repository of all knowledge on a topic? The gatekeeper? A people-manager? A facilitator? A ‘guide on the side’?”

February 2012 | Volume 69 | Number 5
For Each to Excel Pages 22-26

Preparing Students to Learn Without Us

Will Richardson

By pairing personalized learning and technology, a teacher can help students learn what they need to learn through the topics that interest them most.

Here’s what I wonder: Can my 12-year-old son Tucker, a kid who lives for anything having to do with basketball, learn just about every math concept he needs to be successful in life in the context of playing the game he loves?

I posed that question on my blog a few months ago, and the post elicited more than 60 responses from readers who connected basketball to the study of bivariate data, complex equations, statistical analysis, slope, variables, predicting outcomes, probability, geometric shapes, mean, median, mode, averages, arc, force, angles, percentages, fractions, linear inequalities, volume, speed, mass, acceleration, and dozens of other concepts that are no doubt part of Tucker’s K–12 math curriculum (Richardson, 2010). And when I showed him some of the great ideas that teachers had left on my blog, he lit up. “Really?” he asked. “I could do that?”

Yes, I think he could. That’s not to say that he wouldn’t need…

 

 

 

 

PLUS: An article Richardson references that he himself wrote in 2009:

Personalized Online Learning

AMERICUS: Book Worms vs. Book Banning

Do we want young adults reading only the “right texts” or do we simply want them to read anything that engages them?

Cool, insightful, poignant graphic novel that delves into modern book-banning in America.

Traffic Lights meet Bump It Up Wall

USING THE TRAFFIC LIGHT ASSESSMENT 
DURING BUMP IT UP WALL WRITING SESSION

Not only can the TRAFFIC LIGHT system be used for ‘On-The-Fly’ assessment (akin to Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down),  I have found it useful in conjunction with a form of TIERING as well as ASSESSMENT AS LEARNING:

Prior to the unit, I had students fill in a pre-test of concepts and definitions associated with essay-writing (such as thesis, topic sentence, etc.) but also a sheet where I listed those same essay ingredients and concepts and asked students to do a form of self diagnostic using the Traffic Light.

In other words, the student would read the word “thesis” and I would ask them to give themselves a Traffic Light colour about a) whether they knew what the concept was and b) were they able to use that concept right now. A number of students gave themselves, for example, a Green Light about knowing what a thesis was but only gave themselves a Yellow Light for using one.

(SIDE BAR: I found this sheet to be very informative for me and I have come to a place where adding that step of having the students self-diagnose can be very powerful for the students’ learning but also for a level of accountability.

That is to say, I have had students who have been frustrated when I have given feedback that their writing was at a Level 2 as opposed to the Level 4 they thought it was, and it is then that we will access some of this Traffic Light feedback. And the ensuing conversation can be very powerful when I say “The reason you have Level 2 is because, for example, your thesis is a little vague and disorganized. What traffic light colour did you give yourself about making a thesis?” And the student and I can then ‘triangulate‘ where the gap or the disconnect is in what they thought they knew versus what they actually know.

If I decide to make all of the students reflect on whether they made the right choice for themselves, then this becomes a form of ASSESSMENT AS LEARNING, I believe.)

“Assessment as learning…gives particular importance to the role of the student in coming to own his or her success as a learner.” — p. 73,  Differentiation and The Brain, Sousa and Tomlinson

At certain stages of this Bump It Up Wall process, I have told students what my next step was going to be (based on the plan I was following) and have then used the Traffic Light to differentiate how the students have moved forward in the writing process. For example,  after I wrote a Level 1 example of a paragraph for the students, I had the entire class write suggestions for improving ONE thing in the paragraph.  I then said to my students,

“I have read all of your feedback so far (pre-test and Traffic Light self-assessment) and, based on that feedback, I have the following three paths you can take with this stage of learning the writing process:

– if you are feeling RED LIGHT about essay writing today, I recommend that you take Path #1 which means that I will write the body paragraph with the group on the SMARTBoard allowing us to talk it out and to make decisions together, which will allow you to see the process completed in front of your eyes;

traffic signal large yellow– if you are feeling Yellow Light, then you can take this paragraph that we are going to improve and you can take Path #2, which means that you try re-writing this paragraph on your own or with a partner and then you can compare with what we have written;

traffic-light-green– and if you are feeling GREEN LIGHT today and about essay writing in general, you can choose one of these other topics from this list and you can ‘prove’ your writing skills by creating a paragraph on your own about that topic.”

This, in essence, is a form of self-directed TIERING;
by having the students choose their path by using the Traffic Light, I am hoping that this “…increases student ownership of learning and (as well as their) independence.” (Sousa and Tomlinson)