Friday, August 14, 2009

Responses to Texted Questions

John McCarthy, Ed.S. – General Session on August 13, 2009

Participants texted questions they needed answered to move forward as edcuation leaders for re-imaginging Differentiated Instruction. The questions reflected the varioius needs for action from leading by example to facilitating professional growth and systemic change. Here are responses.

  • Any books or websites available with examples of tiered lesson plans across the curriculum?
Fulfilling the Promise of a Differentiated Classroom by Carol Tomlinson (Tool box) Sample chapters list here.
This site has several examples under Readiness. The interest and learning styles examples are not necessarily tiered focused, but may have ideas to look at.

  • Teachers in our district want to know how to grade tiered lessons where students are working on different levels of activities?
Hold clear standards-based objectives for all students. The assessment can be common or differentiated based on the tiered focus. When different, it’s because the learning is at different stages of mastering the concepts. Eventually you want your students to have similar core level of understanding. Some may be above expectations, but all will share the essential knowledge and understandings. Rubrics can be helpful in this format.
  • What is the name of the ASCD video series you showed this morning?
Instructional Strategies for the Differentiated Classroom, Part 1: Complex Instruction, chapter 2 (Sample video at this link)

  • Where do you start using Differentiated Instruction?
Begin where you feel most comfortable, preferably in a content area you feel confident in. Two books to consider for guidance are by Carol Tomlinson:
How to Differentiate Instruction in a Mixed Ability Classroom
--Great primer for where to start and common vocabulary
Fulfilling the Promise of Differentiated Instruction
--Deeper book for instructional practice and curriculum. Great resource for strategies.

  • High school teachers will ask you about time! How do we fit DI into our short periods and still cover all the hsce’s?
The challenge of short periods exists at all grade levels. Elementary teachers deal with the daily challenge of instruction being broken up by specials and other important needs. Having taught in a 40 minute period, I feel your pain regarding teaching and learning in general, much less “coverage.” Addressing the HSCE’s is not a challenge with regards to DI. We differentiate because it’s what students need in order to achieve. To not differentiate virtually guarantees that students will fail. The pressures for teaching HSCE’s and GLCE’s are real, and should not be ignored. A path for meeting that need is addressed by Concept-Based Instruction. This approach is championed by Wiggins and McTighe in Understanding by Design, Lynn Erickson (Concept-Based Instruction), and the Buck Institute (Standards-Focused Project-Based Instruction), just to name some. Their approach is about “uncoverage” of essential learning.

  • What is Compacting?
“A 3-step process that (1) assesses what a student knows about material to be studied and what the student still needs to master, (2) plans for learning what is not known and excuses student from what is known, and (3) plans for freed-up time to be spent in enriched or accelerated study.”
Carol Tomlinson. How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed Ability Classrooms. 2nd Edition, p. 98. (Book preview)

  • What’s a good article on Standards-Based Grading?

ASCD’s Education Leadership has an excellent article for why schools should transition from traditional grading practices to a Standards-Based grading approach. In the issue, Expecting Excellence, read Seven Reasons for Standards-Based Grading by Patricia L. Scriffiny, Pages 70-74, October 2008 | Volume 66 | Number 2

A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades by Ken O’Connor is a great resource, and What’s Fair Isn’t Always Equal by Rick Wormelli is an effective way to start the conversation that leads to real change in grading practices. Here's a sneak preview.

  • Can we get the Math video?
Ma and Pa Kettle doing multiplication is a YouTube video at: