One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Differentiation

This is not the first time I have heard of differentiation. The first chapter, One Size Doesn’t Fit All by Gregory and Chapman, contains familiar concepts. “All learners bring differing prior knowledge and skill” into the classroom (p. 1). This is an extremely true statement as each student that enters into our classrooms brings with them years of experiences that have shaped who they are as a person. Some experiences have been negative and others have built up their abilities and view of self-worth. Whatever the case may be, we as teachers need to recognize each students’ skill pack and knowledge and incorporate the individual into daily routines.

“Content, assessment tools, performance tasks, and instructional strategies” are four main things that can be differentiated within a classroom as identified in this chapter (p. 3). Differentiating the content of an outcome may be as simple as giving the class a choice in what topic they choose. From a given main theme, an inquiry based project is a great idea. This will allow student interest to peak and heighten the level of engagement with the content of the given outcome. An example of being flexible with assessment may look like a clip board with thirty names on it. As the teacher moves throughout the room, they can be writing notes and giving check marks to students they can recognize to understand the concept. It could also be in the form of giving the choice to write a test or possibly a verbal conversation for a more formal assessment. A performance task example could be a mini-jigsaw activity. Each student will get the opportunity to ‘teach’ their peers the content they are learning. As with each of the other three aspects to be differentiated within the classroom, instructional strategies can vary widely. From a lecture style to watching a video to bringing in an expert, hopefully the curricular content will stay with each student. More importantly though, that each student will know that the teacher cares for them.

Differentiating in a classroom is something that is not very difficult to understand in theory. Putting it into practise appears to be much more difficult. Looking back upon my grade school experiences, I do not feel that I have really been differentiated over. That may be just my perspective or maybe the concept wasn’t being used in a small town setting as much. Either way, performing this in a classroom will be a new and challenging experience for me. I am finding it hard to see how this will decrease students ‘falling through the cracks’ of assessment and learning. It seems like a whole pile of work on top of another whole pile of work. However, hopefully with the right methods and solid organizing, differentiating for my students will be a fun and encouraging experience.

Response to Nel Noddings’ Learning from Our Students

Looking back on my own schooling experience, I can see many instances when competitiveness and the focus being mainly on the grades has swayed my decision to do or not do something. I can remember a time when I had an idea for a project that I really wanted to work on, but knew that if I pursued it in the science class I was in at the time, I would have gotten a lower mark based on the topic; Creation versus Evolution. The teacher had strong opinions. Over all, there are many things that I agree with in Nel Noddings’ article, Learning From Our Students. My time in high school is full of memories of just getting through the day, or the material, just so I could be done the subject and move on because it really didn’t interest me very much at all. There are also many happier memories as well. It could be easy for my experience to sound dismal when I focus on the more negative happenings, but there were many positive influential moments as well.
Noddings suggests that we as teachers need to “build on students’ real interests” to do a variety of things in the classroom; keep the students engaged, encourage motivation, and train them for things that really matter in life, not only for within the walls of the school building (p.3, para 4). I believe that this is actually a good idea and I believe I can grasp the point that Noddings is trying to get across. To heighten engagement in the students, teachers should try to gear the lessons in a manner that appeals to the students in a greater way. That is great. However I do not see how this would work for each student. I find it hard to imagine a teacher who can feasibly engage every student with something that genuinely interests them each and every day. It has been my own personal experience that there are many moments, in life and within academics, that I have had to choose to engage the situation or the topic at hand. As I lay down my own desire or my own knowledge of something, then those seem to have been the moments when I learn the most and learn something that I didn’t expect to learn. Most people naturally gravitate to what they know, or to people that think similarly. If we as teachers try to always choose topics that our students are familiar with, I believe that is a narrow field to choose from.
I do agree that the level of engagement is a very key factor in how a student learns and soaks up what is happening in a given lesson or situation. I love when Noddings says “we can establish different standards within our classes and help students to make well-informed choices about which ones they will strive to meet.” This idea is really allowing the opportunity for the student to take hold of their own learning. Leaving the mark and the competitiveness at the door and simply focusing on learning something that will legitimately help them in their future lives. I LOVE that and believe this is the core of my teaching philosophy–creating spaces for students to realize their potential and their destiny. I can just taste the cheese on that last statement, but I do really believe it and will work toward that end.

Digital Story Through ECS 210.

Here is a link to My Digital Story that I created to reflect upon and convey my learning through a University of Regina course called ECS 210. This class focused on the resonances and dissonances of my learning when faced with topics like Curriculum (mandated, hidden, and lived), Treaty Education, White Privilege, and LGBT ways of knowing.

Please check it out and leave some feedback.

Thanks so much!

Tim Wasyliw

Building a Community of Learners

Building a Community of Learners

Our ability to communicate and send, receive, and access information is the fastest and most efficient it has ever been in history. This fact makes it extremely important to have the skills to sift out the meaningful and good information and leave the not so good. For as teachers, we are tasked with both facilitating and encouraging young minds toward their own personal growth and also to future leadership in their communities, their province, and their country. Reasons like these are why it is important to gather integral people around you in a community of learners, whether physical or virtual. A community of leaners like this can be compared to filters that are all working together to help each other sift through the vast options and information in order to bring together the very best and most opportune lessons for their students and for themselves. The importance of getting and staying connected to other teachers and professionals who can both assist and critique my learning is essential to personal and professional growth.

Getting connected to a community of professional and experienced learners is vital to growth to my own person, to my own profession and also for my future students. At the beginning of ECS 210 I was not looking forward to creating a blog or signing up for Twitter or ‘getting connected’ virtually. I was comfortable with sending emails and using Facebook every couple of weeks. That was my way of staying connected. Looking back, I am realizing that the biggest reason why I was not looking forward to creating these online spaces was simply because I did not know how to. I felt comfortable where I was at and did not really want to change things. Thankfully the assignments presented to me this whole semester forced me to stretch my own learning and desires to create a blog, use Twitter and Facebook, and even become a member of LinkedIn. Now I wonder why I did not do this sooner. The perspectives and insights of many of my peers astounds me. Some of my favourites include “Some of the biggest lessons we learn as a student happen through experiences when we don’t realize we are learning.” This was tweeted by Kelly Chambers. He speaks to the hidden curriculum and the lived curriculum. The lived curriculum is something that really made sense to me. I had always though of curriculum in terms of school and in a classroom setting. However, curriculum can really be an anywhere, anytime experience. These young adults have so much to offer their future students and each other. This will only grow with every passing year.

The benefits of having other professionals to rely on and gain insight from is crucial to my growth as a teacher and future educator. There are many ways to convey the same information. That is really what has been happening since teachers began teaching, with a few exceptions. Math is still the same, writing and reading are still the same, but the way we teach has vastly changed and is ever changing and adapting. To have a community of professionals where I can learn new strategies and methods is invaluable. Especially an online community because these people are accessible anywhere on the planet at anytime. To learn and grow with these fantastic people, I am realizing, is a resource that is both important and unexpected. This resource is something that is developing and hopefully will continue to be over the coming years. It’s a wiki space where we, as scheduled 2016 graduates, can post our lesson plans and resource links to learn and grow from one another. This is a way to be both influenced by others learning as well as do some of the influencing as well.

From my teaching philosophy I write: “For many people, whether youth or adult, picking up where you left off can be a challenging task, especially when the book you are reading or the story you are writing is at an exciting, climactic section. Leaving that story until the next day can be very disappointing and distracting. However, when a teacher recognizes how interested a student is with the story they are reading and allows them to chose to work at the same station the subsequent day, it conveys the message of “I value you and your needs” in this space (Boushey and Moser. 2006. p.102). This is borrowed from the Daily Five approach but can be applicable in any circumstance when dealing with something of interest to your students. I want to message to be loud and clear in my classroom and nothing says this more, or in many cases less, than when the teacher gets involved in the lives and interests of their students. I love this example so much because at its core, it is about building a relationship with the students and conveying my care for them as people, not just students” (Wasyliw: 2014). This same attitude can be held with teachers as well as students. We are all people and as such need relationships to learn, to grow, and to enjoy life to it’s fullest.

Some of the best moments, or “AH HA” moments over the course of ECS 210 have come from Guest Lecturers and from online community learning. One example came during a lecture from Grant Urban. He had many excellent points to consider and glean wisdom from. His presentation was about narratives, stories, and our experiences that shape who we are. Our stories cannot be left out of the classroom for it is our life and the way we learn. If the traditional definition of classroom is challenged, the whole world and any situation can become a classroom in which to learn and grow. What will education look like in ten years? I do not know but I do know that I will be a part of it.

Standardized Testing

The traditional educational approach is what was mainly used during my grade school experience. I wrote the same test as all my peers and was trained to think the same as all my peers as well. This made a number of things easy. It made it easy to compare myself with my peers, to gage how intelligent I believed myself to be, and it was rewarding when I got a higher number on my sheet of paper than someone else. If this is the way we want our students to turn out after a year in our classrooms, than that is great. If, however, we want to afford our students the space to develop deeper thinking skills, creativity, and understanding of the world around them, then a different approach west be taken.

I enjoyed reading the short article “Standards and Tests Attack Multiculturalism” by Bill Bigelow. In it he says that standardizing is “way to manufacture consent and cohesion” (Bigelow. p.170). This rings true when we think of how basing your classroom intelligence on one test only works to melt each student down and fit them into the mould of ‘the ideal student.

We as teachers must be aware of what we are teaching and how we are teaching.

Sixth Week in the Field

Thank you for sharing you experiences! Moments like these are what all teachers hope for I believe.

Kelsey Gibson

This week I continued my introductory Solfege lesson. I spent about half the class reviewing what I had taught last week.  It is important to revisit previously taught information, especially when you are teaching a skill.  Without a solid foundation there is nothing to build from.  This week I decided to stray from the conventional, Western European ideals of music in favour of having a little fun. After reviewing our scale, triad and hand signs, I introduced the idea of questions and answers.  I used the do re mi song from The Sound of Music and how the one section uses question and answer.  Both statements start the same but then end differently. We brainstormed different ways of answering a question, both with words and musically. 

My targets this week were clarity, patience, and flow.  My co-op and I felt that I was much improved from last week in these…

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What Kind of World Are We Creating?

The New Teacher Book contains a short article entitled “Creating Classrooms for Equity and Social Justice.” In this article it outlines what a socially just classroom looks like. It describes “[a] social justice classroom [that] equips children not only to change the world but also to maneuver in the one that exists.” Also we as teachers are challenged to “create a ‘community of conscience'” within the classroom and build a better society. This all sounds well and good and I agree that we need to encourage and inspire students to change the world around them to the degree they have influence, but a question gnaws at my mind as I read these statements. What kind of world are we creating? And whose conscience are we following? Conscience by definition is an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behaviour. This definition implies that there is in fact a right and a wrong way to behave. So in a society that is rapidly moving toward the general consensus of “do what is right for you,” whose conscience is accurate? Where does truth enter into this social justice classroom? Is truth allowed to exist in these environments?

At this point I would like to thank you for continuing to read this very deep and philosophical rant of mine. You are all wonderful people.

The impression I get from reading this article is that “we don’t know where we are going but we are going there full steam ahead.” That may sound harsh, to a degree, but while creating a community of conscience and changing the world are both noble and good things, both need a footing to grow from that is founded on right and wrong. Where does morality enter into this classroom and where does “the rightness and wrongness of our behaviour” get decided?

Once again, you are all wonderful people.