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The mindset of a teacher contributes greatly to his or her ability to see the needs of students.  It you view a child through a deficit lens, the  child will not be given opportunities to grow.   Deficit thinking is making assumptions about a child's ability based on perceived deficits such as race, income status, or English language acquisition.

What is your definition of  " Differentiation?".  Ask several of you colleagues and you will likely get five different responses.

Differentiation
the way a teacher responds to a student's needs so that each  student is challenged at the appropriate level

What instructional structures are in place to guarantee a responsive learning environment in your classroom?

Step 1: Preview and Pre-assess- find out what students know about a particular skill, or concept, or topic planning for instruction. Previewing provides an opportunity for students to activate background knowledge and previous learning prior to a pre-assessment so that results will be a better reflection of what they understand. This should take 5 minutes or less. Pre-assessment respects a student's time and prior knowledge. Front-ed differentiation allows for teachers to provide an opportunity for students to accelerate within the content topic at the beginning of the learning sequence.

Step 2: Curriculum Compacting- was originally developed by Joseph Renzulli and Linda Smith.  This  instructional strategy streamlines grade-level curriculum by eliminating content that students have previously learned.  Compacting buys time for students to go deeper and wider into the content and /or accelerate to above-grade level indicators. The pre-assessment plays a major role in determining students who would benefit from curriculum compacting.  Look for other behaviors in the classroom that may give you a clue that a student needs to be moved into a deeper understanding of the concepts.

  • show great interest or motivation in the area of study
  • finishes work early and accurately
  • expresses interest in in pursuing advanced topics
  • create their own diversions in class( filling their time with less productive behaviors)

Step 3: Flexible Grouping-maintaining flexible small groups across content areas is an essential component of a differentiated, growth mind set class culture.  Evidence of grouping should be found in an any content area and at any grade level.  It may not be an everyday occurrence at the secondary level, but it should be an important component of the class structure and used routinely.

Step 4: Management- having clear expectations are the single most important aspect of managing multiple groups in the classroom.  Carol Ann Tomlinson, author of How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed Ability Classrooms, suggests the use of anchor activities.  These anchors should enrich the learning of the content being studied.  They are similar to centers but are typically available for the duration of a unit of study, a quarter or semester.

Step 5 Acceleration and Enrichment- Every child deserves to learn every day. A growth mindset on the part of the teacher and the student is necessary.

Acceleration
moving faster through the content, allowing students who have already mastered content or who master content quickly to move into above-grade level content
                                                Enrichment
learning with greater depth and breadth;going deep and wide into the content

Whether acceleration/an or enrichment occur, it is important to look carefully at instructional experiences to make sure they are laden with opportunities to think critically.

Step 6 Formative Assessment-formative assessment, or checking for understanding, is  non-negotiable in a responsive, growth mindset classroom.  It is a reflective tool for a teacher to keep groups fluid and flexible. Formative assessment improves teaching and learning, and it allows growth for all students.

Step 7 Summative Assessment-the assessment must match the learning that has taken place for each group or, in some cases, an individual student. Grades should be based on mastery of the content that was tailored to the student.

Mindsets in the Classroom

Provide opportunities for students to be challenged from the beginning. Be responsive to their needs and the potential of all they can accomplish. With practice, effort, motivation, and yes a growth mindset, differentiated, responsive instruction  can become the heart of instruction. Responding to the needs of all learners is a responsibility that we all have as educators.

The next chapter in Mindsets in the Classroom, will look at why critical thinking is so important in a growth mindset class culture.

 

 

 

 

 

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This week we will begin reviewing  Chapter 2 in Mindsets in the Classroom, by Marcy Cay Ricci.   The focus in this chapter is to give ideas and to set goals as a grade level team, an entire staff, or school system to find out how to build a growth mindset culture.

  • Step 1: Reflect and Pre-assess
    • Share your beliefs about intelligences. Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
      • Our intelligence is one of our fundamental traits.
      • We can all learn new things, but we cannot really change how smart we are.
  • Step 2: Educate Staff About the Malleability of the Brain
    • Share research about  developed intelligence.
      • Do we, as a society, believe in or demonstrate a growth mindset? Why or why not?
      • In what areas, personal or professional, do you have a fixed mindset? Why?
  • Step 3: Educate Staff About Praise for Students
    • When adults praise for what a student "is", instead of what a student "does", then they attribute their accomplishment to a fixed trait they were born with.
  • Step 4 : Educate Teachers About the Brainbrain-muscle
    • Connections to prior knowledge and experiences
    • The more connections made during a learning experience, the more physical changes occur in the brain by developing and strengthening neural paths.
  • Step 5: Teach Students About the Brain
    • Students realize that intelligence is not about a fixed number, a grade on a paper, or a report card. Intelligence is something that grows as you use it and languishes if you don't.
  • Step 6: Educate Parents
    • Reflect on the way they speak to their kids.
      • Establish Look-Fors: Look for teacher and student growth mindset behaviors
      • Utilize PLC

The Final Step: Monitor, Evaluate, and Review School Protocols

Next month we will look at Chapter 3: Why is Differentiated Responsive Classroom Important to a Growth Mindset Culture?

 

 

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Change-2This time of year can cause stress and anxiety for teachers as they anticipate changes that will be coming in the next year. But, change isn't always a bad thing, especially if we learn to cope with it. There are various things that can be done to adjust to change and to make it an easier transition. Take these ideas into consideration:

  1. Be flexible. Sometimes life doesn't go as planned. At these moments, recognize opportunities in new situations and seek for a learning opportunity. What can you learn from this change?
  2. Stay positive and be proactive. Get rid of the "what if" feelings and think positively. Keeping a journal of positive things each day can help to keep those thoughts focused. Don't forget to keep your sights on the most important part of your job: your students. Keep them in mind as you plan.
  3. Take care of yourself. Don't forget to keep balanced and take a minute for you. Whether that be eating healthy, exercising, taking a nap, or just reading a book, take time to rejuvenate and keep your body healthy. By taking care of yourself mentally and physically, you can face challenges as you cope with changes.
  4. Develop positive relationships. Are there teachers on your team feeling the same way? In your school? Work together to be supportive to one another. Plan and PLC together. Collaboration can help make change transition smoother.
  5. Reflect on positive things you've done before. You've made changes before. Reflect on how you overcame those and focus on those strengths you have to get through.

Sometimes, change can really hurt our mental well being. If at any point it gets to where you may need more help, don't be afraid to ask for it. Our district has help through Blomquist Hale Consulting where you can get free help 24 hours a day. Their number is 1-800-926-9619.

Change is real. We face it every year. New students, new curriculum, new bosses, new classrooms...change happens in education. Keep in mind though, change helps us get better, and through change, we can continue to grow as educators.

What other things do you do to cope with change?

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It's that time of year where we pause to thank teachers and reflect on who we are because of them. We are so grateful for our teachers in our schools and the hard work and efforts they put into helping their students learn.

 

Have you thanked a teacher? What teacher influenced your life and caused you to become better? Share about it in your own social media with #ThankATeacher

Also--many organizations recognize teachers. Check out this link for deals this week and during the year:

 

http://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/9-teacher-appreciation-week-freebies-deals-discounts/

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imagesAround this time of year, coaches and mentors may hear versions of this statement as teachers begin their end of level testing and end of year activities. "Don't bother coming in, I'm testing. You won't see any teaching."

At first, we may believe it when we say it or hear it. Testing doesn't always use a lot of instructional strategies, exciting delivery instruction, or intensive management. It definitely wouldn't be what you would want to do for a professional evaluation. But, quite contrary to our thoughts on "seeing nothing..," an observer will be able to see and conclude a lot from watching a teacher administer a test.

Jim Dillon, in his blog post Voice of the Educator: Invisible Learning, talks of an experience with a teacher he was coaching. She was doing individual assessments on kindergartners at the end of the year. He stayed and watched her class for a half hour anyway. And his takeaways were big.

  • Students learn from everything around them and from each other, not just from a teacher.
  • Learning is not just a cognitive experience but involves emotions and the social context.
  • The teacher’s role is to provide the right conditions for learning primarily by creating a safe and supportive environment.
  • A strong and trusting relationship between student and teacher is the foundation of a safe environment.
  • A teacher needs to learn about the interests, strengths and needs of each student in order to create the right conditions for learning (Dillon. "Invisible Learning").

Each of these components are things that are not always observed immediately--but are essential to learning taking place. If things are running smoothly during an assessment, we can tell a few things right off. The teacher has taught expectations for testing, the students know the rules and procedures for that time, and if the students are independently working--they will know the appropriate management routines for that time as well. If there are some inconsistencies in these, that will be evident as well.

So next time you hear, "I'm just testing, there's nothing to see..," reflect on that thought and see if you can identify where good teaching is still happening. You might be surprised.

 

Reference:

Dillon, Jim. "Voice of the Educator: Invisible Learning."  Smart Blog on Education. 21 Mar 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

 

 

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Throughout the country, teachers are sharing their story of teaching: why they came into the profession, things that potentially held them back, moments of inspiration where they knew teaching was for them, and even stories of where they know they made a difference in the life of a student. If you search social media for #whyIteach, you will find these powerful stories. You will read about educators who believe in each other. You will find a community of teachers who are all sharing the same love and passion: teaching.

This time of year we find teachers can lose the focus of their "why" and get discouraged or frustrated--possibly to where they even question why they became a teacher. A challenge for this next week is to build an optimistic outlook to the future as we reflect to the past of why we became educators. Don't forget your vision and share your #whyIteach!

Raise Your Voice

Every teacher has a #whyiteach story. We want to hear yours.

Posted by Teacher2Teacher on Saturday, January 30, 2016

 

Here's some sites to read teachers' stories:

http://whyiteach.learningmatters.tv/

http://teacher2teacher.education/

 

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The return to work after an extended break is often accompanied with a mix of emotions.  During the time off, many remember that they enjoy spending time with family and friends.  In fact, the time of rediscovery is something more veteran teachers eagerly anticipate and plan for.  Looking forward to time off is nice.  The return to work/reality is not always as eagerly anticipated.  However, the question that must be raised is whether there could be another way.  Is there a way to enjoy life between the breaks?  Is it necessary to put family and self interests on hold with each return to work?  This is a problem that many new educators struggle to solve.  Striking an acceptable balance between work, home, and self interests is a tricky one.  One source suggests that there are some steps that teachers can take to more easily arrive at a sort of equilibrium of work and personal life.  Additionally, Andy Puddicombe makes a compelling case for regularly doing nothing.

Work

  • Work smarter, not harder

  • Make friends

  • Give yourself a break

  • Invest in your development

  • Celebrate accomplishments

Life

  • Draw a line between work and home

  • Cultivate a life outside the classroom

  • Schedule a time to do nothing

  • Get your ZZZZs

  • Practice reflective writing

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Thoreau, the transcendentalist author, must have known something about the life of a teacher.  He said "I, who cannot stay in my chamber for a single day without acquiring some rust... am astonished at the power of endurance, to say nothing of the moral insensibility, of my neighbors who confine themselves ... for weeks and months, aye, and years almost together.  I know not what manner of stuff they are of -- sitting there now at three o'clock in the afternoon." Indeed the teaching profession can become, at times, quite solitary.  With only the comfort of a stack of papers needing grading, there arises a need for a more human connection.  Tragically, some teachers prefer to remain in their own classroom while as Mary Oliver reminds us "There is, all around us, this country of original fire."  Taking a walk through the classrooms of any school will reveal a wealth of experience.  Teachers taking walks have the potential to benefit from a formative experience as it can be used to generate new ideas. That is, if the walk causes the participant to become reflective on his or her own practice. In the webinar below, Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart discuss their book Formative Classroom Walkthroughs: How Principals and Teachers Collaborate to Raise Student Achievement.  In it, they share ways in which classroom walkthroughs can be used to reflect and improve teacher practice in an attempt to increase student achievement.  If that is the potential outcome, it is indeed worth taking a walk.

 

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It is important that all educators reflect and ask themselves questions to improve student learning. Here are some great questions to help you reflect.

  1. How do you involve students in creating and evaluating their own learning?
  2. How do you handle difficult communication issues with students, colleagues, and parents?
  3. What systems do you use to manage time and materials to keep yourself organized?
  4. How well are the routines/procedures you have established working? What can you do to improve them?
  5. How are you using technology in your classroom? How can it be more effective?
  6. What are doing to ensure an active and equitable learning for all students?

 

 

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