Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Twice Exceptional Learners - Bridging the Gap Between Home and School

Here is a condensed version of a presentation I made at the Fall 2010 OATAG (Oregon Association for Talented and Gifted) Conference at Reed College.  It highlights the characteristics of Twice Exceptional Learners, those who are both exceptionally gifted and exceptionally challenged in one or more ways.  It provides strategies for parents and teachers to support these students and suggestions for communication between home and school to facilitate maximum success for these students who often mystify us and all too often slip between the cracks. 

Part 1:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGvabAZcQQo
Part 2:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuP0ed9vTdo
Part 3:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuP0ed9vTdo

I have focused a lot on this population in the last few years and welcome any questions or suggestions.  Working with these students can be like playing detective, following the clues to figure out how these "different-brained" children operate and how to tap into their gifts.

In another post, I'll add the slide show that I designed specifically for a teacher audience.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How we Differentiate

This is from an activity in our Differentiation PLC. Ilana and I wanted to show how we all already differentiate in our classes. We had large pieces of butcher paper labeled "Process," "Product," and "Content." The teachers all add their ideas and discussed in small groups and then as a class.

  • Tic-Tac-Toe
  • Oral vs. written assessments/assignments
  • Choice (e.g. reading material, writing a R.A.F.T.)
  • Challenge/extension options
  • Amount of assignment
  • Including items that require higher-order thinking
  • Scaffolded Outlines/ writing/ steps
  • Rubric use
  • Personal support/ time
  • Sentence frames for reading
  • Modeling
  • Peer assistance
  • Small groups for targeted instruction
  • Partner reading
  • Accelerated pace
  • Open/closed sort

  • Jigsaws
  • Writing a R.A.F.T./M.C.R.A.F.T.
  • Leveled reading/ leveled texts
  • Multilingual texts
  • Debates
  • Literature groups/Literature circles
  • Accelerated pace
  • Visual vs. Audio vs. Tactile-Kinesthetic
  • Reading buddies

There is more than on way to skin the differentiated cat, so to speak. Feel free to add your methods in the comments section and I’ll add to the list. If you are not familiar with one of these, drop us an email or ask a colleague!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Differentiation by Class Period

If you teach the same subject multiple times in the course of your day, you know that each class has a slightly different personality, sometimes more than slightly different. The kids who are in your room when the high math class or the AP physics is scheduled are not the same kids who are in your room when the low math class is scheduled.

I have four core classes of Humanities in my teaching day. As you probably do, I naturally and instinctively differentiate my instruction from one core to the next. Some move faster; some need more repetition. Some are ready for higher level questioning; some need the graphic organizer. Some work independently very well; some need to work with a partner or as a whole class. Some are ready for extension activities; for some you’re thrilled just to cover the basics.

For example, we’ve been working on the Constitutional Convention. To prepare, students had some choices, but they were steered in particular directions based on the class “personality.” To prepare for an in-class simulation of the convention, the more highly able class looked at the main issues the convention delegates considered, brainstormed possible solutions, and considered the advantages and disadvantages of each proposed solution. The mid-level class read in a grade level textbook and filled in an organizer about the main issues, while the lowest ability class read a simplified text and filled in the organizer to prepare for the convention. The simulation ran differently in each period, too, in terms of how many issues we were able to cover, in terms of how many students rose to be recognized versus using a random procedure to call on delegates, and in terms of their grasp of the issues and their resolution, therefore requiring differing amounts of debriefing in each class.

Another example has to do with a class that was really struggling in September to get up to speed with all the class routines and demands, especially some new electronic submission requirements and online calendar links. I simply waited until they were ready, at beginning of the 2nd trimester, to introduce the higher level vocabulary program the other class began in September. They won’t learn quite as many words as the other students, but hopefully they’ll learn them well. They would have been overloaded and discouraged if I had heaped one more demand on them before they were ready.

What’s the point of this entry? We all differentiate in many ways, some of which we don’t even think of as differentiation. We are skilled professionals, and we do what it takes to meet the needs of our students. When we raise the instinctive to the conscious and begin to apply the variations to specific students in addition to whole groups, we are well on our way to creating a differentiated classroom.

Right Brain Left Brain Differentiation

Even though these terms are oversimplified and not scientifically accurate, I'll use the right brain left brain model to talk about summative assessments that appeal to your global, creative, outside-the-box learners or to your linear, analytical, logical learners. Of course, we want to stretch kids outside of those preferred modes, but it is a good idea to offer a choice of assessments, especially summative assessments, that appeal to students with a strong learning preference for one of these types of thinking. Quicker, simpler, and easier than creating a whole menu of assessment options.

Here are a couple of examples. For a unit on the Bill of Rights, students will all get the same inputs -- reading several case studies of court cases that involve the Bill of Rights and viewing a so-cheesy-it's-kinda-good dystopian movie called Future Fright about life in America without the Bill of Rights (http://www.viddler.com/explore/askgriff/videos/20/). From there, students have two choices for a final assessment. The left brainers can choose to write a Supreme Court brief on one case, arguing for a verdict and including at least one paragraph for the minority opinion. The right brainers can write a dystopian story about America without the Bill of Rights, with the option to read/discuss at least one other dystopian story such as Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins before writing. Many students have already read at least one such story. Both assessments can be scored for understanding of the Bill of Rights, and both assessments can be scored for as many writing traits as you choose. The case study is recorded for persuasive writing and the story for imaginative. By the way, if you're looking for some options for dystopian young adult fiction, here is a link: http://www.bartsbookshelf.co.uk/2009/09/30/update-best-dystopian-ya-novels-redux/

Another example comes from Eddie Mateo, an English teacher at Wilson High School in Portland. For the end of his Lord of the Flies novel unit, students have the option to write the final chapter of the book or to do an in-depth analysis of literary techniques and elements (symbolism, plot devices, etc.) for the novel.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Differentiation Gone Wrong

Substitute differentiated lesson plan = bad idea. One of my students said to me the next day, "You know, not everyone knows how to do what you do."