Friday, June 17, 2011

Teachers Talk

A recent blogging assignment in my grad class was this:
Blog: Your choice. What about your thinking or practice do you want to share with the world at large. This can be a record of something you’ve done, a particular activity to share, work from this course to share, or an opinion piece on an issue of the day (Khan Academy, standardized testing, Michigan education funding, ...)

They wrote interesting pieces, and I love hearing teachers' voices about that which they care most.  Four of the teachers have public blogs, so I'll point to theirs with this post. Leave them a comment, encourage them to keep blogging! Those who were blogging on Blackboard, I'll quote more extensively.  Post a comment here for them on how they should export and continue their writing!

Bill: Credo about what it takes to teach mathematics.
Also see: Bill's take on the 3 Act Story (I'm quite interested in this as a structure.  Here's a short of blogposts I've found on it.)

Eric: Textbooks. "The secret to being a lazy math teacher?  Good textbooks!..." Good hook!
Also see: HS grading

Melissa: only assignment she missed all course! Plenty to read at her blog, though.
See: Her description of her lesson planning process.

Ted: quick take on the public's perception of teachers and Summer Vacation.
Also see: his outstanding concept map for linear intercepts. (Not a blogpost, but wowser.)

Amy: Traditional Teaching
Taking this class has really got me thinking about the way that math is traditionally taught, and the way that I teach math. It has opened my eyes to the importance of teaching students how to problem solve and think critically. This has caused me to feel uncomfortable in my classroom for the past week or so. I feel that I want to make some changes, but yet it seems so overwhelming. The math department I work in is very concentrated on "everybody doing the same thing." This includes assessments and lessons. Also, the time that it takes to develop new tasks for student also is a daunting task.

So, as I reflect about changes I want to make for next year. I am thinking about making small changes. I think my first focus is going to be on formative and summative asssessments. Providing more opportunities for mastery rather than completion. I would also like to incorporate reflection on a daily basis to get students thinking about their problem solving and being able to put their thoughts into words.

In the future, I would like to work towards having more discovery and problem solving activities related to the concepts in my classes.

Erin: the switch from Michigan's High School Content to the Common Core State Standards
I have to complain for a minute about the switch from Michigan standards to the new Common Core standards. I have no problem with switching to common standards, I have no problem with the content of the standards, and I don't even have a problem with standardized tests based on the standards. My problem is this...

We are supposed to begin teaching to the new standards this year with testing based on the new standards to begin in 2 years, however, in the meantime, we are still being tested on the Michigan standards. That doesn't make any sense. The standards really are different in some ways and we are in the process of designing our curriculum based on the new standards. We have to be careful for the next two years that we also teach the HSCEs becuase that will be on the MME.

Someone tell me why we are rolling out the new and testing the old. Is testing really that important that we can't miss 2 years? Perhaps at least we can remove some of the consequences in the meantime so that we can develop a coherent curriculum without fear of the government taking over our schools.

Monica: Differentiation
When I took my Curriculum Development Class, we focused on Understanding by Design and Differentiated Instruction. Prior to that class, I had believed that differentiated instruction was synonymous with individualized instruction. And it wasn’t until the last 4 weeks or so that we started to talk more and more about what DI was, and how to adapt lessons and differentiate them.

First, some things I learned about DI:
  • Quality differentiation begins with a growth mindset, moves to student-teacher connections, and evolves to community.  In a growth mindset students persist in the face of setbacks and see their effort as a pathway to mastery. Students embrace challenges, learn from criticism, and are able to find inspiration and motivation in others’ success. Rather than plateauing with skills and knowledge, students with a growth mindset reach higher levels of achievement.
  • Quality DI is rooted in meaningful curriculum (not fluff!)
  • DI is guided by on-going assessment which is used not for grades, but for instructional planning and providing feedback.
  • and DI addresses students’ readiness, their interest, and their preferred method of learning.

Different methods of differentiating instruction include using
  • Choice Boards--like a tic tac toe, where you have 9 activities listed, one in each box, and have students choose whichever 3 activities they’d like to do, as long as they make a tic-tac-toe. These activities should be rooted in the same learning objective, but address different learning types (multiple intelligences).
  • Cubes or Think Dots--cubes would be using a net for a cube and having one question on each of the six sides. Think dots follow the same idea, but the students would roll a die or number cube, and then do the problem underneath the number they rolled on a worksheet (the worksheet would have 1 through 6 on the top, and the 6 problems listed under it—rather than making the cubes, now you just make a worksheet, and use a number cube).
  • Sternberg’s Tri-Mind--list three different sets of directions to address the same objective. One way of addressing the objective would be analytical, one way would be practical, and another would be creative. There are tests, similar to multiple intelligence tests that students can take to see of the three they prefer.
  • You can also have two similar worksheets, where one is more advanced and the other is more basic, depending on the level of the student. Students don’t know they have different leveled activities, but this is a great way to address the “just-right” problems for students on a case-by-case basis. You can make more than a basic and advanced, setting up four or five levels, but remember, differentiation is not individualizing.

In this class, I wish we would have learned earlier what differentiation was all about, and how to differentiate activities. This was most beneficial part of the class for me, and I wonder why “stuff like this” hasn’t been around longer. I feel that DI addresses issues that have been around in schools longer than solutions have, and this is something that should be included in all undergraduate teacher prep classes now (which I’m hoping it is)!

Monica's digital decimal differentiation designs are available at Scribd or by email from me.  There's quite a bit of work done on tic-tac-toe, tri-mind and cubes.

Closing Thought
Powerful stuff when teachers start sharing on Twitter or writing for sharing.

So why don't you join the conversation, you?

Photo credits: Search Engine People Blog, Cliff1066 @ Flickr

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