Week 6

What does it mean to differentiate the process (content, strategies for instruction) in the classroom?

Once again I feel most comfortable falling back on my Kagan training where I did not spend hours in front of a computer researching, but with living, breathing human beings. We interacted in flesh and blood, used books, giggled, laughed, groaned, aha’ed, and connected without wireless internet. I know, what an old-fashioned way to learn something new.  I do not enjoy learning by staring at an impersonal computer screen for hours. However, some people thrive from the online world. All this to first bring home the point that everyone learns differently, including educators.

Differentiating in the classroom means providing a variety of methods for students to master the learning objectives. I attended a Kagan conference last year about Brain friendly teaching. It was a powerful kick in the rear because I realized that I was mostly teaching my way of learning or what I thought was the most efficient way to learn. It bothered me greatly that I was neglecting any student who did not learn like me. I was not allowing for those brains who remembered concepts by doing something artistic. I was only explaining things one way instead of several different ways. I was not allowing for math conversations or time to process what they had just learned. 

Now I strive to teach a little differently. I give choices on how they wish to learn or practice a new concept. For instance, when we are learning how to spell our new word wall words, they may choose the materials (pencil or colored marker and paper, dry erase marker and board) they use to practice the words. At times they may choose to spell the word out loud and move, write with their finger on their arm, in the air, etc. If we are working on counting money, they can choose to write out the money on their dry erase boards or have play money in front of them. Sometimes, I use BrainPOPjr to further explain a concept. My students love this website and ask daily if they can watch it.

One last nugget of information that I have learned, is that students need time to be able to think before they give an answer. I know that this may be old news for some teachers, but I did not realize this because I was one of the ones who generally knew an answer right away.  It is my job, as their teacher, to allow some think time so that more students have a chance to answer correctly. There are also kids who like to blurt out. I fulfill the need for blurters and longer thinkers by having a signal that tells the students when they can blurt out. It kills two birds with one stone, so to speak and everyone gets a fair shot at answering the question.

I, by no means, have completely mastered how to teach to everyone effectively but I strive to differentiate my teaching every day so that I provide the best learning environment possible for my first grade sponges.

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Week 5

Week Five

What are your overall take-aways from the methods/tools that you might use to differentiate the classroom environment (for teacher productivity and student progression)? Which of these may you use in your classroom in the future?

Since I am not someone who enjoys technology in every aspect of my life, there is only one new tool that I would like to learn more about. This is the Confer app for the iPad. It is an app that allows a teacher to collect and organize student data. I have not had a lot of opportunity to learn and use it yet, so all my experience, thus far, comes from talking with co-workers and hearing from them what a great app it is. I am not one who wishes to waste time on seeing if it will work for me. I would rather have someone show me what it does and then decide if I can use it in my life. A teacher friend showed me how she entered letter sound data in the app. She could then sort out which students needed to work on which sounds. She didn’t have to go through all 25 children and make a note of which ones knew which sounds. The other amazing aspect of this app is that with only a few clicks and a blessing my friend could share this information with the reading interventionalist that comes in every day. No need to print off a piece of paper and give it to her. It’s all on the iPad.

I would also like to use the app to document and organize data. I think that it would be very useful to be able to show where certain students are struggling in math and reading. I think that the challenge will be to find the time to put everything into the iPad. I do all this documenting now, it’s just on paper.

I have attempted to contribute to the learning of others by twittering something useful, talking with colleagues about important tech stuff, and collaborate with my classmates on our project.

How can I use tools “in the cloud” to easily manage and deliver feedback to my students?

How can I use tools “in the cloud” to easily manage and deliver feedback to my students?

I have two tools that I like to use for my classroom. They are Dropbox and Numbers.

Dropbox is nice because I have it anywhere I go that has wireless access, my computer, or my iPad. It also works at my school computer. I no longer have to remember to bring home the thumb/jump drive. I no longer have to worry about what I am going to do if I lose the aforementioned item. I no longer have to worry about what I am going to do if I break the aforementioned item. I no longer have to worry about when the aforementioned item will breathe it’s last and it’s contents lost forever. I no longer have to worry about if I will have to track down Abby and McGee from NCIS to see if they can recover my precious documents. It is all in Dropbox. Now I only have to worry about making sure I always remember my login and password. I also hope that Dropbox doesn’t one day drop off the face of this earth and take all my brains with it.

I use Dropbox to keep track of my intervention groups for reading, parent contact, and other school documents. At this time, I do not have lot of student assessments on dropbox. This is partly due to the fact that I teach first grade. A lot of the assessments are done with pencil and paper. It would be difficult to add it to the dropbox. However, I do use a shared computer drive to track absences, spelling test results, fluency numbers, and who turns in their math calendars.

Numbers is on my iPad. I have not used it a whole lot, but the little that I have used it has been useful. The beginning of the year we had a roll-in before school started. The first grade team (six teachers) came up with a list of questions that we wanted to start out the year knowing about our new students. It was very handy to document and have in one place such information as: reading level, could they count by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s, did they know coins up to a quarter, which of the 10 basic words could they read, were they bus or pick-up, could they write their name, and were they allowed to eat breakfast at school.

I, unfortunately, have not had time to do anything else like that on the iPad. However, for goal-setting my principal just gave me a disc where I could learn about how to be more productive using an iPad. I plan on learning from it soon.

I have tried to help people learn by: twittering something useful about Dropbox, work with my teammate on our project for the class, provide a virtual pat on the back for other people who also find all this technology overwhelming and exhausting, and research ideas for this class.

Week 3: What technology tools can I use to manage and track differentiated student progress in my class?

What technology tools can I use to manage and track differentiated student progress in my class?

There are several technology tools that I use to manage and track differentiated student progress in my class. One is a computer test and the other one is a reading test.

The first is the MAPS test. It is administered three times a year. My first graders are assessed in math and reading. I like this test because it breaks down each subject into different areas. For instance, in math some of the categories are: problem solving, number sense, computation, and statistics and probability. In reading, some of the areas include: comprehension, phonemic awareness, and concept of print. I do not rely heavily on this test because it is only three times a year. I can look at it and see how they did, compare it with what I know, but I don’t use it as the absolute picture on where they are at in regards to grade level. As a school, we work hard to make sure that they take this test seriously. However, this test is not an accurate test for everyone.

The other technology that we kind of use is the AIMS test. I don’t know if this one really counts because the data has to be entered. However, once it is entered, I can pull up individual students or the entire class and compare data. This test is also given three times during the year.

In reality, I am not sure that I have a need for that much technology in my classroom. I really don’t have a burning desire to have the latest gadget or program. Yes, I do have an iPad and am trying to learn something on it so that I can use it in my classroom. However, I don’t believe that just because some people have to have everything tied to technology means that I have to also. I like the freedom of picking and choosing what I think is appropriate for my classroom and my life.

I have attempted to contribute to the learning of others by: twittering something useful, answering people’s questions if I know the answer, working on the wikispaces, and trying to find helpful links.