Differentiated Instruction and Critical Thinking



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  • Wormeli/NELMS2010
  • Our future depends on this one here.
  • q
  • c
  • d
  • p
  • Which letter does not belong, and why?

For further conversation about any of these topics:

  • Rick Wormeli
  • rwormeli@cox.net
  • 703-620-2447
  • Herndon, Virginia, USA
  • (Eastern Standard Time Zone)

A. Steps to take before designing the learning experiences:

  • A. Steps to take before designing the learning experiences:
  • 1. Identify your essential understandings, questions, benchmarks, objectives, skills, standards, and/or learner outcomes.
  • 2. Identify your students with unique needs, and get an early look at what they will need in order to learn and achieve.
  • 3. Design your formative and summative assessments.
  • 4. Design and deliver your pre-assessments based on the summative assessments and identified objectives.
  • 5. Adjust assessments or objectives based on your further thinking discovered while designing the assessments.
  • Quick Reference: Differentiated Lesson Planning Sequence

B. Steps to take while designing the learning experiences:

  • B. Steps to take while designing the learning experiences:
  • 1. Design the learning experiences for students based on pre-assessments, your knowledge of your students, and your expertise with the curriculum, cognitive theory, and students at this stage of human development.
  • 2. Run a mental tape of each step in the lesson sequence to make sure things make sense for your diverse group of students and that the lesson will run smoothly.
  • 3. Review your plans with a colleague.
  • 4. Obtain/Create materials needed for the lesson.
  • 5. Conduct the lesson.
  • 6. Adjust formative and summative assessments and objectives as necessary based on observations and data collected while teaching.
  • Quick Reference: Differentiated Lesson Planning Sequence

When Designing your Actual Lessons….

  • Brainstorm multiple strategies
  • Cluster into introductory, advanced, and strategies that fit between these two
  • Sequence activities in plan book
  • Correlate Class Profile descriptors, Differentiation Strategies, and cognitive science principles to lessons – What do you need to change in order to maximize instruction for all students?

C. Steps to take after providing the learning experiences:

  • C. Steps to take after providing the learning experiences:
  • 1. Evaluate the lesson’s success with students. What evidence do you have that the lesson was successful? What worked and what didn’t, and why?
  • 2. Record advice on lesson changes for yourself for when you do this lesson in future years.
  • Quick Reference: Differentiated Lesson Planning Sequence

To provide meaningful context, let’s design a differentiated lesson from scratch….

[Artist Unknown

  • [Artist Unknown

Are we willing to teach in whatever way is necessary for students to learn best, even if that approach doesn’t match our own preferences?

  • Are we willing to teach in whatever way is necessary for students to learn best, even if that approach doesn’t match our own preferences?
  • Do we have the courage to do what works, not just what’s easiest?
  • Do we actively seek to understand our students’ knowledge, skills, and talents so we can provide an appropriate match for their learning needs? And once we discover their strengths and weaknesses, do we actually adapt our instruction to respond to their needs?
  • Do we continually build a large and diverse repertoire of instructional strategies so we have more than one way to teach?
  • Do we organize our classrooms for students’ learning or for our teaching?
  • Are we successfully differentiating teachers?

6. Do we keep up to date on the latest research about learning, students’ developmental growth, and our content specialty areas?

  • 6. Do we keep up to date on the latest research about learning, students’ developmental growth, and our content specialty areas?
  • 7. Do we ceaselessly self-analyze and reflect on our lessons — including our assessments — searching for ways to improve?
  • 8. Are we open to critique?
  • 9. Do we push students to become their own education advocates and give them the tools to do so?
  • 10. Do we regularly close the gap between knowing what to do and really doing it?
  • Are we successfully differentiating teachers?

What is fair…

  • What is fair…
  • …isn’t always equal.

Differentiating instruction is doing what’s fair for students. It’s a collection of best practices strategically employed to maximize students’ learning at every turn, including giving them the tools to handle anything that is undifferentiated. It requires us to do different things for different students some, or a lot, of the time. It’s whatever works to advance the student if the regular classroom approach doesn’t meet students’ needs. It’s highly effective teaching.

  • Definition

Carol Dweck (2007) distinguishes between students with a fixed intelligence mindset who believe that intelligence is innate and unchangeable and those with a growth mindset who believe that their achievement can improve through effort and learning…Teaching students a growth mindset results in increased motivation, better grades, and higher achievement test results.”

  • Carol Dweck (2007) distinguishes between students with a fixed intelligence mindset who believe that intelligence is innate and unchangeable and those with a growth mindset who believe that their achievement can improve through effort and learning…Teaching students a growth mindset results in increased motivation, better grades, and higher achievement test results.”
  • (p.6, Principal’s Research Review, January 2009, NASSP)
  • To meet diverse student needs, we need expertise in four areas .


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