I believe that the SHIFT ELearning blog might just be finding inspiration from me!  Here is a recent post from SHIFT which explains some brilliant statistics about the wonders of micro learning  which is taking the corporate world of staff development by storm.  Enjoy reading more reasons why I’m right!

 

 

Source: Is DI Really As Easy As What I Have Been Lead to Believe?

A new follower, Teaching and Learning Notebook, asks a great question. Then she answers it. Spoiler Alert… Differentiated Instruction is not easy!
But here is the good news. Collaboration can make it easier.

Learning from each other makes us better Teachers and that leads to better outcomes for our students and (just like the Hokey Pokey), that’s what it’s all about!

Differentiation: Small Changes = Big Results

Differentiation often feels overwhelming.  Every class is so diverse and there are so many strategies suggested for you to implement.  Several changes or modifications are suggested to improve your assessments or worksheets, but you have already spent so much time and energy creating them, building them and editing them.  Nearly every teacher has asked the question…

Where do I start?

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Do one thing at a time!

While there are many differences in your class and many strategies you could use to improve student outcomes, the best thing you can do is choose one strategy.  I am not going to tell you that there is one magic strategy that every teacher should use to become a Differentiation Wizard.   You see, just as every student in your class is different, every teacher is different.  Everyone has different combinations of students and different teaching spaces and any number of other factors that make their teaching situation unique.  I am going to show you how to select the best strategy for you to use for your classroom. In order to select the right strategy, you will need to have information about your students – you need to Know your Students.  Let’s assume that you have gathered all the data you need and you know your students.  Many teachers are great at gathering this information, then they get stuck.  What now?  What do I do with all this great information?

Selecting ONE strategy to implement

  1. Research the needs of your students and highlight the strategies that are suggested for each of learning difficulties you are researching.
  2. Choose one of the strategies that stand out as being useful for various levels/ types of need.  Many strategies recommended for one disability will be helpful for students with other disabilities.  For example, strategies to support students with ASD are also applicable for students who have dyspraxia.  Students with ID and students with SLI will respond positively to similar strategies supporting them with organisation and understanding new concepts.
  3. Focus on one strategy that you can commit to living and breathing for a long period of time.  Practise it and use it in class over and over.
  4. If it doesn’t seem to be working at first, persevere and ask for feedback from teachers who you know have used the strategy before.
  5. Use data to measure the effectiveness as well as your command of the strategy.
  6. Get comfortable with the one strategy that you have committed to, then choose another one to build on.

Your Turn

I would love to hear from you.  Let me know what small changes you have made in your classroom to differentiate for your students.  Let me know which small changes have made a big impact on students and their learning.

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Differentiation Must-Haves: check out these reources!

Differentiation is difficult.

So far we know that differentiation involves knowing our students learning needs so that we can work out how to accommodate those needs.  Sometimes knowing that you have 8 students in your class with specific learning disabilities and another 6 with social emotional needs and 3 with behavioural issues, doesn’t mean you will know the next step towards supporting each of the students in your class.  While one or two small changes can help a class full of diverse needs, it is important to know the specific ways to support various disabilities/ learning difficulties.  Therefore, we all need to know more about learning difficulties and disabilities: or at the very least, have some go to resources where you can find the information you need.

School Based Resources

You will have learning support staff at your school whose job is to help you differentiate.  The job title will be different based on the country, state or even district, but the goal is basically the same.  They will have knowledge and experience of learning disabilities/ difficulties as well as information about specific students in your classes and how to support them.  Use the expertise of your colleagues.  Ask them for help.  They want to see your students succeed which means they want to help you.

Resource Folder

Secondly, get yourself a resource folder.   Include information about disabilities as well as adjustments and tips from other teachers.  Follow some great Pinterest Boards, join a facebook group, keep a list of webpages or links (there are plenty of ways to do this online, with the cloud, apps on your phone etc), follow some blogs.  I would suggest keeping a hard copy folder as well.  There will be handouts and resources you will create or receive in hard copy form and it will be good to know you can photocopy these at a moment’s notice.

Getting Started

Here is a short list of websites, textbooks and Pinterest Boards to get your resource folder started.  Remember to tap into the resources at your school as well.

This book is a good one to have in your library. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/268104984043975771/

Click here for a printable list of strategies for supporting special learning needs.

A board from Clutter-Free Classroom, remember that differentiation is more than just ‘low level’ students. https://www.pinterest.com/cfclassroom/stem/

The SEN teacher is still my “go to” online resource for information about every disability you can think of – including fact sheets, strategies, printable organisers and links to other online resources- and it is so helpful.

Stay tuned for more resources.  Please share your own ideas and resources in the comments.  The best way to build these resources is to share with each other.  If you have questions about resources or specific disabilities/ learning needs, please ask in the comments and I will endeavour to help you out.

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Performance Development Planning Framework and Personal Reflections

My most recent post was a review of 3 goals that I set for myself and my teaching in 2015. These were goals that I created after several days of professional development and endless meetings about school operations. These were just for me and no one else was checking in with me or supporting me with them. If I had asked for support there probably would have been someone who would have been happy to give it, but I didn’t ask.

Many schools these days require teachers to build and work through a performance development plan alongside the other million things that they are required to do. The idea is that teachers set goals that will improve their practice and then plan how they will reach their goals. I can only tell you how things work at my school and my experience with the framework that we are using this year. It has become more involved each year and will, no doubt, be refined more next year. You don’t need the history of how we have come up with our current model, so I will just jump right in.

Step 1: The Leadership team of our school (heads of department, deputy principals and the principal) are all allocated to a group of 5-6 teachers who they mentor for the year. Some teachers have had the same mentor for the past two or three years, while others have had one or two changes. I often end up losing my mentor as they move to bigger and better things mid-year and I have to be taken under the wing of another. (I’m beginning to think I might be good luck for mentors). Each mentor is also given their own mentor so everyone has someone supporting them on their development journey.

Step 2: Teachers completed a survey created by the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). The idea is that the responses that teachers give to the survey questions determine how well a teacher is meeting each of the professional standards for teachers. I feel that some questions were ambiguous. While examples were provided, these sometimes caused even more confusion. After collating the teacher’s responses the online tool highlights the practice/ indicators that the teacher is doing well and lists those that need improvement.

Step 3: Teachers meet with their mentors and use the results from the AITSL self-assessment tool to formulate three main goals (using the SMART goal framework). The teacher and mentor then discuss both action steps and indicators of success.

steps to success

Step 4: The teacher goes out and puts the plan into action. If there are concerns or issues along the way the teacher is able to meet with their mentor to discuss possible solutions. The mentor might point the teacher in the direction of other teachers who are working towards similar goals or who have expertise that may be useful.

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Step 5: Review and reflect (this should happen throughout the year but it often happens at the end of the process) on whether goals have been met, which action steps were useful. I am feeling it is important for me to do these reflections on my own and at several points in the year rather than relying on the timing of the school plan. At the final stage of this performance development process, staff are encouraged to share their success and celebrate it. They can use this final meeting to  identify which goals were not reached and acknowledge the reasons. It is also a good time to consider some ways to overcome hurdles that may cause an issue to development in the future.

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Next Time we visit this topic I will tell you my goals and success criteria, then share my action plan with you.  I may share some shorter posts with you before then if I see something that I think is important to share.

Questions you might like to answer in the Comments

What is the process for performance development in your school? Is it a school based framework or something that is used throughout your district/ region/ state? What are your goals for this year and how are you going with them?

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