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Calendar

Upcoming Dates

April 4 (Monday) Teachers wear Rangers apparel OR staff shirt!

April 6 (Wednesday) 3-4 pm GT Training (Paras do not need to attend)

April 8 (Friday) Beach Day= Wear your Hawaiian Shirts and sunglasses!

April 14 (Thursday) Spring Pictures- Group/Class Pictures and Individual Pictures

April 15 (Friday) PTA Spring Picnic and First Annual Fun Run!

May 9 (Monday) 3rd and 4th STAAR Math

May 10 (Tuesday) 3rd and 4th STAAR Reading

May 11 (Wednesday) 5th STAAR Science

May 20 (Friday) Davis Night at the Frisco Roughriders!

May 26 (Friday) Field Day 7:45-11:15 am

May 27 (Friday) Professional Learning Day-No Students

May 30 (Monday) Memorial Day (No School)

June 2 (Thursday) 5th Graduation 8:30am, Class Party Day

June 3 (Friday) Last Day of School-Early Release 12:00pm

Spotlight on Professional Learning

Ideas for Differentiation

How High is Your Ceiling?

Students are tired of bumping their heads on the low ceilings in our classrooms. Trying to learn in a hunched-over mental position prevents students from growing to their full height academically.

I’m not talking about a physical design flaw we should complain about to the architects. This low-ceiling phenomenon is completely our fault.

Sometimes, we assume our students can’t do the thinking on their own, so we do it for them. In effect, we build a really tiny room so that everyone can easily reach the ceiling. Since there’s no need or expectation to extend and grow, students learn to live comfortably in a cramped position. It doesn’t seem too bad while they’re there. The problem occurs when they leave your room, go elsewhere, and realize they haven’t grown enough to reach the things the world expects them to be able to reach on their own.

At other times, we give our students assignments or pose questions that have very clear and reachable endpoints. When students complete the assignment and there’s nowhere to go from there, they bump their heads on the academic ceiling we build above them.

If you’re intending to offer differentiation for your high-ability learners, there should be no ceiling. Removing the upper limits will allow these students to stand as tall as possible and stretch beyond your expected boundaries.

I’ve always been a fan of setting high expectations for all students. I never know when a particular subject or assignment will pique the interest of a specific student who will take off and run with it. Some students, of course, will need a bit of a boost to successfully reach the level of expectation; that’s where scaffolding comes into play.

Many of the strategies AVID uses to engage students are designed to add that support when necessary. Most teachers feel comfortable and justified adding scaffolding to help modify or adapt the learning for those who struggle; however, many times we forget about the students on the other end of the spectrum.

All students need and deserve a challenge. The gifted students are the ones who least consistently receive one.

Those of you who’ve been around for a while have no doubt experienced the joy of the online bloodborne pathogens training we get to undergo each year. After a year or two of the same training, there’s not a lot learning to be uncovered in a repeat viewing of an online module. This yearly requirement, then, becomes a tedious drudgery because it’s not mentally engaging or academically stimulating. As I click through the slides and answer the simple questions at the end of the sections, I can feel the ceiling looming close above my head.

How often do our brightest students have this same experience in our classrooms? Do they feel stifled because their learning is limited? Bored because there’s no challenge? Complacent because there’s no incentive to go beyond the basic expectations? Do they speed through their assignment, reach the end, and either occupy themselves with something more interesting or zone out until the period ends?

Many gifted learners are wonderfully compliant and have learned that if they do what’s expected, they can rest comfortably for extended periods of time without having to exert much effort. Others become behavior problems as they seek to entertain their idle brains.

Here are a few ideas for raising the ceiling for your students:

Depth and Complexity: GT Differentiation Buzzwords: When you are considering ways to differentiate your curriculum for gifted and talented students, the key words to remember are depth and complexity. What are you doing to allow these learners to dive more deeply into the curriculum? Where are the points where some students can explore more advanced or technical aspects of the content? How can you challenge your students with advanced potential to see the nuances, make more thoughtful connections within and between disciplines, and consider varied perspectives?

What next? I recently attended a training during which we were asked to share our experiences with particular teaching activities with others at our table. Some groups would no doubt finish before others. Our facilitator visited each table a few minutes into the discussion, checked in with the group to see how much more time they needed, and, if it looked like they were soon to finish, he provided a follow-up assignment (“What I want you to do next is….”). Thus, there was never a point where a group would be completely finished because there were always more tasks. Following his example, if teachers have a seemingly inexhaustible series of increasingly challenging activities in their heads, students can work at full capacity throughout the class period.

Choices: Providing several ways for students to demonstrate mastery of course objectives is another way to meet the needs of a variety of students. Some students, of course, will try to take the easy way out, so in some cases, you might need to direct students to the best option for their ability level.

Formative assessment: One important purpose for using formative assessment is to determine what your students know and don’t know so that you’ll know who needs differentiation. If you learn that some students are “getting it” more quickly than the rest, it’s time to pull out some differentiation tools to raise the level of challenge for them. If you find that only a few are lagging behind, keep things moving with the remainder of the class while you scaffold the learning for the stragglers.

Differentiated assignments: One assignment or lesson might exist in several versions that approach the learning objectives at varied levels of depth and complexity. A teacher might provide specific students with a differentiated assignment at a lower cognitive level for those who require more scaffolding and ramp up the mental challenge for those who can easily grasp the basics. The basic assignment looks the same to the learners, so no one has to know that some are diving more deeply. You could offer differentiated assignments to groups of students or individuals as needed.

Flexible grouping: At times, ability grouping your students within a class for an assignment or lesson can permit easier differentiation. For instance, in a unit where the students are preparing to present about a topic to their classmates, groups composed of more advanced learners can receive topics which require more complex thinking or more challenging research.

Independent study: Once a student has demonstrated that he or she knows what’s expected, there’s an opportunity for that student to devise a learning goal for continued growth. Letting a student who is already interested in a topic explore that topic in more depth is an excellent way to promote learning and engagement. Allow the student to set some teacher-approved learning goals, and guide the exploration as needed to keep the student on track.

Crank up the Costa’s: Spend some time examining the cognitive level of the questions and thinking in your classroom. Realizing that some students will struggle to master the Level 1 knowledge and skills associated with your curriculum while others will catch on quickly, come to class prepared to challenge your kids at whatever level necessary. Level 2 and 3 of Costa’s Levels of Thinking requires students to make connections (within disciplines and among them), draw conclusions, predict, create, suppose, and evaluate. Providing increased opportunities to explore the curriculum at higher levels keeps the ceiling high above students’ heads.

One quick caveat: Differentiation shouldn’t mean more work. The difference lies in the depth and complexity of thought required, not the amount. If differentiated assignments look like punishments, no one will want to do them. Think of it like an hour at the gym with a physical trainer. Each participant should work to maximum capacity during the hour so all can grow stronger. No one gets to leave the gym early because he or she was stronger from the outset, and no one has to stay late because he or she wasn’t very mighty to begin with. As a result, all are challenged, and all build strength and stamina.


Differentiation is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach to learning. The first step to successful differentiation is awareness: knowing where the ceiling is in respect to the various learners in your room. Once you are aware of the limits you’ve deliberately or accidentally placed on your students, you can work on ways to systematically remove them.

Links

Share at Professional Learning Wednesday

There are some great new and innovative teaching practices happening at Davis. Please share so all of our kids can benefit! You can also add ideas you would like shared.

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So many great things going on!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find new apps and web tools for my learners?

http://k-12.pisd.edu/hotspot/


How do I access the building on the weekends?

Contact Brenda Terenas or Jan West


I need to know how to request a day off/access the copy machine/send a fax.

The staff handbook is located at: https://docs.google.com/a/pisd.edu/document/d/1NRqWSqHZJ8cJ5w1Ck29DxImlK04MijfIdlnOd_8sUmo/edit?usp=sharing

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