Ideas & Innovations

from the DISD Curriculum & Instruction Department

DISD Teachers are Super Stars!!

DISD's teachers are working hard! We see your dedication to our students every day, in so many different ways. From lesson planning, small group facilitating, essay scoring, lab assisting, and homework grading to coaching, directing, leading and supporting our students in and out of the classroom. Just like all busy professionals, though, teachers need behind-the-scenes support. Administrative Assistants serve CEOs & executives, personal assistants and managers serve celebrities, and the DISD C&I staff is here to serve YOU! We know you are busy and we are here to help! We hope this newsletter brings you inspiration and new ideas to help focus all of your efforts on greater student learning .

Learning in Action Across the District

Instructional Ideas for Differentiation

Differentiation & Small Group Discussions

If you are looking for ways to move beyond Turn and Talk or Think, Pair, Share, try some of these alternatives to get your students moving, talking & listening to each other as they deepen their understanding of the content in your lesson.


Back to Back Visual Explanation: Seat partners back to back. One learner describes the concept(s) of the lesson while the other partner draws a visual representation based on the speaker's description. When the speaker is done, the partners turn to face each other and the listener explains how his/her drawing depicts the explanation given by the speaker.

Snowballing: Learners discuss something or investigate an issue in pairs. The pairs then join another pair to form a larger group and share their findings. The small groups then join together to make a larger group: 2 - 4 - 8 - 16 - whole class.

Envoys: Once each small group has completed its initial discussion, it sends out one member as an envoy to the next group. Envoys move round all the other groups in turn explaining and sharing ideas gathered from the groups they have visited.

Listening Triangles: Learners work together in groups of three. The Speaker explains the topic (or expresses their opinion on an issue) as directed by the teacher, the Questioner listens carefully and asks for clarification or further detail and the Note-taker observes this process and provides feedback to both Speaker and Questioner.

Differentiation with Vocabulary using Classification & Comparisons

Our students struggle with vocabulary. We've heard your frustrations and concerns and hope these versatile ideas will be beneficial for you and your students.

Differentiation in Math with a Deck of Cards

This free, downloadable PDF is a collection of engaging math games, ranging from Kindergarten through 8th grade, using only an ordinary deck of playing cards. With a little bit of creativity, these ideas can also be adapted for math at the high school level and beyond! These games have been created by The Positive Engagement Project or found online to help make math entertaining and lively. Keeping our students interested, active, and engaged makes a significant difference in the overall learning experience and we believe this collection of math games will do just that. Just clcik on the link to download your own FREE copy of Acing Math (One Card Deck at a time) . http://pepnonprofit.org/mathematics.html
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10 Ways to Truly Lead in the Classroom

They are watching.

Every moment students spend in our rooms, amid the business of the day, the paper pushing and content coverage, amid the set-up and tear-down of projects, they hear everything we say. About ourselves. About the world. About them. They watch how we handle ourselves when we are pressed for time and when we receive gifts and when we screw things up.

So yes, deliver your curriculum. Yes, provide rich, hands-on, authentic learning experiences. Offer rigorous academic challenges. Raise the bar. Coach and guide. Nurture. Push. Advise.

But also be: To truly lead is to pay attention to who we are in the downtime, in the margins. To help them become the best people they are capable of becoming, we must first be those people.


We can do it in these ways:

1. Lead with imperfection.
Try things you’re not good at, right in front of them. Demonstrate a spirit of experimentation. Speak of your mistakes without judgment.

2. Lead with assertiveness.
Show them how a self-assured person says no. Show what it looks like to set firm limits, without apology and without hostility.

3. Lead with relationships.
Let them hear you laugh with other teachers, prioritize loved ones, and speak respectfully of your significant other. Let them see what healthy relationships look like.

4. Lead with language.
Use the right words to describe concepts. Avoid dumbing things down. Savor a good word when it presents itself.

5. Lead with self-control.
When a student makes you angry, think of how you tell students to handle their own anger. Then do that.

6. Lead with manners.
Say please and thank you. Avoid cutting people off mid-sentence. Have sensitive conversations in private. Respect other people’s time.

7. Lead with quality.
Take a few extra minutes to get something right. Do what you say you’re going to do. Proofread.

8. Lead with humor.
Laugh. Be silly. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Avoid mocking or ridiculing your students. Mock yourself instead.

9. Lead with enthusiasm.
Share your obsessions. Geek out on the things students think are uncool. Show them that it’s possible to fall in love with a forest, a perfect pizza crust, the moment when a song changes key.

10. Lead with humility.
When you don’t know something, say so. Allow for the possibility that you might occasionally be wrong. Check your ego. Apologize.


To stand before children—share physical space with them day after day—is a rare privilege. In every minute we spend together, they will learn something. Whatever it is we put before them, they will learn from it.

Let’s make it good. ♥

Lessons in Personhood: 10 Ways to Truly Lead in the Classroom,

by Jennifer Gonzalez, www.cultofpedagogy.com

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Giving Thanks

DISD is thankful for you and everything you do for your students! We hope you enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and are able to relax and spend time with loved ones. Until then, though, if you are looking for ways to include gratitude in your classes, check out these links:


10 Thanksgiving Writing Prompts Inspired by Children's Literature

http://tinyurl.com/10-Thanksgiving-Writing-Prompt


Thanksgiving Printable: Thankful Letter from You to Your Students

http://tinyurl.com/thanksgiving-teacher-notes

We'd LOVE to Hear from You!

http://tinyurl.com/C-I-suggestions


Click this link to access our feedback form. Give us your suggestions for topics to include next time. Want to know more about strategies or practices you would like to try?

Share your ideas or ask to see what others are doing.

No question is too tough, no suggestion too lame.