Manage the Project – Week 6 – 542

The group work this week was stimulating to say the least. Tasked to explore Differentiated Instruction, we discussed the concept of RAFTs. It was probably one of our most interesting conversations so far. Both my cohorts are light-years ahead of me when it comes to engaging with technology and web tools. This topic was more in my wheelhouse having spent so much time working with students who learn differently. We discussed various learning differences (disabilities seems to imply there is something wrong with students, when we are just wired differently for processing) and how they might impact on RAFT construction. From a reflective standpoint, it was one of my top moments with this group, as I felt valued. This is not a pity-party, as I have felt valued in other areas, as well. This was different.

I have over twenty years experience teaching the Holocaust in a religious school setting. I have directed numerous plays and mentored students directing plays that were shared with the community regarding the Holocaust. That content knowledge aspect and the solid background integrating theatrical coursework with other departments established my place in our group without my ever having to share what I have done previously.

The difference for me is how I have changed as an educator. I have always enjoyed working on stage with a variety of learners. I repackaged instruction on more than one occasion to reach actors struggling to understand their role or motivation on the stage. I have not always provided them the various tools they needed for success in the classroom. As I have grown, I have absorbed different strategies to accomplish the same goals I had when I started teaching – to help as many young people get excited about learning as humanly possible and to have them want to reach and attain high standards.

PBL is yet another strong tool for changing the culture of a school toward student-driven learning. It is not easy work. Like directing a play or commanding soldiers, a leader or educator must be willing to spend a great deal of time preparing and collaborating. At times, teaching is like herding cats as the students will want to follow their own inquiries. It is THAT moment when it is most exciting as they move to seek and test their thoughts and ideas.

How do you herd them? That is where assessment comes in. I learned as a young officer, soldiers will do what you inspect, not what you expect. Students are no different. Clear instructions, solid scaffolding, differentiated instruction, stimulating content coupled with assessments ending with a high stakes activity will keep students wanting more. In fact, they will value the experience when they have sweated and strained to achieve, as long as they are not sweating the construction of the assignment. Implementing Habits of Mind and seeing the students demonstrate those and the 21st Century Skills in addition to mastery of the content area would be benchmarks to evaluate and celebrate.

Having left the front of my classroom years ago, moving to seating in the round and ultimately to a Harkness Table, being facilitator will not be a new experience. Having more tools in my toolbox will make the experience richer for my students and then for me.

Though I did not share it at the time, I found an excellent slideshare that would help anyone interested in this for the future – http://www.slideshare.net/ulamb/differentiated-instruction-strategy-raft and will share with my cohorts.

Here are the notable products for this week:

Culminating Activity

Products & Performances

Differentiated Instruction (at bottom of page)

Reflection Methods (at bottom of page)

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About "B" Bernheim
“B”, his nickname, returns to the other side of the desk after many years. Graduating from UNC-Charlotte in 1983 with a BA in Education (K-12), he entered active service with the US Army. He began teaching high school upon completion of his tour of duty. B taught Language Arts and Social Studies for one year at the middle school level. English, Composition, Public Speaking, Theater, Forensics, and Technical Theater are among the subjects he has taught in public high school settings. Most recently, he was a Strategies of Instruction teacher, Assistant Dean of Students, dorm parent, girls’ hockey coach and rock climbing instructor at The Forman School in Litchfield, CT. The Forman School is a 9-12 boarding school specifically targeting students who learn differently.

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