Saturday, December 12, 2009

Differentiated Learning

I just spent the last two days a a workshop presented by Rick Wormeli on differentiated instruction. I am happy to say that after 20 years of teaching, I found myself inspired to make changes to the way I teach and evaluate my students. At the time in my career where most teachers find themselves settled in and maybe picking up the label "old timer" and maybe shaking their heads at the younger ones coming in, I am finding myself renewed. After listening to Rick Wormeli speak and explain how we need to redefine what a grade means; how we need to get our students to recognize that the work we give them has value and not allow them to skip our assignments; how we need to use an abundance of formative assessment to be confident students are ready for a formative assessment AND we don't have to count ANY of that formative assessment as a grade (and in fact, we SHOULDN'T count any of it as a grade); how we need to avoid the use of zero (on a hundred point scale) for a grade for work not turned in because a zero on a hundred point scale is devastating; and, among so many other things, how we should allow students to retake tests and quizzes for full credit if we really want them to master the standard, I find myself wanting to totally overhaul the way I do all my assessment in my classroom. I used to be adamantly opposed to the thought of differentiating instruction; I felt it was unrealistic in terms of logistics, akin to having 100 IEPs, but Rick Wormeli showed me how right it is and that it can be done. He showed me that it can't be done overnight, though, and it is important to start with small steps and build up from there. So that is what I plan to do when I get back to my class -- start small. I am going to find one thing to start doing and go from there. I refuse to be one of those teachers stuck in a rut, doing things in the same order and the same way year after year. I was trying to keep things fresh before hearing Rick Wormeli, but now I feel like I have a compass pointing me in a good direction and I am excited to try all the new things I learned!

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