Thank you for attending last week’s coffee. Included with this post is a copy of the presentation for your reference and a message from Kathryn Handy, the ES Instructional Coach:
Thank you to everyone who attended the Parent Coffee last Tuesday. The group was engaged, enthusiastic, thoughtful, and full of active participation. The opportunities to speak with the wider community, listen to new ideas, and answer your questions was not only encouraging and exciting but provided points of reflection and opportunities to look forward. For those reading now who want to learn more about Differentiation in the Elementary School, thank you. It is a great honor to partner with you in supporting your children.
As instructional coach and math curriculum area leader at ISB part of my job is to “look for learning.” Fortunately, because of the caliber, dedication, and growth mindset of teachers at ISB, this part of my job is easy. When I spend time in classrooms and partner with teachers I am constantly blown away by the experiences and learning opportunities available for our students. Since the focus of the Parent Coffee was Differentiation in the Elementary School, I wanted to add a post to celebrate the incredible learning and differentiation that I get to see daily.
We are fortunate to have dynamic environments and flexible seating where students can learn in spaces that support them. There are spaces for students to work collaboratively, in partnerships, and independently. A variety of materials and learning tools are available for students and teachers to support the learning. Recently on a walk through of the PreK space I learned how every space and station is intentionally structured to aid in the academic and social development of the child. There is no area that has not been considered. Yesterday during a rich math problem in a Grade 4 class, students were in groups of varying sizes, self selecting materials from multiplication charts to manipulatives, and seeking help from each other and the teachers. Every student was engaged, every student was working on the task, every student was eager to discover the answer, and every student was growing in their understanding and application of factors. And while this is a recent example, this is present in every classroom I am fortunate enough to visit.
Not only are teachers differentiating their environment to support students but also differentiating the process in which students are learning. Grade 1 students recently wrote nonfiction books. The expertise of the teachers to teach the same writing techniques while allowing students choice in their topics is not only admirable but requires careful and consistent planning, monitoring, and reflecting. Students wrote nonfiction books on the topics of books, the ocean, and roller coasters and were able to become more proficient writers. In Grade 5, one classroom of students are reviewing for an upcoming assessment through a scavenger hunt around the room. Students are showing their thinking using strategies that work for them and have choice and support from teachers to answer different questions based on their learning needs.
It is impossible to roam the hallways in the elementary school or go into classrooms and not see how teachers are differentiating products for their students. In Kindergarten, students are showing their understanding of shapes and domain specific vocabulary by building towers, creating pictures, or sorting examples and non-examples. Grade 3 is deepening their learning about goods and services by literally providing different products to teachers. Grade 2, through research and investigation, is developing different products to support their reduce, reuse, recycle unit.
There are also examples of teachers differentiating content to support students. As students become more secure readers teachers at every grade level use their knowledge of the standards, progressions, and a student’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) to appropriately challenge and push the students forward, all while developing a love of reading for different purposes and serving the several other students in the classroom. Students who need more individualized support in different subject receive the appropriate content based on data, carefully articulated learning plans, and personalized goals.
I have never worked in an environment with more devoted, discerning, and caring professionals. And on this American Thanksgiving, I can’t think of anything I am more grateful for.
ES Parent Coffee Nov.20,2018-2019 FINAL