Wednesday, July 8, 2015

"Vegas, Baby": Differentiation Conference

It's been a long time since I've posted, but hopefully I can get some momentum back for writing this blog now that I've recovered from the school year.  It was an incredibly busy year with the class I had, but I learned so much from them.  I had to learn to take a "breath" when things were challenging and continue to try new tools until I found something that worked for each child.  That's why this conference was so interesting to me.

I've been on a journey (as I'm sure many teachers have) to grow my teaching in many ways, but one particular area that has intrigued, challenged, and motivated me is learning to support ALL learners in the classroom.

Questions/Thoughts I've had about differentiation:

  • How can I do this?
  • How can I reach all my students?
  • Why didn't that work?
  • Maybe if I tried...?
  • What should I do next?
  • Argh!  
  • I should be able to do this better by now!  
  • Just one step at a time.
  • "I may have to throw this whole thing out!"
  • "I feel like I have failed this student...."
  • "Wow!  That worked better than I thought!"
I'm sure we've all been there.  

SO a few snapshots from the conference.
Oh wait...yes the conference.  We were there too.  :)  We (my pal and coteacher Cait and I) had to have a little fun!  We went to see Le Reve at the Wynn and it was AMAZING!  The craziest thing was that the dancers/divers/gymnasts/etc. would stay down in the water in between their section of the performance and use scuba gear.  Fascinating!  
Two standout presenters for me were Rick Morris and Kathy Perez.  They were both powerful presenters.  

Kathy had so much energy and kept us all engaged and learning.  One of my favorite quotes she shared was, "All children are gifted, some just open their packages earlier".  It just reminded me that we use that word so freely to describe a particular set of children (i.e. the word gifted).  I certainly believe that children have aptitudes for certain areas, but I realize how easy it is for us to label students and we miss seeing their strengths.  I don't think it means any of us aren't seeking to find a child's strengths, but that we may come to it with our own set of bias that naturally affect us and how we teach.  

Oftentimes the most challenging thing for me is when I have to deprogram my brain from what I was taught (hello....math in the 21st century!).  Two of her books are below.    
Kathy shared this powerful video with us about how every student needs different things at different times and why differentiation is so important and powerful!  
Rick Morris (click his name for book links) was the keynote speaker (which I missed), but his session "Innovative Ways to Change Teaching" reminded me of how much my teacher voice gets overused and reminded me why music has such an important role in the classroom.  His focus was on creating a classroom culture where the following things were valued and supported:
  • Self Determination
  • Conceptual Thinking
  • Creativity
  • Productivity 
He focused on management without talking, so that eventually you would be creating a pose in front of the students that let them know you needed their attention, rather than having them rely on your voice for prompting.  He talks a lot about the training involved, but an interesting idea.  

His idea, "Pick a spot, picks a pose, then wait".  Then when students are attending, don't call them out and say, "Oh Suzy, what a nice job you are doing listening." What we are really saying here isn't a compliment for Suzy, but a message to all those who aren't attending.  Just give them eye contact and a simple acknowledgement rather than a verbal one.  

He also talked about how you can use your IPad as a document camera.  Uh....why didn't I know about that??  Genius!  
Tony Vincent from Learning in Hand shares a bunch of options for how to do this from the fancy version all they way to a simple DIY version (locker stand or PVC pipes).  

Some other books I heard about in the sessions I went to:
 I love the title of the last one!  :)  All the books are linked to Amazon above.  Lots more to learn! I'll add a few more ideas that I heard (practical ideas), but overall it was a fabulous conference.  Hopefully I can head back next year!  :)  It's being hosted again here in Vegas in 2016!  

Should be fun, although maybe a little intimidating.  My co teacher and I saw Deanna Jump and Hope King today.  We (well maybe I...she's much braver) had a little "dorky teacher" moment of appreciation.  It was neat to see them all presenting and sharing their knowledge with all of us!  

Lastly, I'll share a video that Dr. Kathy Perez shared this morning.  Too funny! 


Momma Mac said...

oh what fun!!!! Wish I could've joined you. Love that about being careful not to overuse our teacher voice. There is magic there - now how to harness it....?

Looks like you two had a blast too. :)

Ms. Pretzel said...

It would have been so fun to have you there! I'm excited we get to see you soon. I loved that comment too. It's going to take me some time to practice that one. He talked a lot about training gradually which fits so nicely with what we've learned from Gail and Joan.