Recap – SDE DI Conference

I was so lucky that each  member of the differentiation team at my school got to go to the SDE Differentiated Instruction Conference this week. I went on Thursday and got so many ideas from the four classes I took. For those unable to attend this week in Vegas, I thought I’d share a few take aways from each class. 
Here are a few brief thoughts from each class.
  • Project Based Learning – A Quest for Real World Knowledge with Dedra Stafford
    • This was by far my favorite course of the day.  She was a great presenter and had a lot of real examples to show us.  My favorite thing about her was that she kept it for a “real” classroom. 
    • PBL is a great way to bring together multiple curricular areas.
    • Students become engaged through a hook and a essential or driving question. Then, students go and take it on their own.  As the teacher meets with groups the teacher drops “bread crumbs” to help guide where the students go and make sure they understand and cover the important parts of the content.
    • Teacher is the facilitator as opposed to the “sage on the stage.”
    • Provides many opportunities for differentiation as kids are working and you can do quick formative assessments to see where kids are and then meet with groups as needed.
    • Some of my ideas – a project with map skills, social studies and math project with economics, and animal research project.

  • Dare to Differentiate: 50 Terrific Teacher Tricks with Danny Brassell
    • Danny Brassell was a very engaging instructor who threw in a lot of brain breaks to help us pay attention but to also show how important they are in the classroom.
    • One of the big things he said that stuck with me was that he wasn’t a big fan of labeling kids unless you’re labeling a kid a genius.  I thought that was a profound way of thinking and I agree with it. We are so quick to label kids and diagnose and we really need to think more of the positive and focus on how kids are a genius. Every kid is a genius at something – we need to focus on that as opposed to what they’re not good at.
    • Another key takeaway was to always ask why. He shared some examples of students answering questions where it seemed like it was the wrong answer. However, when he asked the child why the child was able to give evidence to support their reason and their answer made sense.

  • Writer’s Workshop in the Differentiated Classroom with Danny Brassell
    • Danny mentioned how often times when going through the writing process teachers tend to focus on editing every piece, which can kill the student’s motivation to write. I totally agree and in my room they write many drafts and then after a few weeks they pick one to edit and publish. If kids are so focused on editing it tends to give them writer’s block which defeats the purpose of writing workshop.
    • He provided examples for each trait but also shared how important it is for kids to write a variety of things – comics, recipes, how tos, journal, letters, books, etc.

  • Interactive Notebooks Ready to Go with LeAnn Nickelsen
    • Interactive notebooks are a way for kids to keep notes but also interact with the notes in a complex way.
    • LeAnn was very big on making sure that the right side was the teacher given information and that the left side was where the students processed the information. She mentioned that there are many cute ways to do it, but it’s more important that the processing be complex and really get the kids thinking.
    • She recommended a composition book, but you could also use a binder, spiral notebook, or make individual ones for units out of paper.

Now, all of the sessions got me thinking and I had a billion ideas and things I wanted to do this year in my classroom. As a day or two has passed, I know that realistically you can’t do all of these things right away. My goal is to start with the Project Based Learning and try implementing that especially with Social Studies lessons.

Has anyone else done Project Based Learning?  Any ideas or great websites to use?

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