Thursday, 8 May 2014

Book Talk Response

In our discussion over Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity, we came up with key take-aways from Chapters 4 and 5.  Our overarching theme was the need for BIG planning at the beginning of the year.  The old adage that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail reminds me of the importance of planning your year as a teacher so you can see how you could put units together that will support deeper learning of the concepts.  We also recognized the need for collaboration.  It is no longer possible or successful to teach in a classroom silo.  We MUST work together with colleagues in common grades and if that isn't possible, then we need to find a way to work with teachers in other schools.  We need to make time to work together with teachers of grades on either side of our grade so we can see the continuum of learning.  And finally, we recognized the need to intimately know your curriculum.  There was a suggestion that this kind of planning could be catchment wide ( in our district we work in high school catchments:  all elementary schools that feed into junior high schools that feed into high schools work together in a "catchment.")  

We learned about the need to get rid of "cute" activities and focus on activities that leverage the learning of essential curricular outcomes.  

We learned that we do, indeed, teach to ourselves and that we must learn to include activities that we may find uncomfortable but meet the needs of students in our classrooms.  

We learned that to intentionally include students with significant disabilities, we MUST learn from other disciplines such as occupational therapy, speech pathology, literacy specialists and so on to create learning for these students as they deserve a quality education that is much more than sitting and watching.

We learned that educational assistants should not become helicopters, hovering over our students with special needs for two reasons:  First, students need to work toward some kind of independence  and second, even though we think we are cool as adults, we aren't really.  Having an adult around you all the time is going to limit your friend-ability factor with other students.  

This was such rich discussion to this point that we did not get to the other questions, but felt that the key idea was around planning intentionally for all students. 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Teaching to Diversity: Book Study Session #2

 So this month we read chapters 4 and 5.  These chapters were full of information valuable to the classroom teacher. These pages were filled with many suggestions and "how-tos" to create an inclusive classroom.  With that in mind, these are the questions we will discuss tomorrow at lunch:

1. What are you main take aways from chapter 4?
2. On page 68-69, Katz lists an exercise to create a thematic unit using essential understandings of the curriculum as listed.  Try doing this activity.
3. On page 72, the discussion is around creating inquiry questions. What would be the benefit of open-ended questions in the inclusive classroom?  How does this fit with the Competencies of an Albertan?
4. On page 75, the author describes assessment in the form of rubrics.  What is your response to this description?
5. "As teachers, we tend to teach to ourselves." p. 79
6. Within this framework, how do we intentionally include students with significant disabilities (p. 87)?
7. On page 93, we read: "All teachers teach literacy." Do you agree or disagree? Why?

8. What are your main take aways from chapter 5?
9. Katz describes Classroom Ecology.  What is it and what is the effect on students? (p. 121)
10. (p.123) If we want to avoid "management" in the classroom, we can we do instead?
11. What is the function of challenging behaviour?
12. On pages 128-134, we see an outline of explicit teaching of collaboration for students in the classroom?  Is this necessary only in division I or do we need this throughout a student's school career?
13. What are some of the barriers for students with special needs in this setting? (p. 134-135)
14. What are some other possibilities to contribute to the success of all students in the classroom?  RTI? Collaboration? Co-teaching?  Any others you can think of?
15. What is the job of the Educational Assistant in this classroom?
16. Compare Katz' outline of assessment for and assessment of learning to our district's new administrative regulation?

Should be an interesting discussion.