If you’ve driven by any school building in your area, you’ve no doubt noticed that teachers are back to work. I would argue that many of us have been ‘working’ in many different ways throughout the summer, but this time of year guarantees that teachers are physically back in their school buildings preparing for students to arrive. We put a lot of emphasis on the ‘new year’ with our students, as well as amongst ourselves. It makes sense. For kids there are new clothes, new teachers, and a new grade. For teachers there are new colleagues, new curriculum, and new building upgrades. In all ways, everything seems to be a fresh start.
I want to give students a fresh start. And I certainly want to give myself a fresh start. However, we can’t forget to honor the work we’ve done. I’ve put 10 years of hard work into improving my practice. So each year, along with my fresh outlook and new starting point, I remind myself that teaching is a journey. Educators can take rest stops along the way (taking the form of vacations), but we do not go back to the beginning each September. I wholeheartedly accept the fresh start to the road, with my experience of the road behind me in tow.
This summer I really analyzed where I sat in regards to TPEP. I decided that this year I want to live in the world of differentiation. I know I’ve dabbled in the effective zone of differentiation throughout my career, but after really digesting the State 8 definition, I see that I have some work to do to really live there. According to TPEP, differentiation is defined as, “the teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual, intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.”
My district uses CEL 5D+ as their evaluation tool, meaning differentiation is part of Criterion 3: Recognizing individual student learning needs and developing strategies to address those needs. While I have been deliberate in differentiating instruction before, I think I can use some readily available resources to effectively target my instruction for each student. Due to my new position in working primarily with ELL students and students needing interventions, I refined a process I’m going to try to use this year with greater fidelity. The main area I see myself as missing has been in aligning my instruction and expected instructional outcomes to the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPs) my ELL students are held to. Here is how I’m hoping to incorporate them to become more proficient in differentiation.
1) When planning instruction, be sure both language goals and content goals are present. You can read more about how I do this here.
2) Match my content goal to the standard(s) relevant for my ELL and language deficit students.
3) Determine where each student falls on this rubric, based on WELPA and classroom data. Even non-ELL students land on this chart. For example teaching 2nd grade students how to identify main idea aligns with this chart:
4) Fill out a planner much like this one to help myself identify measurable outcomes that are reasonable for each student. PDF of this planner is available here!
5) Of course – teach, assess, and re-teach until all of my students reach their language and content goals. The key here is to look at each student as an individual, and further scaffold their learning to meet the expectations of the groups they are part of.
Now, I do not think this organizational planner by any means is the sole vehicle to effective differentiation. However, what I do know is that recognizing a subgroup of students (in this case my ELL students and kids with similar deficits) and purposefully planning for them in a way they deserve is the stepping stone for meeting the needs – all the needs – of all of my students.
That’s part one of my year long journey to improved differentiation, instruction my students deserved, and distinguished ratings on TPEP. And when next year comes, it will probably continue. After all, my years are just legs of a long road trip.
Happy September! Enjoy being back with students!
And share your TPEP goals with us here below in the comments!
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.