I am a retired school teacher. My current certificate expires next spring. Not one to wait until the last minute I am taking classes from PBS TeacherLine. I took a great reading strategy class last fall and it was terrific. So much of what is new in education is also tried and true. This summer I am taking a math class on differentiating instruction. Back in the day we called it individualized instruction and we had all sorts of names for how to provide extra help or remediation or enrichment for students. We also used the Accelerated Math program to customize math work for each student. It is time consuming. But as I reflect on teaching as a profession I realized that just as I don't want a doctor who treats me with a one size fits all approach, I don't want a teacher who treats a student in the same way. I want my doctor to take a unique interest in my health just like I would want a teacher to take a unique and focused interest on my educational path. It's hard in today's classroom to do that - time, resources and energy are needed and just are not always accessible.
I wish I had all of my resources and lessons from year's past accessible. I was on the leading edge of with the use of technology in the classroom. I had the first MAC on my hall in 1996 and produced the first onsite printed literary magazine with my class. I had a fax machine a few years later - in my classroom. Technology really made an impact on my teaching differentiation and it still does today. Today, I could have practically twenty plus years of teaching materials on a resource as small as my thumb. Simply by scanning I could have lesson plans, student samples, page images....a plethora of resources at my fingertips!
This week in my class I worked on a tiered lesson plan on long division. [It's due next week but I am never one to procrastinate!] New to me but after a rough start I found it quite easy to work out. When I was getting my teaching certificate, I read that long division cannot be effectively learned until a student is in the 8th grade! The research suggested that according to Piaget, a student in the 4th grade did not have the capacity to understand dividing something up and showing that as an algorithm. In a May 2010 article, The trouble with long division, in Teaching Children Mathematics [NCTM], teacher and students both viewed “the division algorithm as a set of procedures, not as a way to make sense of performing the division operation.” Further, the article stated that students could not grasp the meaning of the outcome and that the procedures were meaningless to them. Using a differentiated approach and emphasizing meaningful context lessons teachers in a risk-free environment benefited both the students and the teachers and teachers saw the benefits of using differentiated instruction in the classroom. In my most recent classroom experience I witnessed the stress students experienced with a procedural approach rather than a differentiated and student-centered approach to learning long division.
Click here for my handout for Long Division for Assignment # 2.
Click here to watch Andy teach long division!