A Simple Smile

A smile is a powerful weapon; you can even break ice with it.  ~Author Unknown

Every day I stand outside and watch my children board the bus. As the bus driver rounds the corner to head to school I always wave and raise my cup of coffee to her. She always waves and honks.

Over the winter break I missed this daily exchange and told her yesterday afternoon when I met the bus. She said my smile and wave every morning makes her day. I was reminded what an impact a simple smile and wave can have on another person. Smile at your colleagues and students today because…

We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.

-Mother Teresa

The Needs of the Average Learner

“Researchers from the University of South Carolina discovered that average students routinely learn in large group settings that don’t allow them to stand out or contribute in unique ways. Teachers tend to lecture or supervise ‘seat work.’ As a result, students passively receive new information and have few opportunities to apply skills, conduct experiments, or solve complex problems. the researchers found that average students believe that their effort, more than their innate abilities, helped them get ahead.”   Holland, 2000

If what research has shown about the average learner is true, then the average learner has needs, too. They need a teacher who finds out what their interests are and builds on them. They need a teacher who discovers the learning style of each student and gives them opportunities to to learn in varied modalities that match those styles. They need a teacher who will ask complex questions and expect that the students will be able to answer them–especially if the questions are attached to a learning experience that was built on their interests, learning style, and readiness level.

Average learners were the ones sitting in my classroom who wanted to be pulled out by a resource teacher for specialized instruction and individualized attention. They wanted to go to the “Talented and Gifted” class and do the really cool stuff that only the gifted children get to do. They wanted to be treated with dignity and respect as special people with special needs. They wanted to be given work that was qualitatively challenging, meaningful, and respectful so that the task became its own reward.

How do the average learners you know respond when someone recognizes and builds on their unique and special abilities?

The Average Learner

“The largest group of students in most schools consists of adolescents whose test scores hover between the upper and lower extremes. Without the academic labels that focus special attention on the most advanced and disabled students, average students–the so-called “woodwork children” who tend to fade into the background–get whatever is left over in many schools.”

-Holland, 2000

I am frequently asked if Tabor Rotation will help a teacher differentiate instruction. Administrators and teachers want to know if Tabor Rotation is an answer to RtI (Response to Intervention) and a way to incorporate small groups into an instructional setting. My answer is always an enthusiastic, Yes! But, I don’t always verbalize my next thought…”Is your school following the fundamentals of RtI? Are all of your teachers differentiating instruction for all learners, not just the ones who aren’t on grade level?”

Burggraf and Sotomayer state,

“The Response to Intervention (RtI) Model assumes that all students receive research-based, high quality, differentiated instruction from a general educator in a general education setting.”

So…the foundation for every classroom is that all students receive high quality, differentiated instruction–that includes the average learner, too.

I feel for the average learner. They are the ones who rarely receive any individualized attention or differentiation based upon their needs, interests, or learning styles. Why? Because they are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They are displaying appropriate behavior. They “get” concepts after just a few exposures to them. They don’t need any intervention. Right?

Do you agree or disagree? What do you do to help the average learner?

Differentiated Instruction: A Learner’s Bill of Rights

“What we call differentiated is not a recipe for teaching. It is not an instructional strategy. It is not what a teacher does when he or she has time. It is a way of thinking about teaching and learning. It is a philosophy.”

-Carol Ann Tomlinson

Does this “square up” with your beliefs? It does with mine! I believe that differentiated instruction is a way of thinking about teaching and learning. This way of thinking has shaped my professional life as I continue to help and inspire my colleagues and fellow educators.

I have a passion for differentiating instruction that spans throughout my career and over a decade of facilitating professional development training. I was first asked to facilitate a workshop on differentiated instruction in December of 1997. I had read many books and articles on the topic and revisited them. After preparing the workshop content, I pondered over what to call my presentation. No title seemed to express what I was trying to say better than, Differentiated Instruction: A Learner’s Bill of Rights.  I knew that I was on the right track when I took a master set of handouts to a local printing shop to be copied for the workshop.

The clerk who took my order looked at the title page, then back at me. She shook her head vehemently and said, “Will the people you are presenting to believe it? I hope so. If more teachers thought this way, then my son wouldn’t have struggled every year.”

She went on to tell me the story of her son’s school career. He was an average learner who never really qualified for resource or intervention. According to the district standard’s and testing instruments, he wasn’t considered gifted or talented. Basically, he didn’t get anything extra because he didn’t meet the criteria. However, she said, he was a divergent learner. His teachers primarily taught whole group from the front of the classroom. The main
tools used for disseminating information were textbooks and worksheets. Her son learned best through hands-on experiences where he was allowed to move around and participate verbally. His teachers thought he was disrespectful when he wouldn’t finish all of his workbook pages while sitting quietly at his desk in the last row. Sound familiar to anyone?

While the handout copies were being made she continued to tell me her son’s story. She kept going back to the fact that he learned differently and never had those differences recognized, respected, and integrated into his learning.
She wasn’t angry, but she just wondered what would have happened if his teachers had been willing to change what they were doing in their classroom so that her son would have been excited about learning. She wondered if he would have had the chance to prove to himself that he was smart.

She asked me what I was going to tell the teachers I was working with that week. She really wanted to know how I was going to convince the teachers who didn’t want to change. I told her that I was going to help the teachers explore ways to shake up what was going on in their classroom and to move each and every student a little bit further than they were the day before.

The more I shared with her, the more she shook her head in agreement. She called over several other employees and asked me to explain what I was doing to them. Every single person I spoke with that day knew of
someone who had been impacted by the packaging of education in a one size fits all manner. Each time I have presented on the topic, “Differentiated Instruction: A Learner’s Bill of Rights,” I hear a story about a learner who
fell through the cracks in their educational setting.

I know my role isn’t just to instruct and facilitate workshops on the topic. I hope to inspire other educators to more rigorously and systematically differentiating instruction. I hope to encourage all schools to truly do what is best for all students.

Students have a right to a learning environment that responds to their needs. Students have the right to have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn (Tomlinson, 2000).

Students have the right to be respectfully, meaningfully, and qualitatively challenged every day so they can meet and exceed their potential.

Tabor Rotation is a structure for helping teachers provide for these rights.

Speaking of Tabor Rotation…I’ve been busy getting the word out…

I went to Montgomery County, Maryland and worked with dedicated teachers as they continue to realize their vision for their students.

I just came back from Flour Bluff ISD in south Texas. I was so impressed with the receptivity and enthusiasm of the teachers and administrators! In one demonstration of Tabor Rotation we explored prime and composite numbers, factor pairs, factor rainbows, and greatest common factor. The
students were “sold” on the effectiveness of the structure and couldn’t wait to do it again! Not only that, but the students knew what all of the concepts were and wanted to know more!!!

In a few weeks, I’ll be in San Antonio ISD. Tabor Rotation was introduced in October and I’m going back to support their incredible efforts to do what is best for all of their students.

Look for a new podcast this week and remember…if you have questions or comments email me, glenna@taborrotation.com or via my website email.

For those of you who are on this journey with me and are trying to “shake up” the mathematics instruction in your room, I believe this quote is about you:

“Innovators and creators are persons who can, to a higher degree than average accept the condition of aloneness.

They are more willing to follow their own vision even when it takes them far from the mainland of the human community.

Unexplored spaces do not frighten them- or as much as they frighten those around them.

This is one of the secrets of their power.

That which we call “genius” has a great deal to do with courage and daring,

a great deal to do with nerve.”

-Nathaniel Branden

“What we call differentiated is not a recipe for teaching. It is not an instructional strategy. It is not what a

teacher does when he or she has time. It is a way of thinking about teaching and learning. It is a philosophy.”

-Carol Ann Tomlinson

I believe the above quote. I believe that differentiated instruction is a way of thinking about teaching and

learning. This way of thinking has shaped my professional life as I continue to strive to do what is best for my

colleagues and fellow educators.

I have a passion for differentiating instruction that spans over a decade of training. I was first asked to

facilitate a workshop on differentiated instruction in December of 1997. I had read many books and articles on the

topic and revisited them. After preparing the workshop content, I pondered over what to call my presentation. No

title seemed to express what I was trying to say better than, Differentiated Instruction: A Learner’s Bill of

Rights. I knew that I was on the right track when I took a master set of handouts to a local printing shop to be

copied for the workshop.

The clerk who took my order looked at the title page, then back at me. She shook her head vehemently and said, “Will

the people you are presenting to believe it? I hope so. If more teachers thought this way, then my son wouldn’t have

struggled every year.”

She went on to tell me the story of her son’s school career. He was an average learner who never really qualified

for resource or intervention. According to the district standard’s and testing instruments, he wasn’t considered

gifted or talented. Basically, he didn’t get anything extra because he didn’t meet the criteria. However, she said,

he was a divergent learner. His teachers primarily taught whole group from the front of the classroom. The main

tools used for disseminating information were textbooks and worksheets. Her son learned best through hands-on

experiences where he was allowed to move around and participate verbally. His teachers thought he was disrespectful

when he wouldn’t finish all of his workbook pages while sitting quietly at his desk in the last row. Sound familiar

to anyone?

While the handout copies were being made she continued to tell me her son’s story. She kept going back to the fact

that he learned differently and never had those differences recognized, respected, and integrated into his learning.

She wasn’t angry, but she just wondered what would have happened if his teachers had been willing to change what

they were doing in their classroom so that her son would have been excited about learning. She wondered if he would

have had the chance to prove to himself that he was smart.

She asked me what I was going to tell the teachers I was working with that week. She really wanted to know how I was

going to convince the teachers who didn’t want to change. I told her that I was going to help the teachers explore

ways to shake up what was going on in their classroom and to move each and every student ahead a little bit more

than where they were the day before.

The more I shared with her, the more she shook her head in agreement. She eventually called over several other

employees and asked me to explain what I was doing to them. Every single person I spoke with that day knew of

someone who had been impacted by the packaging of education in a one size fits all manner. Each time I have

presented on the topic, “Differentiated Instruction: A Learner’s Bill of Rights,” I hear a story about a learner who

fell through the cracks in their educational setting. I know my role isn’t just to instruct and facilitate workshops

on the topic. I hope to inspire other educators to more rigorously and systematically differentiating instruction. I

hope to encourage all schools to truly do what is best for all students.

Students have a right to a learning environment that responds to their needs. Students have the right to have

multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn (Tomlinson, 2000).

Students have the right to be respectfully, meaningfully, and qualitatively challenged every day so they can reach

and exceed their potential. Tabor Rotation is a structure for helping teachers provide for these rights.

This week’s podcast, “Differentiating Instruction Using Tabor Rotation” explains how the structure of Tabor Rotation

naturally integrates the key components of differentiated instruction into a week of mathematics. The podcast

discusses how Tabor Rotation is a perfect tool for differentiating instruction in the mathematics classroom. I will

discuss how Tabor Rotation provides for all learners through the differentiating of content, process, and product

based on a learner’s style, interests, and readiness level. You will probably want to print out the free Tabor

Rotation Planning Guide to refer to during the podcast. There is also a sample Tabor Rotation Planning Guide that

may assist you when planning on your own.
Be sure and sign up for regular notification of podcasts via ITunes at the top of this page. Become a part of the

Tabor Rotation collaborative community of learners by clicking the buttons for Twitter and Facebook that are on this

page. Remember…if you have questions or comments email me, glenna@taborrotation.com or via my website email.

I’ve been to Montgomery County, Maryland since my last blog and worked with some of the most dedicated teachers as

they realized their vision for their students. In late October I was in Flour Bluff ISD in south Texas. I was so

impressed with the receptivity and enthusiasm of the teachers and administrators! In one demonstration of Tabor

Rotation we explored prime and composite numbers, factor pairs, factor rainbows, and greatest common factor. The

students were “sold” on the effectiveness of the structure and couldn’t wait to do it again!Not only that, but the

students knew what all of the concepts were and wanted to know more!!!

In a few weeks, I’ll be back in San Antonio ISD. Tabor Rotation was introduced in October and I’m going back to

support their incredible efforts to do what is best for all of their students. For those of you who are on this

journey with me and are trying to “shake up” the mathematics instruction in your room, I believe this quote is about

you:

“Innovators and creators are persons who can, to a higher degree than average accept the condition of aloneness.

They are more willing to follow their own vision even when it takes them far from the mainland of the human

community. Unexplored spaces do not frighten them- or as much as they frighten those around them. This is one of the

secrets of their power. That which we call “genius” has a great deal to do with courage and daring, a great deal to

do with nerve.”

-Nathaniel Branden

Tabor Rotation in Middle School & High School Math

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”                                                          -Author-T. Roosevelt

It’s the first few weeks of school and I really want to encourage you to continue with the same enthusiasm and vigor that educators have at the beginning of each school year.  I also want to commend you on being willing to go forth with the cause of “doing what is best for all students” even when it’s not the easiest path to follow.

The above quote says it all. Educators are not “timid souls” because you spend yourself “in a worthy cause.” Today’s blog and podcast are designed to help the teachers who want to implement small groups but may have the challenges of an intense curriculum and/or shorter instructional time frames.

One of these teachers, LaLonnie from Texas, submitted the following to me after a Tabor Rotation session this summer:

“First, I would like to say that your presentations at CAMT in Houston captivated me. I have been searching for a way to teach in small groups and hit all the areas that you designed in Tabor Rotation. I am still concerned with time. I only have 1 hour ten minutes a day and on Thursdays only 45 minutes. Is it still possible to do Tabor Rotation? I think I can do it, I’m just not sure.”

The podcast today, “Tabor Rotation in Middle School and High School Math” will address LaLonnie’s concerns. It features questions from educators who want to know how to use Tabor Rotation in middle school and high school math and educators from all levels who deal with time constraints. The podcast also discusses how to best fit effective strategies from differentiated instruction such as note taking, partner work in Think-Pair-Share, and readiness groups into a week of Tabor Rotation. The podcast continues with how and when to fit many mathematical concepts into one week of instruction.

Be sure and become a part of the Tabor Rotation collaborative community of learners by clicking the buttons for Twitter and Facebook that are also on this page. If you have questions or comments,  email me glenna@taborrotation.com or via my website email.

On Friday, September 18, I’ll be presenting at ESC Region 2’s RTI Conference. I’m really excited about sharing ideas for how to “respond to intervention” and how to eliminate most of the need for intervention through the use of Tabor Rotation. After such an enthusiastic response from the participants brought in by Molly Argo and Barbara Purcell in August, I can’t wait to meet more dedicated and eager educators from around the Corpus Christi area!

Podcast: Tabor Rotation in Middle School and High School Math