Differentiating Instruction for 21st Century Learning

This Year’s Priorities

Part II. Differentiating Instruction for 21st Century Learning

We continue to utilize a variety of strategies to differentiate instruction in order to meet the needs of every student and to develop students’ habits of mind.

Habits of Mind

The phrase “Habits of Mind” refers to the thinking skills, dispositions and character at the heart of life-long learning. Helping students develop these habits of mind is part of our school vision.

Last year a study group of ten educators participated in a study group (funded by the Brookline Education Foundation or BEF) to learn about “habits of mind.”  Group members experimented with different ways to provide both explicit instruction in and practice applying these habits.

This year, the Habits of Mind study group will expand from ten to sixteen members, covering grades 1, 2, 3 & 5 as well as Gr. 6/7 Math and Science, Physical Education, and Special Education.  Teachers will continue to develop the intentional and explicit use of Habits of Mind language and strategies in classrooms, as well as educate and involve parents in supporting the language and strategies at home.

With the support of a second generous grant from the BEF, several group members will participate in on-line coursework offered through WIDE World at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Monica Crowley and I are currently enrolled in a course called “Leading for Understanding” and will have the opportunity to learn with educators from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Singapore. In the spring semester, five teachers will enroll in a course called “Making Thinking Visible.”  Our course work will help deepen our knowledge and inform our future work in this area.

Updated Massachusetts Mathematics Curriculum Frameworks

As Brookline begins to shift and align curriculum with the 2011 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and Common Core State Standards, our school will focus on mathematics, including recommended shifts in content and mathematical practices.   In terms of content, the new standards lead to an increased focus on critical areas to narrow and deepen the curriculum.   The new standards also include an emphasis on nine mathematical practices.   Two examples of these practices will appear on student conference reports this year:

  • Making sense of problems and persevering in solving them.
  • Communicating mathematical reasoning and ideas using words, numbers and/or pictures.

There are strong connections to be made between these mathematical practices and habits of mind.

Institutionalizing Landmark Strategies

We continue the work to institutionalize practices and strategies resulting from three-year partnership with the Landmark School Outreach Program (2009-12).  The partnership helped us develop common language-based instructional strategies that best support students with learning differences and to improve instructional practices, particularly related to inclusion. Resource binders of strategies have now been completed and disseminated for teacher use.

Including Parents in Learning

Math Specialists Anu Advani, Katy McGraw and Malia Scott gave an informative presentation on the new math standards at a well-attended Principal’s Forum on October 3. Download PowerPoint presentation:Understanding the Transition to the Updated MA Math Standards in K-5

We will also provide other opportunities for you to learn more about habits of mind and the new math standards so that you can continue to support your children’s learning at home.

Rick Rogers

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