How Are You Smart? What Students with Learning Disabilities are Teaching Us



would anybody else like to share dark our quote to Carol Ann Tomlinson anybody agree or disagree teaching a class can be a challenge in any situation but when you have one student diagnosed with an attention deficit another with Asperger's syndrome mixed in with two or three who are grade levels ahead just getting through a lesson can seem impossible and also during it let's say somebody talks out of turn Michael Michael let's say somebody talks out your eye man never mind igniting young minds with a passion for learning but what if we were to tell you promise you that you can teach even the hardest to reach child and at the same time create a better classroom environment for all of your students yeah I definitely had experiences where I was in a classroom and they were teaching everybody the same way and sometimes it worked for me but oftentimes it didn't the learning disabilities Association of Colorado is an organization dedicated to the success of all students our mission helping teachers counselors administrators and parents lift kids with learning differences to their full potential we do that through consultations advocacy on behalf of students with learning disabilities and through seminars for teachers you are about to see how Lda sees strategies come alive in the classroom and there's no better model for these innovative methods than master teacher Phillipe Erna wine since 1997 Phillipe has been a teacher at Denver Academy an independent school designed specifically for students with learning differences or non-traditional learning styles since 1972 Denver Academy has focused on the unique learning profile of each child an approach that has transformed the classroom experience look at you this is fantastic hey one of the ways I want to challenge you is writing is your strength and not just here what LD AC has learned at schools like Denver Academy can work anywhere in the average school in America 14 percent of students have an identified disability remember there's no wrong answer you're writing down your response to this so what exactly have we learned in terms of best practices think about them as a four-pronged approach transferable to any classroom here are the basics first take a fresh look at each child in your class and one by one instead of asking yourself how smart is he or how smart is she ask how is he smart second understand the learning profiles in your classroom where are the visual learners the musical learners are their students with attentional issues and how do I rewrite the details of that learning style or difference in a way that will help me create breakthroughs for that child next plan for differentiated instruction this one sounds loaded how do you reach each and every one of your kids when they all require something unique from you differentiated instruction is the key to your success and your students and we'll talk about how to make differentiated instruction integral in your classroom lastly we'll give you some classroom management techniques that form a strong foundation for everything else you do as a teacher all of these things all four will help you reach and teach students with learning differences and what's more their best practice in any classroom to see exactly how the solution works for students we're enlisting help from four truly remarkable kids from Denver Academy Michael Terence Emmy and Paul have all benefited from having Phillipe erna wine as their teacher they all have learning differences and one thing is clear for each of them traditional teaching methods failed in my younger years I spent a whole lot of time telling stories in the privacy of my own head to the degree that it didn't really occur to me that I was different from anybody else there's one occasion I've always particularly remembered it was in the third grade and the teacher was pulling us pulling us all together to do this reading group type of thing and as you know as I was walking over there I was I was dreaming up a character to draw in my head and I was trying to work out this character's expression so as I'm walking over there I'm going and you know and she immediately proceeded to drag me out of the room and lecture me on how I was not to stick my tongue out at her after those first couple weeks it just turned into habit and I would separate myself you know of my own doing simply because I was simply because I'd been separated you know just in the in the desks in the classroom and so I made that connection of that must be what I'm supposed to do I'm introverted that doesn't mean I'm quiet that doesn't mean I'm anti-social that means I am in my head a lot and it's very overactive any sort of project in anything I'm doing is very intense and focused and you know tunnel vision and that was definitely a huge problem in a traditional setting when I was almost like quaint you know the class clown the you know ever-present kind of archetype but it got a little frustrating like it definitely set aside myself as a fringe character I built and I hesitate not to call it a legacy of of disaster and failure and this weird you know because you can't take pride in your work you end up having to take pride in your failure I was diagnosed with a DD in second grade I've always said that I pretty much think every second grader has a DD so didn't really feel like I had a problem then but it basically consisted of forgetting my lunchbox and making excuses like my dog ate my homework like that kind of thing I got it done but it would get lost in my backpack it got to a point where I just didn't want to be in class just because I do little things that I thought were normal but they clearly didn't so you just don't understand what's wrong and you see your friends sitting there like at the desks doing the work and you're sitting there like God give me a deck of cards or something because I can't sit here and you don't get it so then you say can I go to the bathroom I need to go to the bathrooms and you'll stay there for the rest of class because you just can't you just can't sit there for that long how I literally felt was a bunch of just energy you know just balled up I wanted to run around do you know a billion things at once and so knowing that I couldn't do that all the time that I wanted to was really hard it was not knowing why either too was a big thing you know it's why I'm hyper than more hyper than everyone else and for what reason you know it was mostly with seventh grade I had a teacher that since I was so disruptive in class every day she just sent me to the office right when I got to her class so she just you know didn't ever want to talk to me about it or anything it kind of hurt like mm-hmm was really because I wasn't doing on purpose like she thought I was for remarkable kids and each of them received an invaluable gift in the course of their education that has transformed how they approach learning and brought them to where they are today it's a gift every single teacher can bring into his or her classroom to create that same transformation over and over again so let's get to it so much of the problem whether you're talking about students who have trouble in school or creativity in general is that schools are built upon this question of asking how smart are you and that really schools need to start moving toward this question and that's why I'm grateful to be at the Denver Academy because I think we asked this every single day and that is how are you smart at school it was hard because I was a smart kid and I was put in the stupid kid piled even though they're often very bright many kids with learning differences are given the clear message they're not smart enough to do the work people think oh since he can't focus he can't do anything instead I can't focus on one thing I can do multiple things that one I've been wondering kind of in this last week of preparing with these students and doing research what it would be like to be a fly on the wall say on Albert Einstein's parent student teacher conference or Pablo Picasso's parent student teacher conference what would have been said there what would have been happening there he imagined mr. and mrs. McCartney Paul really needs to stop writing silly little love songs right but can you imagine mr. mrs. Davis it's time that Miles puts down the trumpet and pick up the math book phillipe offers an acronym that can help you remember the different types of intelligences in your classroom in a denver academy were fond of saying follow your bliss body or natural intelligence for the athletes and dancers logical and quantitative for the mathematicians interpersonal for students who like to look inward or interpersonal for the extroverts and spatial or musical for artists musicians and performers that first day of school each year when you meet a student any student instead of the fundamental question we all secretly ask ourselves that question how smart are you look at that student and wonder how are you smart I think this asking this question will truly revolutionize the learning experience and change the story of learning for tens of thousands of students around the world right now and it's going to unlock unfathomable potential talent creativity innovation that I think honestly has been punished marginalized and overlooked for for way too long each student brings his or her unique learning profile into the classroom I just want to spend a moment on the part that we have no control over and that is the student race look we can influence this and nudge and be like that River and Bend the banks a little bit but ultimately this is the stuff we can't necessarily change their readiness level all these students are coming in with a certain readiness level to a classroom to this presentation varying interest we can influence those interests I think that's part of our job as educators but they're coming in with a certain set of interests they're learning profile again we can influence that create strategies but they're coming in wired a certain way and all differently and the last piece is effect how are they feeling about their own learning Seth what are you thinking about I think I'm gonna write a narrative the traits of student brings into the classroom maybe beyond our control although by focusing on what we can control we can influence them understanding those traits and rewriting them for ourselves is something we can master so if you could take a moment right now let me kind of get off the stage and get the students ready in turn your journals but you're thinking about a student right now or you're thinking about your own learning you are I know you are that's why you're here you're passionate you're invested so my question to you is who are you thinking about I am sure you've had students who are difficult to reach right now and as we go forward I want you to think about those students a kid who just can't seem to focus who panics over tests who's so bright but refuses to do the work learning differences show up as behaviors like these to break through understand a student's diagnosis and then this is critical we write it let's take a closer look at rewriting we're really almost rewriting a curse here in a way and turning it into a blessing so how can we make the information that is given to us by this diagnostic Statistical Manual and make it more useful for us as educators as individuals as adults who are involved in the lives of children I'm very hyperactive and impulsive our four students explain this best at our last conference what they're about to read from is the accepted standard the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders I've never particularly liked the word disorder in this context it's it's more of an alternate order watch what happens when Michael and Paul reframe the question how smart are you and tell us just how they're smart we begin with Michael's own diagnosis how Asperger's syndrome for example we have under under heading a here marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye to eye gaze facial expression body postures and gestures to regulate social interaction how could we rewrite we could say say what you mean I mean and for you're a teacher you ought to be verbalizing everything you can't expect to cross your arms and go like this tut tut sometimes an Asperger's person might not notice that that means stop what you're doing so say what you mean be verbal and be clear number two failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level this person is extremely resistant to peer pressure persistent preoccupation with parts of objects you notice details this is a blessing you can use this approach to rewrite the learning profile of just about any student one of the things that I think applies to me and may apply to other people is that up I have more understanding taking interest in something that actually interests me for instance ADHD here's what the manual says ADHD symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention difficulty controlling behavior and hyperactivity and here's a rewritten version adept at multitasking abundant energy that can be directed into learning sometimes all you need to rewrite a kid's learning profile and maybe his future in education is a fresh pair of eyes the result is nothing short of transformative now we come to the big gorilla with all these different learning profiles in the classroom all these personalities interests needs somehow we need to differentiate instruction in a way that benefits all of our students we understand this is no simple task here's how a group of very dedicated teachers express their concerns about differentiating instruction in the general ed class that I teach in you have kids that are really high readers really low readers and trying to find something that's meaningful for everyone that's an area where I struggle it's a dance you're doing constantly and it takes so much energy to this person over here needs to have this and then I have to take the two step over here and then the waltz step over here with this one and by the time you know to keep that level of energy all the time in a classroom is impossible maybe another week would help the kid but your district or whatever saying no at this point you have to be here since music isn't test and I didn't really realize that until I started teaching ap music theory and you have to get your kids ready to take the test so even when you don't really intend to do that you start teaching towards the test it becomes less about the kids and more about the curriculum reaching reaching these goals and they're often you know kind of resident it's not their arbitrary goals by any means but you know I mean if the goal is really about the student and making them whole and really making a connection and you cannot a test for that you know you're right how do you score that so it becomes I think very easy to distract teachers from what truly is essential a lot of times it feels you're you're on the verge of unlocking something great and then the management of the classroom gets in the way and you have to deal with the other students you know who still need your attention but you're right on the verge of something wonderful and then you get called away to do something else and that moment is so brief and it's lost every one of these concerns is legitimate every single one there's not enough time not enough money not enough understanding of what teachers go through on a daily basis but now we're going to ask you even if you're feeling a little spent to think back to that very first day standing in front of a class what was your vision for that classroom what did you want to bring to those kids maybe you're doing exactly that or maybe you're coming to the conclusion those goals were never realistic if you are right now trying to forget you ever had that vision please don't hang on to it for a while longer with school it was hard because when they don't want you involved in the in-class really takes a toll when no one wants you around and you don't want to be there it was very easy to disappear and you know be kind of in that structure and that was the point where the teachers were like well it's your decision to fail and in it trying to incite this kind of guilt in me and I was like okay great fantastic so I'll just be here and you'll be there and I can do my opinion you can do that it'll work perfect remember there's no wrong answer but you're writing down your response to this differentiated instruction means you're flexible and how you teach you manage your class and present your curriculum so each individual learner can fulfill their promise students have options in how they take in what you're teaching how they make sense of it and how they demonstrate what they've learned here's what's critical as you differentiate instruction each step along the way remember the learning profiles in your classroom and how you've rewritten them based on those varied profiles establish your goals what do you expect each to know and understand what tasks should they be able to perform now share your goals with your kids so they know what's expected of them and lastly this is the fun part look at the basic content and tasks and get creative how can you adapt them for a range of learners how can you draw in the varied interests and passions you see in those young faces if you try to teach a student purely on an academic level academia and students generally are not compatible in and of themselves but if you provide even one small step to the emotional and psychological development of that student then suddenly you have earned their respect and their attention and everything becomes easier let me be clear here we are not talking about teaching to the lowest common denominator nor are we talking about personalized instruction for every child in your class so what are we talking about it will help if we break differentiated instruction down further into classroom elements by classroom elements I mean content process and product when we talk about differentiating content we mean giving a class options in what they learn options that fit a range of readiness levels and appeal to different interests genders and backgrounds differentiated process means communicating the lesson in a variety of ways differentiated product means giving kids some creative license in how they show you what they've absorbed you'll see all three classroom elements addressed here in a lesson about how individuals learn first differentiating content since this is a lesson about different styles of learning Philippe has asked students to focus on themselves as learners content is differentiated from the start now differentiated process Paul tells us why differentiating process is so important we're letting ourselves become disaffected and disenchanted with simply because of the way it's presented or because we can't present it back in an interesting way or because we simply don't get it because it's being told to us and we'd rather read it or it's being read to us and we'd rather see it or it's being you know or we're looking at it and we'd rather do this or that that can be a basic class discussion because for some of your students that's great make sure the kids who need your help most are closer to you during the discussion walk around the room let your students partner or break them into groups so they can help each other move from one team to the next when you reach a group that's easily grasping the material spur them on to learn more with a group that's struggling remediate go over the basics one more time remember relatively few kids are auditory learners whether they're diagnosed with learning differences or not so write things down as Barrett is handing out part of our one of the handouts for today let's get started by on the board we have our do now provide an outline or guided notes whenever possible use your overhead or whiteboard I want us to respond to this quote you can write down the quote or not write down the quote what I definitely want you to write down is do you agree with that can you think of examples in your own life where that's been the case one very simple tool giving students a heads up about what's coming next we're moving into the mini lesson okay and it's really our mini lesson today is the project introduction this is not a surprise you know this is coming we've talked about this already and you can follow along in the handout and one more trick think of creative ways to add a physical component to learning I agree I feel that every student learns things in different ways anybody else care to share I that you agree or can you thinking of an example in your life where maybe you were one of these students we'll go Bridget Kelsey Barrett right across there start with Bridget with dyslexia you have different ways than everyone else's learning these suggestions are what we call low prep you can incorporate them into your school year without major changes to the way you teach differentiated product asks each of your students to get in touch with how he or she processes information and to tap into his or her gifts and passions by product we mean the major assignment for a unit now we're going to challenge you with a high prep strategy for differentiating product say you've got a kid who sits toward the back of the room who's checking out he's lost in the class discussion even when you're right in front of him or when you're writing everything on the board but you know that boy is artistic or maybe you're trying to reach a girl who loves music hums to herself all through third period and drums on the desk when she thinks you're not looking you can offer these two very different students alternatives and how they approach a project how they show they've mastered the material there are a few pictures to share with you of how students in the past have done the project that you're about to do right now Philippe asks his class to complete a product that sums up who they are and how they learn for a teacher they haven't met yet identify your learning strengths and areas of need by offering students alternatives you're giving them new ways to grasp success our project will have two parts and the the first part is the written part in this case Philippe makes a written component mandatory but the students can write a script a journal a newspaper article whatever type of document they want but watch what happens as their choices widen for the second part of this project options based on the particular way each student is smart you could do a self-portrait a cartoon printing photography documentary you could do an interview I'm a very musical inclined person I'm a theatrical person I'm here till six o'clock every night in theatre practicing for the musical the plays whatever I gave my life to this school pretty much and knowing that I can I can take a project and I still have to do the essays I still have to do what I don't want to I still have to do math problems but I can also incorporate what I love to do with the projects which really helps and I've become such a great writer and I actually enjoy math now because I the teachers know what I'm interested in and I get to incorporate that into all that I do okay Zack what are you thinking about I'm think about doing a comic book differentiated products are usually graded and are most effective when students help grade themselves learning is only so much connecting is what you need to do I mean sure maybe the curriculum at school isn't the most fascinating stuff but I'll tell you this it does lead some some pretty amazing stuff if you let it if you let this information grow and connect and intertwine it's it's crazy what you can like discover let's talk briefly about one tool for differentiated instruction that both teachers and students say is a standout it's a medium prep strategy that combines content process and product it's journaling with your students the journal can really help you feel like you have a part in the classroom have a relationship with your teacher can really help out a relationship me and mr. earn align really didn't have the best relationship when I would before I was in this classroom for a sophomore year I used to have less hair and I have beanie with nails in it and I couldn't have that at school because I could try other people and he had to take that away from me I have things with hats and I like to have taken away from me so he was the devil in my eyes really didn't like him so throughout our year we journaled and got to know each other a little bit better and he's one of my favorite people ever now he handed out all these little composition notebooks and just once a week we would write him a little paragraph even you know about something we thought had happened this you know week or one of our opinions something we were having a problem with we had to journal him at least once a week the journal is a relationship builder a chance for them to tell you who they are I wrote I think every day every other day but his deal is as soon as you turn in your journal he will get back to you within 24 hours um which is awesome and I've never really heard of someone that can do that but that's that's huge none of this is easy differentiated instruction takes time energy commitment the teachers we spoke with agree though it's all worth it there just isn't always time for creativity every day so I think you know I think the important part is that there is going to be time for that and if there's not at all then it's hard to maybe build up and and withstand some of the times with the repetition in the practice I think we need to give students that sense of empowerment they want to be treated and taught as an individual not as a student or as a member of a class and I think that as long as we we do that and we form relationships with individual students and we we teach the student not that the curriculum or the group we're actually targeting our instruction to individual students and styles of learning I think that's where we find the most success finally we should talk about learning environment learning environment has a number of facets to it and it helps to remember the acronym press P pragmatic learning environment anything you do more than once make a routine for it that way everyone knows their role and what to expect relationship simply saying hello greeting your students can improve the relationship environment in your classroom dramatically environmental does what's around them connect to the content you're teaching and finally spatial a new study tells us we all learn best when we very environment so redesign your space often not to sing any praises but earn one happened to be my teacher and one of the first things we did is we went for a hike the whole class yes we can go outside we can walk on this beautiful fall afternoon we're going to walk up there and we're going to write and it was just huge I was like I knew it was going to be different learning environment leads neatly into the fourth and last of the best practices we'll cover here classroom management in pursuit of good classroom management here's another acronym for you hands hands is a helpful guide for group interactions H hands up verbally remind students to raise their hand when they want to contribute a arm raised your arm goes up as a visual reminder for students to raise their hands before talking and need to wave off when someone in the class is disruptive or off task wave them off and if that doesn't get the job done D direct confrontation look that student straight in the eyes use his or her name and explain the consequence of their behavior and then if the student still won't cooperate s see you after class effective classroom management goes beyond rules and reminders like these it's balancing serious work with a little celebration when your students meet their goals it's not just up to you to create a great place to learn it's up to your kids too now we've covered a lot of ground together here but let me assure you these solutions are real the difference they make is real the kids you met here today they were the problem children now their leaders I know so much more about myself now than I think I ever would my entire lifetime in just three years my dream is to own a salon a / spa and I am well on my way to doing that Terrence plans to study paleontology for Starr varsity baseball Adam amusing lover creative spirit justice have a good future paleontologists high school graduate you know Bart even say proud of myself that I've gotten this far because it you know I don't ever thought I would think about getting this far teachers caring about me made me care about school and then that made me want to be successful I have definitely come almost to a dangerous degree just immersed in all this stuff that I am personally exploring and that is I'm learning at school I feel like I can do what I feel is important or what I feel is unimportant but I like to do anyways the way you continue to learn as a teacher is by taking feedback from your students it's not the teacher helping the student up to their level it's the two of them growing together which is absolutely the best form of that there's no nobler profession than teaching no job comes with greater rewards for a child struggling with a learning difference you are the best hope your continued learning your commitment to excellence your creativity as a teacher can reinvent someone's future good luck and anytime you need a little help you can always find us here you

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