Back to school time has always been exciting for me. I always feel like this is a chance for me to “start fresh” and try out new things (or just more differentiation…). I think to some degree, it is my opportunity to start over and be a better teacher than the year before.
As a kid (and still today), I always hated the first day of school. I always felt like it was a bit of a wasted day. I know it’s not really a waste because it’s important to lay the ground rules so the year can flow smoothly, and it’s critical that we know the students better in order to be successful at meeting their needs. However, it doesn’t change the rhythm of well… boredom. I have always thought that the first day was boring. I go over the rules, the procedures, the routines. Between those three things I mix in a few team building activities and “get-to-know-you” games. I try to mix it up a bit so that it doesn’t become too boring. One thing I can tell you from my nine (or almost 10) years of experience – the kids don’t learn all those routines, procedures, and expectations on the first day. (That’s why it’s a waste in my opinion- I’d rather just start right away with the content… but that’s my opinion and nothing more.)
Anyway, since I’m a huge differentiation buff, one of the things I always do on the first day of school is provide my students with my We Are All Different Glyph activity. I like this activity because first, it shows me right away who can follow directions. (Something it seems that I have to teach more and more of each year.) When I provide students with the glyph and its directions, I don’t really say a whole lot. I want to know who is more self-directed and who will need to learn independence a bit more. The second reason I enjoy this activity is that it tells me what each student enjoys and dislikes academically. This is important. I have found over the years that typically (though not always, so forgive my generalizations) when students don’t like a subject (especially in elementary school when they are so curious), it is because they aren’t good at it. To me, that becomes a personal mission to be that teacher who gets that child loving science or reading or whatever. I rarely see students who love reading and aren’t good at it. If they do like reading but aren’t good at it, then that indicates to me that he or she is willing to try hard. Another thing about using this glyph is I can determine which students like to work alone and which prefer to work in groups. Not only that, but it also tells me which students are more visual learners, auditory learners, or kinesthetic learners. Understanding this makeup of my students gives me a quick idea of how to tailor my lessons (using differentiation) in the future.
I have also included a question sheet so your students can reflect on how each student is different from one another. This is a great starting place for talking about how fair is not always equal — especially in a classroom utilizing differentiation.
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