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Tyler Horner on the National DI Conference (Las Vegas)

August 1, 2011

Finishing my second full year of teaching was a big deal for me personally.  It meant that I was no longer a “new teacher” and that I needed to expand my horizons as a social studies teacher.  When I got accepted to go to the National Differentiated Instruction Conference I was ecstatic because differentiated instruction is something I’ve struggled with understanding as a new teacher.  It also didn’t hurt that the conference was in Las Vegas, NV!

My conference experience started on Tuesday morning with a session called “Let’s Get It Started! An Introduction to Defensible Differentiation” with Ms. Diane Heacox.  During our all morning session she gave us an overview of differentiation both philosophically and in definition, so that we were all the same page.  She then went through the types of information we would need to make differentiation a lot easier on us like learning style, multiple intelligences, and cultural differences and how we could use them to differentiate.  She spent the rest of our time that morning giving us working examples of how we could differentiate instruction in all the content areas that were represented in the class.  At this point, I knew I was in for some learning opportunities and was ready for the next session in the afternoon.

Later that same day I made my way to the session “Making Differentiation Work: TheNext Steps” by Ms. Bertie Kingore.  Through the use of sarcasm and a quick wit she lead us through simple ways to easily differentiate common activities in the classroom.  What I found especially handy was her method of taking an exit ticket for an assignment and quickly using them to put students into differentiated groups for the following day’s assignment on the same topic.  She also did a wonderful job showing us how differentiation doesn’t have to take up more time than we already spend creating and preparing lessons, we just need to think differently.

Wednesday of the conference was filled with four mini-classes that gave even more helpful suggestions for my social studies classroom.  The morning was filled with  “Classroom-Proven Strategies for Differentiation Your Social Studies Instruction” and “Strategies for Managing the Middle and High School Differentiated Classroom” both by Ms. Lea MacDonald.  Both sessions were chalk full of practical advice for my middle school, social studies classroom.  My favorite part of her sessions were the way she used common assignments and activities to pre-assess student’s knowledge of subjects.  Pre-assessment is something I’ve really struggled with, but after these sessions I believe I have some good ideas to try this coming school year!

In the afternoon, I spent time at the sessions “Teaching Science and Social Studies Through Stories!” by Ms. Maria Banks and “The Power of Humor in the Classroom” by Ms. Bertie Kingore.  Both were fabulous sessions that showed me the way simple children’s books can be used to teach middle and high school concepts while not talking down to students.  I also got a handful of lessons and some different, fun ways for students to synthesize information they’ve mastered in funny ways.  We’ve always had fun in my classroom, but I’m really interested in laughing my way through some of these projects.

My final day at the conference started off with two more mini-sessions entitled “10 Great Ideas for Adding ‘Oomph’ to Your Lessons” by Ms. Paula Kluth and “The ABC’s for Writing Lessons for the Content Areas” by Ms. Cheryl Sigmon.  Both of these sessions were packed with new and innovative ideas for lesson planning.  I was so inspired during the later portions of the morning that I began to jot down ideas for a possible lesson sequence and ended up fully planning out a unit for this upcoming school year!

I truly went out with a bang from this conference when I attended the session “Classroom Management Strategies That Work” by Mr. Jack Berckemeyer.  This guy was hilarious, so much so that he interrupted other sessions accidentally by making us laugh so hard.  Along the way he challenged our way of thinking about classroom management and gave us his optimal way to set up a room to help with managing the classroom.  I was so intrigued by his ideas that I’m going to try them out for the first full six-weeks in my classroom and see how they do.

When you add all of those sessions up and mix in just a little bit of time wandering around the huge vendor area of the convention, this was by far the best set of trainings I’ve ever been to.  It was comprehensive, it challenged my way of thinking, but most of all it wasn’t just theory.  I walked away with a huge amount of new, creative ideas for the upcoming school year and I’m so thankful CGA was willing to send me to this conference.  As always, I really believe this training will positively affect the way I teach and I really do appreciate all you do for the Coppell ISD community.

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