Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Book! Think BIG, Start Small!

New Book released!

I am happy to announce that “Think BIG, Start Small: How to Differentiated Instruction in a Brain-Friendly Classroom” was released this week from Solution Tree Publishers. This is the first book I have co-authored with my friend and colleague, Gayle Gregory. This book looks at educational neuroscience and how it can guide teachers as they design differentiated instructional strategies. We are so excited to have this labor of love finally be ready for educators.

When Gayle and I present workshops and trainings for teachers we know that if we can provide strategies that they can use tomorrow – we will be successful. We also noticed that many teachers had some specific views of what differentiation can and should be in the classroom. We found that Differentiation is many things to many teachers. It is a relatively simple concept with com­plex implementation and requires a shift in thinking and planning to be successful. It can be daunting and somewhat overwhelming when we look at all the facets, and it takes time to see the big picture.

We used the following Indian legend about the six blind men observing an elephant as a metaphor for how teachers often just focus on one part of the whole teaching process:

The following is John Godfrey Saxe’s (1816–1887) version of the famous Indian legend.
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“’Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

Teachers may misconstrue differentiation when they have only seen one part of the dif­ferentiation “elephant.” A workshop on the multiple intelligences leads them to believe that they should teach to multiple intelligences. Others learn about creating tiered lessons, and that becomes their understanding of the topic, so they group most often by like readi­ness levels even though we know that heterogeneous groups get better results. Others attend a session on using data and decide they need to preassess and group students accordingly. Others believe that providing choice of assignments and assessments is the way to go.  Some design Choice Boards or Centers and believe that it is enough.
Gayle and I tried to write a book that would look at the whole “elephant” and still break it down into some manageable pieces. What areas of DI are you already implementing? Are you looking at the “big picture?” We hope we can provide you with many “small steps” so that you can continue to expand your teaching repertoire.

Stay tuned in the next few weeks for excerpts and ideas from the new book.

Click here to see a copy of the Book Announcement recently sent out to subscribers.
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