Thursday, October 29, 2015

Differentiation and You!

What is Differentiation?

Differentiation is the use of whole group, small group and individual tasks based on content and student needs. These are lessons designed based off patterns of students’ needs. Basically, it is planning for student learning diversity.

 It is NOT individualized instruction, tracking students or grouping them by “ability”, using ability groups with names like “Eagles, Robins, Vultures” (because the Vultures know why they are called that), “dumbing down” instruction, a synonym for group work, or something extra on top of good teaching. It is good teaching!

Here is a more detailed definition of differentiation from The Access Center, a project of the American Institutes for Research, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs:

“ Differentiation is a process through which teachers enhance learning by matching student characteristics to instruction and assessment. Differentiation allows all students to access the same classroom curriculum by providing entry points, learning tasks, and outcomes that are tailored to students’ needs. In a differentiated classroom, variance occurs in the way in which students gain access to the content being taught (Hall, Strangman, & Meyer, 2003). 

Teachers can differentiate content, process, and/or product for students (Tomlinson, 1997). Differentiation of content refers to a change in the material being learned by the student. For example, if the classroom objective is for all students to write persuasive paragraphs, some of the students may be learning to use a topic sentence and supporting details, while others may be learning to use outside sources to defend their viewpoint. 

Differentiation of process refers to the way in which the student accesses material. One student may explore a learning center while another student collects information from the web. Differentiation of product refers to the way in which the student shows what he or she has learned. For example, to demonstrate understanding of the plot of a story, one student may create a skit, while another student writes a book report. 

             This is so NOT differentiation.

When teachers differentiate, they do so in response to students’ readiness, interest, and/or learning profile. Readiness refers to the skill level and background knowledge of the child. Teachers use diagnostic assessments to determine students’ readiness. Interest refers to topics that the student may want to explore or that will motivate the student. Teachers can ask students about their outside interests and even include students in the unit-planning process. Finally, the student’s learning profile includes learning style (for example, is the student a visual, auditory, tactile, or kinesthetic learner), grouping preferences (for example, does the student work best individually, with a partner, or in a large group), and environmental preferences (for example, does the student need lots of space or a quiet area to work). When a teacher differentiates, all of these factors can be taken into account individually or in combination (Tomlinson, 1997).”

Strategies for Differentiation

1. Choice boards- Choice boards enhance student engagement because they allow students to tap into individual strengths and weaknesses as well as foster creativity. Choice boards allow teachers to save time and plan for student differences in learning.

Here is an example of a choice board for Kindergartners working on letters:

2. Chunking- Chunking shows students how one idea is linked to another. A way to demonstrate this is to use graphic organizers.

Venn diagram showing how two different animals have items in common:

*Twinkle Teaches Tip: Use a Venn diagram to compare characters or events from the text. You can do this even with PreK students!

3. RAFT-
R = Role of the writer (character, famous person, inanimate object etc.) “I am a...”

A = Audience (other characters, community members, parents, etc.) “Talking to a...”

F = Format (letter, action plan, invitation, brochure, etc.) “I am creating a

T = Topic (focus/ subject of the product) “To explain...”

RAFT Rubric from Strayer & Strayer:

4. Cubing- Cubing is an instructional strategy designed to help students think about a topic or idea from many different angles. A cube includes 6 commands, one on each of its six faces, followed by a prompt that describes the task the students should do related to the command. Cubing can help students think at different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

How are cubes used?
·     Step 1: Identify the concept or targeted skill that will be the focus of the activity.
·     Step 2: Create commands for the cubes that align with the key concept. The commands on each cube should be differentiated to meet the needs of the learners
·     Step 3: Make sure that students understand the commands and the directions of the tasks.
·     Step 4: Group students according to readiness, interest, or learning profile. Cubes or task cards can be different colors in order to align with the needs of the different groups.
·     Step 5: Students in each group take turns rolling the die. To provide choice, allow the student to roll again if he/she did not want to do the first command. Each student rolls the die and completes their given task. The group members should all be doing different tasks.

5. Flexible grouping- According to Catherine Valentino, flexible grouping is "Teachers who use flexible grouping strategies often employ several organizational patterns for instruction. Students are grouped and regrouped according to specific goals, activities, and individual needs. When making grouping decisions, the dynamics and advantages inherent in each type of group must be considered. Both teacher-led and student-led groups can contribute to learning."

Flexible grouping allows all students to have a chance to show mastery. Flexible grouping could be a single lesson or objective, a set of skills, a unit of study, or a major concept or theme.  Flexible grouping creates temporary groups for an hour, a day, a week, or a month or so.  It does not create permanent groups.

*Twinkle Teaches tip: A fun way to make groups is to use paint chips! Students must find their matches! Around Halloween, you can do this with fun-size candy bars, too.

6. Scaffolding-  Scaffolding is all about activating prior knowledge. Good teachers do this and are not even aware they are doing this. I found some ways we scaffold from the About.Com Education site:

  • activating prior knowledge
  • offering a motivational context to pique student interest or curiosity in the subject at hand
  • breaking a complex task into easier, more "doable" steps to facilitate student achievement
  • showing students an example of the desired outcome before they complete the task
  • modeling the thought process for students through "think aloud" talk
  • offering hints or partial solutions to problems
  • using verbal cues to prompt student answers
  • teaching students chants or mnemonic devices to ease memorization of key facts or procedures
  • facilitating student engagement and participation
  • displaying a historical timeline to offer a context for learning
  • using graphic organizers to offer a visual framework for assimilating new information
  • teaching key vocabulary terms before reading
  • guiding the students in making predictions for what they expect will occur in a story, experiment, or other course of action
  • asking questions while reading to encourage deeper investigation of concepts
  • suggesting possible strategies for the students to use during independent practice
  • modeling an activity for the students before they are asked to complete the same or similar activity
  • asking students to contribute their own experiences that relate to the subject at hand
You probably are mentally saying to yourself, "I do this...". See? I told you so!

7. Independent projects-  

Here is a really excellent YouTube video on DI.

I hope you learned something new today!

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