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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Differentiating in a Middle School Classroom

Differentiating in a Middle School Classroom

Related Tags: 6-8 Middle School
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35 Replies 6340 Views
So you're standing there in front of a group of typical middle schoolers, and by definition each one lays somewhere on the developmental line between elementary level and high school. You've got kids reading at 4th grade levels and ones reading at 12th grade levels all in the same room. You've got kids playing Operation and those playing Doctor.

So how do you differentiate for this wide range of students without creating 36 different lesson plans? How do you differentiate in a way that doesn't burn you out of middle school entirely?

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Chad Brannon's picture

I find that inquiry activities and open ended projects allow for maximum creativity and differentiation. I allow my students to collaborate and evaluate our rubrics to give them ownership. Project based learning allows my students to go at their own pace and helps them push themselves at their own level. When the student owns the learning process differentiation naturally occurs.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Heather Wolpert-Gawron
Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night
Blogger 2014

I'm a big believer in student choice as well a means to boost ownership. In addition to your rubric comment, I think a great activity is to allow students to re-write the rubric in their own words. It's a great small group, whole group, or individual activity and the words chosen on the rubric can be used for goal-setting exit cards as well! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I think your point that differentiation naturally occurs when students own the process is one that should help teachers who are freaked out by the concept. It's scary to think you have to create 36 different lessons, yet that is the myth of differentiation. As you say, it happens when the students own the process. Thanks so much for commenting!

-Heather WG

Marsha Ratzel's picture
Marsha Ratzel
Middle school math and science teacher from Leawood, Kansas

[quote]So you're standing there in front of a group of typical middle schoolers......So how do you differentiate for this wide range of students without creating 36 different lesson plans? How do you differentiate in a way that doesn't burn you out of middle school entirely?
Join the discussion![/quote]

I swing for the fences...by that I mean I teach to the top of the class and figure a way to get the rest to get up there. If you do that they learn to expect more from themselves and they learn to be a team...helping each other do more than they thought they could and finding ways to compensate.

I could never differentiate for all those kids and you're right it would burn me out if I tried.

marsha

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Heather Wolpert-Gawron
Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night
Blogger 2014

I think this is a brilliant way to put it. Many of those outside of education (and within) think that we need to track in order to raise students to a higher level. But little do they know, that the lower students rise when they see higher product modeled. And it isn't just with the modeling. So many parents of "gifted" students get a rise when they believe that their children are being used as teachers. Little do they know that just because the groups are mixed, does not mean the teacher is aiming low. Aye, there's the rub...The power is really in the hands of the teacher. Higher expectations for all is just that, "for all." And that is true differentiation.

Thanks so much for your comment and for joining in on the discussion!

-Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Chad Sansing's picture
Chad Sansing
Charter school humanities teacher for non-traditional middle grade learners

What a great start to the discussion!

I work with students who experience some difficulty with executive function - the ability to self-monitor and self-prioritize tasks. I try to provide personalized, flexible work plans and indivudalized feedback that students can use to track the completion and mastery of their own work and learning to help them organize themselves rather than depending on adults in the classroom to do that for them. The differentiation by time and choice that the plans offer each student have helped make students more aware of their progress in class and capability to manage their behavior to help their learning.

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