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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

What's Your Advice to Help with Differentiated Instruction ?

What's Your Advice to Help with Differentiated Instruction ?

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I have been teaching for about 9 years, and every year I try to do a little bit more differentiation. This year I am ramping up my DI but it's certainly a lot of work, trying to analyze students' individual learning styles, multiple intelligences, etc. and then create different tiers of instruction and assignments. I am curious to hear from the group at Edutopia if anyone has suggestions and advice for creating a completely differentiated classroom, along with the management and preparation that goes with it.

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Brian Stayte's picture

Jennifer, Are you saving and compiling the data somehow on those short cycles? We do ours a little differently. We "short cycle" over the power standards from first semester, usually in the form of application problems, to keep them fresh in the kids heads as we approach our state exam in May. As of now, we do not compile the data because it's a pain. We need to move in that direction, though.

Danielle Monetti's picture

I have been teaching for eleven years and do incorporate the philosophies of differentiated instruction in my daily approach to teaching. I can't say that I have revamped my whole way of teaching, but I teach with an awareness that promotes differentiation. If I were to revamp my approach I would start with one aspect of my curriculum rather than trying to do everything at once. For example, I am an English teacher so I might have students do a "diffentiated style" project to learn the background history of a literary period. In this project students may learn about the fashion or music of the time period; topics that they are interested in already. A group or individual presentation of the information would follow the completion of the project. If I did this project for each literary period we studied then I would create enthusiasm about the literature. This may also establish a tone for the year and/or individual units. Nevertheless, one can have the best intention, but as we all know without the time to dedicate it is difficult to see our intentions become a reality. That is why I suggest focusing on one topic a marking period or one topic for half of each school year. Also, I'm sure all of my fellow teachers know of Carol Ann Tomlinson's books. I highly recommend attending one of her workshops if you can. I attended one in New Jersey in December and left with some really practical stategies and a packet of ideas that I could put to use right away.

Delisa's picture

I find that I like to group in many different ways according to the lessons I am teaching. There are times that I think ability grouping is good. Most often, I group according to learning styles of my students. In this way, their abilities will be more scattered and yet, they learn the same way and tend to get much done.

Jennifer Morrow's picture
Jennifer Morrow
Title 1 Coordinator, Sabina, Ohio

Tami and Brian, Our short cycle tests were created by each grade level teachers. We used the end of the year math diagnostic our district created a few years ago, Ohio math standards, and our math curriculum which is Every Day Math to create the assessments. Each short cycle assessment (SCA) is designed to take no more than 30 minutes for the student to complete. Each teacher keeps a data notebook which tracks individual students progress as well as the class overall. Each test is broken down by sate standard so we can see which math strand is lacking or mastered. This is our second year of tracking and it has become an essential tool of our math program.

Kelly DeMay's picture
Kelly DeMay
6th grade science and math teacher from Upstate, New York

I rely on a great deal of Carol Ann Tomlinson's ideas for differentiation. I have found that there are small things I can do on a daily basis to differentiate which take minimal time. For example, on homework I will always give a challenge question that all students are welcome to try and for some students it is required. Another thing that I do is using things like a cube that students can roll to answer questions. I use this when teaching both math and science. Large projects take longer to differentiate. I think you have to be open minded and flexible when it comes to differentiation.

Rebecca F's picture

Ability Grouping. Kari, I am surprised that ability grouping is illegal in CA and as a teacher, I can see why. I am an Elementary teacher in New Jersey. As part of our Differentiated Instruction structure, we group students by ability. Somehow, the students figure out if they are in a high or low ability group. One year, I had a parent question me as to why their child was in a low group and not a high group. Now here's a good research topic- How Does Ability Grouping Affect Learners?
I prefer to do heterogenous groups that way no one is offended and as a cooperative group, students help and learn from each other.

Martha Elliot-Sansavior's picture

This is a very funny story. I actually helped a fellow teacher with an assignment of this nature.She is presently doing her Bachelor in Education and has an assignment in Mathematics. She came by during lunch to discuss strategies for this topic. I explained that she can group strong with weak,or challenge the strong and motivate the weaker students, give different instructions for the same task to the groups, use the students themselves as concrete example, use word problems or mechanical, or diagrams to solve the same problem. I even give her ideas on the evaluation can be differentiated as a group or individual. I found the half an hour session quite interesting.

lynn's picture
Title I reading teacher from SC

I am enjoying a second year implementing the Daily 5 magagement system so I can differentiate my guided reading groups. My school also went through a Fountas and Pinnell Continuum of literacy training this summer. I have found the Continuum very helpful with planning how much to differentiate my lessons with each group. The book provides a guide for each reading level. This is my first year using the Continuum, so I am still working my way through it. I do see an improvement in my ability to plan for different groups and levels. I hope to see gains in my students reading levels as well.

Gina Payne's picture

Amber, I am very interested in the program Power Teaching you described in your post. I teach first grade and I am struggling with my math instruction. We have gone from being mandated to teach 60 minutes of math to 90 minutes of math everyday. In my opinion, this is a lot of math instruction for first grade students. I was teaching the entire 90 minutes without any breaks; however, it is just too much for them and me. I am now teaching the whole group lesson in the morning and the guided math lesson in the afternoon. This is better, but I am still not happy with it. I really like the components of the Power Teaching. I was wondering how long you spend on each component daily, and what grade you teach. I was also wondering what the "exit ticket" consisted of. Thank you for the idea and I look forward to trying it in my room.

Tami's picture

Seeing Lynn's post about Daily 5 with literacy groups has me wondering if anyone has applied this structure to math? I have used Daily 5 (actually, it's Daily 3 in my class) for the past two year and have great success with it and my students love it.

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