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A differentiated classroom will have a combination of teacher directed, teacher selected activities, and learner centered, learner selected activities; whole class instruction, small group instruction, and individual instruction.
A Working Definition of Differentiation Differentiation has come to mean “consistently using a variety of instructional approaches to modify content, process, and/or products in response to learning readiness and interest of academically diverse students.” Tomlinson, Carol Ann. The Differentiated Classroom
When Differentiating Instruction, The Three Most Important Questions to Continually Ask Yourself... What do I want my students to know, understand, and be able to do? What will I do instructionally to get my students to learn this? How will my students show what they know?
Most students, even those involved in special programming, spend the vast majority of their time in regular classrooms.
Starko, Alane J. Meeting the Needs of the Gifted Throughout the
School Day: Techniques for Curriculum Compacting
Students vary in readiness, interest, and learning profile. Tomlinson, Carol Ann. The Differentiated Classroom
Readiness is a student’s entry point relative to a particular understanding or skill. To help a student to grow, we must begin where the child is. Some children, particularly those who have had early learning opportunities, begin school with well-developed skills and considerable understanding of various topics; other students arrive as true beginners and need basic instruction and additional practice.
Interest refers to a child’s affinity, curiosity, or passion for a particular topic or skill. The advantage to grouping by interest is that it allows students to attach what they have been learning in class to things that they already find relevant and interesting and appealing in their own lives.
Learning profile has to do with how students learn. Some are visual learners, auditory learners, or kinesthetic learners. Students vary in the amount of time they need to master a skill or learn a concept.
How students learn can be shaped by:
environment social organization physical circumstances
emotional climate psychological factors
Carol Ann Tomlinson/ Diane Heacox
What goals are we trying to achieve through differentiation?
Intelligence is fluid, it is not fixed and therefore can be amplified.
Learning is more natural.
Burns and Purcell, 2002
What Gets Differentiated? The teacher can modify content, process, or product .
CONTENT is what we want students to: - know (facts and information) - understand (principles, generalizations, ideas) - be able to do (skills) Content is differentiated (a) when you preassess students’ skill and knowledge, then match learners with appropriate activities according to readiness; (b) when you give students choices about topics to explore in greater depth; (c) when you provide students with basic and advanced resources that match their current levels of understanding. Diane Heacox, Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom
Differentiating Content - multiple textbooks and supplementary print materials - varied videos and computer programs - learning contracts - interest centers - support systems audio tapes study partners and reading buddies mentors - compacting phase 1 - teacher assessment of student phase 2 - teacher sets up a plan phase 3 - teacher and student design a project
PROCESS is the “how” of teaching. Process refers to the activities that you design to help students think about and make sense of the key principles and information of the content they are learning. Process also calls on students to use key skills that are integral to the unit. When differentiating process, students are engaged in different activities, but each activity should be directed to the lesson’s common focus on what students should come to know, understand, and be able to do. All students are engaged in meaningful and respectful tasks. Carol Ann Tomlinson
Differentiating Process - tiered assignments - learning centers - interactive journals and learning logs - graphic organizers Carol Ann Tomlinson
PRODUCTS are the way students show what they have learned or extend what they have learned. They can be differentiated along a continuum: - simple to complex - less independent to more independent - clearly defined problems to fuzzy problems Carol Ann Tomlinson
As teachers, our goal is to make the curriculum accessible to all students. Differentiation makes this possible but before we can begin to differentiate, we must come to know our students. Discovering what your students already know before beginning a unit of study can be accomplished through the use of preassessments. The use of interest inventories and multiple intelligence checklists provides important information about students’ learning profile.
Flexible grouping is at the heart of differentiated instruction
Flexible grouping: A Definition Flexible small groups are within class grouping in which membership varies according to ability (same ability, mixed ability), interest or questions, learning style or processing style, product style, group longevity, group size (2-10). Groups can be teacher-selected, student-selected, purposeful or random. Jeanne H. Purcell, Ph. Caroline S. Cohen, Ph.D
Why is flexible instructional grouping a hallmark of the differentiated classroom?
It is a critical management strategy in the differentiated classroom.
It allows a better instructional match between students’ needs and what you want students to know, understand, and be able to do.
It lets you tailor learning activities according to students’ needs and learning preferences, and, in the process, gives you time to provide additional instruction or extend learning experiences to particular students or groups.
If after analyzing preassessment data, no powerful differences exist among students, flexible grouping is not necessary.
Flexible grouping is necessary if, after analyzing preassessment data, significant differences exist among students with respect to:
learning style preferences
expression style preferences prior knowledge/readiness to learn
In a flexibly grouped classroom, the teacher is trying to ensure that students work in many different grouping arrangements even over a relatively short period of time. Besides creating an optimal learning experience for all students, flexible grouping prevents the bluebird/buzzards phenomenon.
Carol Ann Tomlinson Jeanne Purcell
Designing Differentiated Learning Activities for Flexible Groups
Open-ended activities and assignments
Purposefully designed choices to accommodate learning or expression style differences
Purposefully designed tiered assignments
Tiered Assignments are designed to maximize each student's growth by challenging students with learning experiences that are slightly above their current level of knowledge and performance. Tomlinson
Designing a Tiered Assignment A six step process
Locating or designing a pretest format based on observed or anticipated differences
Analysis of pretest results
Decision making and planning
Formation of flexible groups
Differentiated teaching and learning activities
Instructional Sequence in a Differentiated Classroom NRC/CT, University of Connecticut, 1997
Recall a familiar learning task, lesson, or unit. Identify the ways that students differed during the course of this task, lesson. or unit. Which student difference was most powerful? How did you differentiate to accommodate the difference? How did this accommodation impact their learning? An Example… Burns and Purcell, 2002
Our Learning Community We will teach, guide, and support each other
I see in these…endeavors the concept of the school as a community of learners; a place where all participants—teachers, principals, parents, and students—engage in learning and teaching. School is not a place for big people who are learned and for little people who are learners, for important people who do not need to learn and unimportant people who do. Instead, school is a place where students discover and adults rediscover the joys, the difficulties, and the satisfaction of learning (Barth, 1990, p. 43).
Barth, R. (1990). Improving schools from within . San Francisco: CA: Jossey-Bass.