Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Creating A Differentiated Classroom

Here is my second post on Differentiation

Another myth about differentiation is that teachers need to construct 30 different lessons if they have 30 kids in their class. 

In reality differentiation is about good teaching and wanting all of our students to succeed. 

Tomlinson, chair of educational leadership, foundations, and policy at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and perhaps on e of the foremost experts on differentiation says the following; “People differ in their gifts and talents; to teach them you have to start where they are.While she would never say that differentiating instruction “is a piece of cake,” Tomlinson believes the approach is a path to more expert teaching. Like someone asked to make a meal. You could have dinner with butter on toast with an egg. But if you want to grow as a cook, you need to expand your ingredients list.” 
“Her four “non-negotiables”—a high-quality curriculum with clear goals, the use of data to monitor and provide feedback on student learning, the ability to recognize when something isn’t jelling and modify it to fit the student, and the creation of an environment in which students are supported and challenged—she says, “are not about differentiation. They are about a good classroom. That is good teaching.” (  

When we break differentiation down even further she says there are three  areas within the curriculum that can be differentiated. Those areas are Content, Process and Product. 


Now that we have the areas within the curriculum what are some practical guidelines to help teachers not feel so overwhelmed. At the core of differentiation is knowing your students and knowing “their story” One size doesn’t  fit all.  Then there are some key sills that need to focused on and addressed in a differentiated classroom. They include but are not limited to Critical thinking, Creativity, collaboration, and questioning. 
There are there other crucial things to help transform your classroom into a differentiated classroom. They are; flexible grouping, assessments, and good classroom management. 
Here are some ideas from the follwing paper

  Flexible grouping is consistently used. Strategies for flexible grouping are essential. Learners are expected to interact and work together as they develop knowledge of new content. Teachers may conduct whole-class introductory discussions of content big ideas followed by small group or pair work. Student groups may be coached from within or by the teacher to complete assigned tasks. Grouping of students is not fixed. Based on the content, project, and on-going evaluations, grouping and regrouping must be a dynamic process as one of the foundations of differentiated instruction.
  Classroom management benefits students and teachers. Teachers must consider organization and instructional delivery strategies to effectively operate a classroom using differentiated instruction.
 Initial and on-going assessment of student readiness and growth are essential. Meaningful pre- assessment naturally leads to functional and successful differentiation. Assessments may be formal or informal, including interviews, surveys, performance assessments, and more formal evaluation procedures. Incorporating pre and on-going assessment informs teachers to better provide a menu of approaches, choices, and scaffolds for the varying needs, interests and abilities that exist in classrooms of diverse students. 

 Students are active and responsible explorers. Teacher’s respect that

  Use assessment as a teaching tool to extend versus merely measure instruction. Assessment should occur before, during, and following the instructional episode, and help to pose questions regarding student needs and optimal learning.
  Emphasize critical and creative thinking as a goal in lesson design. The tasks, activities, and procedures for students should require that students understand and apply meaning.
  Engaging all learners is essential. Teachers are encouraged to strive for development of lessons that are engaging and motivating for a diverse class of students. Vary tasks within instruction as well as across students. In other words, and entire session for students should not consist of all drill and practice, or any single structure or activity.
  Provide a balance between teacher-assigned and student-selected tasks. A balanced working structure is optimal in a differentiated classroom. Based on pre-assessment information, the balance will vary from class-to-class as well as lesson-to-lesson. Teachers should assure that students have choices in their learning

There is no one way to differentiate nor is it easy. However as Tomlinson said,differentiation isn't a tool or some type of fad but rather it is merely good teaching 

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