Differentiation-Still Unclear?

Differentiation is one of our goals for WASC here at Hart and it is a District-wide focus as well.  I know many of us are still scratching our heads when it comes to differentiation. What is it?  How do I possibly differentiate with 36 students in a classroom?  Isn’t differentiation something only for EL and SpEd students?  Doesn’t differentiating cause much more work for the teacher?  Not to worry.  You can start by reviewing the page on this site that is dedicated to differentiation.  Below are two infographics that quickly detail what differentiation IS and IS NOT.

http-www-ascd-org-ascd-pdf-siteascd-publications-differentiation_is-isnot_infographic-pdf-1 differentiation-is-not

DID YOU KNOW… The following are three examples of differentiation:

  • Mr. Raules encourages English language learners to do initial drafts of writing in their first language if that helps them express their ideas. He also ensures that, as often as possible, students have access to some online or print resource materials in their first languages so they can more readily understand and relate to important concepts.
  • Ms. Willoughby “flips” her classroom at key instructional points when it makes sense for students to explore new content at home and practice their newly developing skills and ideas in class. She carefully monitors students’ understanding with “entry cards” or other types of formative assessment and creates instructional groups when it makes sense for students to work together toward common learning goals. She moves among the groups or sits with them to coach and mentor student progress.
  • Mr. Ellis works regularly with small-group instruction he designs to move students forward from their current points of knowledge, understanding, and skill. Students with whom he’s not meeting at a given time work independently, in pairs or in small groups, on practice or sense-making tasks set at appropriate challenge levels or tailored to connect current content to students’ interests. Formative assessment guides his instructional planning.

You can click on the link to read further examples from chapter 1 of Carol Ann Tomlinson’s Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, 2nd Edition.

Remember: Differentiated classrooms support all students.  Teachers who differentiate recognize that students learn in different ways and at different rates.  They are flexible with time, they consider student interests and talents, and they see teaching as an art. Differentiation should not be viewed as a strategy. Instead, differentiation is an everyday approach to teaching that, with attention and self-reflection, can become a habit of mind for teachers.

Want to try a lesson study that focuses on differentiation?  Talk to your colleagues and contact me!



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