Because I just conducted a workshop on differentiating instruction, I wanted to share an epiphany I recently experienced: Differentiating instruction doesn't have to be difficult OR time consuming!
While differentiating curriculum can be overwhelming, I think the variety of differentiation strategies lie on a continuum. At one end are LESS time-intensive instructional strategies such as the ones I'm including in this post. Layered curriculum is located further along the continuum, and near the furthest end is tiered instruction, a more time-intensive differentiation.
The strategies that do not demand an inordinate amount of preparation are also simple to implement, and they support our diversified populations. For example, allowing students choice is not only motivating for adolescents, it is also a form of differentiation. Think of all the ways teachers factor choice into the curriculum; here are just a few.
- Flexible grouping that includes permitting students to choose their own groups at times
- Creating a "question bank" from which students can choose to answer a required number to earn needed points
- Providing prompts to choose from or allowing students to write an original response
- Allowing in-depth learning of a self-selected topic within unit or theme being studied
- Presenting options for end-of-unit projects/products
- Some groups may use a Venn diagram to compare that text to another;
- another may use a sequential organizer to list the sequence of events;
- a third group may use a describing organizer to enumerate the characteristics of time period
Teachers can also assign students to complete just one section of a graphic organizer and then get into JigSaw groups to collaborate in completing the rest of the parts.
Another simple way to differentiate instruction is to invite students to respond to a topic or text by using the "Silent Discussion" tool. One way to do this is to list a different statement or question on sheets of butcher paper and post them around the room. Students can rotate from one question to another and record their comments or questions on the papers. They can also respond to one another's responses as well.
“I like it because the shy kids we never hear from got to share their ideas.”
“You can read the dialogue and respond instead of forgetting what someone said.”
“I felt like it flowed instead of everyone just responding to your question.”In writing this, I hope you see how much you may already incorporate differentiated instruction into your pedagogy and may have picked up an additional idea or two. In future posts, I plan to discuss layered curriculum and tiered instruction.
“The assignment was cool, but our ideas were lame.” (Then we discussed how that was out of my control, but how they could change the level of interest...which was fun to point out. ;) )
“It was difficult because people were shortening their thoughts so they didn’t have to write a lot, but then we couldn’t understand their ideas.” (Open discussion [included] ... how grammar and sentence structure is important in writing).
“I like that we have to connect with everyone’s idea, not just one person’s idea” ([We] compared it to a Socratic seminar)
“I haven’t been in the inside circle, but this gives me a good idea of what I’d need to do when I am.”