Differentiation! All teachers must have differentiation in their classroom! As Chapter 6 makes abundantly clear: differentiation is not a panacea or band-aid for teaching and learning especially for the gifted learner. Differentiated instruction can promote all that enhances gifted curricula which is depth, complexity, challenge, and choice. Differentiated instruction can be used in a variety of middle school settings in all subject areas. The teacher must intentionally and purposefully plan for meeting individual student needs by scaffolding and/or offering tiered assignments. Successful completion by the student will receive a good grade no matter what tier they chose to attack. Well in advance of the unit where differentiation will be implemented, the teacher should have students complete a preassessment to help the teacher develop the learning plan. “The best differentiated instruction is designed around significant essential questions and concept-based learning.” (Kindle location 3209) Some strategies beyond tiered assignments that can be used in a variety of setting are: learning contract, learning centers, orbital investigations, simulations, and problem based learning. Whether students are in small groups or working individually, these differentiation strategies can be successful in any subject. When differentiation is being effective, students are not just earning successful grades, but driving their own learning to a higher level. Data from prior years, portfolios, etc. as well as the preassessment can be used by the teacher to evaluate the effectiveness and success for individual students.
I agree with Eleanor that teachers must intentionally plan for meeting students needs by scaffolding or offering tiered assignments. Every gifted student is as different as every person on the planet I agree that strategies beyond tiered assessments should be implemented on an ongoing basis. I like how Eleanor stated that just earning good grades does not make it completely successful. Students need to drive their own learning. Therefore, we should develop a consistent way to track an individuals learning over time to determine their ongoing mastery of subject matter.
L. HowardDifferentiated instruction can and should occur in a variety of middle school settings too meet the needs of gifted students. First, it has to begin with preassessment. The book emphasizes that without preassessment, there probably is no differentiation. I think it can be a pitfall for us to think that we don't have the time to give our students a pretest/assessment. But, it is a must for informing our instruction. From there, we need to plan how we will group our students, what strategies we need to use, and what resources and materials we will need. (Kindle location 2927). Some strategies that are especially useful when differentiating are tiered assignments, independent study, group investigations, learning centers, multiple menu model. The way that you know that differentiating is effective is that there is evidence that each student is experiencing challenge at a level that is congruent with their learning needs. Portfolios should reflect a student's growth over time. Also, differentiation will encourage our students to reflect on their own growth, understanding their strengths and areas that need further development.
In response to travelingbug on July 6thI agree with your mention of the importance of pre-tests. Unfortunately we are so stressed for time, with too much content, to squeeze into our too short classes, however not spending some of that time doing a preassessment is doing a disservice to our students. Especially with gifted kids, if we spend time going over things that they already know we will lose them quickly. A lot of these students have a great deal of background knowledge on the topics we cover already so it is important to understand what they already know so that we can keep them engaged and push them to levels higher than they expected. Ryan Harvey
It is stated multiple times in the book what differentiation is, and what it is not, and the underlying theme is that all differentiation must start with the students. We as the teachers must first get to know our student's needs and learning preferences if we want to be effective. Differentiation is discussed towards gifted children in this book, but as we know, all of our kids have different needs and all can, and do, benefit from differentiated instruction. In chapter 6 it mentions how pre-assessments are a necessary step in the implementation of any differentiated learning. It states that when planning for differentiated instruction, the learning goals cannot be the same as the "on level" students, there has to be a strive for a mastery of the goal at a higher level. Additionally it suggests that when beginning, start small with homework assignments before moving onto major projects. Differentiation can, and should, be used in the middle school classroom on a daily basis. Our students need it to encourage their lifelong learning "seeds" to grow that we are all "planting". Differentiated instruction can be used in the middle school classroom in a variety of ways, including, project and problem based learning, offering tiered assignments, and many more. The key is that the learning is in the control of the students, and they have the freedom to experience the concepts on their on and in their own way. Using the pre-assessment along with post-assessments as well as presentations and learning conversations can be used to monitor progress at the highest level. Ryan Harvey
In response to Mr. Harvey on July 17th, I could not agree more with your statement that differentiation must start with the students. Each one of them is so unique in so many different ways. You cannot begin to differentiate your classroom to meet their needs without first knowing who they are as a group and as individuals. I also agree that differentiation is not something you implement into your lessons once a week, but it is something that should be done in a classroom on a daily basis. In order to foster lifelong learners, we must plant that seed, so that they may grow.
I believe that in order for students to benefit from differential learning we need to get to know the students personality, interests and learning style. I believe that we spend too much time planning how they will learn the TEKS instead of figuring out what type of activities will help each individual student. Page 146 states that the key to differentiation is pre-assessment. If there is no per-assessment than there is no differentiation. Our class time has shrunk and therefore it is really hard to have a pre-assessment on every unit we teach. I have taken the time to do these throughout the year and they have given me very good feedback on what students know, but right now they are not practical on a frequent basis. I guess this means that I am not offering differentiating instruction as much as I thought I was . I do like the idea of not returning their pre-assessment scores until the end of he unit so that they can see the gains they have made on that subject. I believe that you can see differentiated learning is occurring when students are challenged in a way that allows them to creatively explore concepts on their own. By using pre-assessment and post assessment as well as stop checks along the way we can see that the GT student is on track or hopefully excelling at what that they are learning. I now know that differentiated instruction does not just mean different. This has been a great eye opener for me.
(L. Howard) In reply to Laura Boyd on July 16, 2014I agree with you that I struggle with the time issue, and have not consistently done preassessment at the beginning of a unit. I do like the idea of putting some preassessment questions on the end of a test about a week before the unit is to begin. That would take some thinking and planning on my part to make it work, but then I would have more time to plan for the differentiation within an upcoming unit. With that said, it is truly a challenge to meet the varying needs of students in a heterogeneous class that includes a range from below level to advanced and GT. I think I can take some of the projects and tier them so that they provide the "just right" level of rigor for each of my students.
In response to Laura Boyd's comment of July 16th, I am painfully aware of our shrinking instructional time. I agree that while preassessment is necessary for TRUE differentiation to take place it is often sacrificed in the name of TEKS and testing. I also agree that there are long term projects that differentiation can be observed as the individual student works through the requirements at their own pace and analysis. The menu approach to projects is also a great idea as perhaps it would allow the student to "self-pre-assess" .
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It is important to remember that before any differentiation can occur in the classroom, you must begin with the students. Each individual student in your classroom is unique and without any knowledge of them as individuals or the group as a whole, you cannot begin to differentiate. There are four main elements that will provide the opportunity to differentiate in the classroom: content, product, process, and environment. A teacher can focus on these four elements as they prepare to differentiate instruction. One of the most useful and beneficial ways to differentiate in any middle school setting is to use tiered assignments. You can tier a variety of assignments, from homework to in-class assignments to projects. By using this approach, you are able to meet the needs of a range of students and their abilities and creativity. In order for differentiation to be effective, there must be intentionality. Additionally, there should be a pre-assessment that provides logical basis for differentiation. You should be able to view the lesson plan and recognize how differentiation will occur in and throughout the lesson and which strategy/strategies are being implemented. You should be able to pick out where the instruction falls on Bloom's Taxonomy and be able to see that various levels of thinking will be required. After the lesson, you should be able to see samples of students' work where the differentiation in the lesson should be most evident.
Couldn't agree more. You can't go into it without some preparation first. You need to know where the kids are and where they need to be. Unfortunately differentiation have become a buzz work tossed around by administrators.
Differentiated instruction can be used in a variety of meeting school settings to meet all students including gifted students by allowing students a wide range of interests, abilities and learning styles. Although it is not utilized effectively in all classroom settings. It should not be one single strategy but rather pre-assessment. Types of pre-assessments include: journaling, survey/checklist, concepts maps and products.
It seems to only make sense that we should differentiate in all of our classes. Rakow discusses the need to make all students feel successful. I’m reminded of a group of students that came to me with varied levels of mastery. I made the assumption that all of them were on the same level and that, because they were GT, they could handle the work I was assigning. However, I should have assessed them prior to passing out the novel, they based on the results, assigned varied work. The entire section on differentiation is extremely informative. She gives practical information that is applicable in the classroom at the beginning of the school year. Yes it means a lot of work up front, however in April or May when everyone is tired, that’s when it will pay off.
Differentiation can and should be used in all school settings. There is no way to teach any class (not just GT) without some form of differentiated instruction by the teacher to reach ALL the students in the classroom. It begins with the beginning of the year on the teacher focusing on where they want the student to go by each grading period which as described on 153, is the planning steps for differentiation. Then the teacher – ANY teacher -needs to then create the homework/tiered assignments. Yes, it is more work before due to preassessment/testing scores data mtgs etc. However if we take the time to learn about the students and create lessons that move the students in and out of various groupings the learning that can and will occur is greatly enhanced. You would know when it is being used effectively basically if all students were engaged, turning in work, interacting, and succeeding. (This can also be tested for exact results)
For me, differentiated instruction means meeting the kids where they're at. In this regard, pre-assessments plus ongoing assessments will be very necessary for planning. As regards measuring for effectiveness, I feel that this can be gleaned from the kids active engagement in the learning process. (PV)