What You Need to Know About Differentiation

Get to the brass tacks on differentiation in the classroom with an exciting sneak peek of something new!   #teaching #middleschool #languagearts

I've spent a good amount of time this summer reading through various books on the subject of differentiation.  

What I'm reading these days for my own personal teacher summer PD!  #teaching #middleschool #languagearts #differentiatedinstruction

It's become a hot topic in my neck of the woods with teachers being required to show examples of how they have differentiated instruction for students with special needs and those learning English.

Of course, my research has shown that to differentiate, teachers must modify the content, process, and product.  But what does that really mean?

Well, it actually all started out in 1984 with a non-profit organization called CAST - The
Center for Applied Special Technology.  Their primary goal was "to explore ways of using new technologies to provide better educational experience to students with disabilities."  


"As CAST researchers tested and refined their principles, priorities, and vision over that first decade, they came to a new understanding of how to improve education using flexible methods and materials.  They called this approach Universal Design For Learning." (source)

In Universal Design for Learning Theory and Practice,  Anne Meyer, David H. Rose, and David Gordon suggest that the curriculum is the problem, not the students.  It is the curriculum that needs to change to meet the needs of the students and not the other way around.  This means minimizing the barriers to learning yet maximizing the levels of challenge and support.  
With this mindset, lessons would be designed to meet the needs of the broadest range of learners from the start.

That's the heart of differentiated instruction.

Diane Heacox, Ed.D. explains in her book Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom: that "Differentiated instruction is the best response to standards-based education."  "Differentiation, in fact, may be the key to your students' success in a standards-based education system." (p.14)

Why?   Because your goals are defined - they are the standards.  How you get students to the standards is where the art of teaching comes in.  Art is not one-size-fits-all and neither are our students.

Carol Ann Tomlinson explains it best in her book How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms by reminding us that "we go about learning in a wide variety of ways, influenced by how our brains are wired, our culture, and our gender (Delpit, 1995; Garner, 1982; Heath, 1983; Sternbertg 1985; Sullivan, 1993)." (p.9)

So if we want the students to meet the standards, we have to be willing to give them multiple pathways to that standard.

Differentiated Instruction in the Middle School class explained with the research and a sneak peek of something exciting and new!  #teaching #languagearts

Diane Heacox offers a way to get started:
"...start small, differentiate one subject or target specific units for revision.  ...and then design additional activities for reteaching or extending learning as necessary." (p.14)

Carol Ann Tomlinson says in her book How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms that this process could take up to four or five YEARS.

The problem is most us teachers are being asked to do this RIGHT NOW - not in four or five years.

So, what can we do right now?

Based on this research, I have come to the conclusion that differentiation can be achieved if one follows a "Teach - Reteach - Enrich" pattern in teaching their lessons.

Teach:  Offer multiple opportunities for taking content in and multiple ways to process or practice that content.

Reteach those who struggle:    "If struggling learners can't learn everything, make sure they learn the big ideas, key concepts, and governing principles of the subject at hand." (Tomlinson, p.13)  

Enrich the advanced learner:  "Continually raise the ceilings of expectations so that advanced learners are competing with their own possibilities rather than with a norm." (Tomlinson, p.12)

Now if you're like me, you know in your teacher's heart that this would work and is what real education should be.  However, back in the real world, you're not sure this is something you could totally make happen in the classroom.  After all, you probably already have at least 100 pins of differentiation lists, strategies, and ideas but you never have time to go through them let alone make the things they suggest!

But what if I told you that I had been developing lessons that are standards-based, differentiated and ready to use using the 
Teach-Reteach-Enrich pattern which is clearly a "Smart" way to teach?

That all you need to execute these kinds of lessons is all in order, ready to print, and ready to present?

It's not a wish or a dream, it's all here!

There is a unit for each of the EIGHT anchor standards:

Theme/Central Idea
Citing Evidence
Character & Idea Development
Interpreting Words & Phrases
Text Structure
Point of View
Diverse Media
Analyzing Arguments

They can be purchased in one BUNDLE or separately.

Now you can differentiate with ease and in less time!

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