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How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability ClassroomsBy: Carol Ann Tomlinson
This book focuses on exactly what the title says, differentiated instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. It first clarifies what differentiated instruction is and is not, as well as all the elements which are incorporated into a differentiated classroom when teaching with that style. The book then continues to break down differentiated instruction into its parts in order to gain a further understanding such as why one should teach this way, the role of the teacher, how to address parents, etc. The book overall does a great job of explaining all the elements and is a great resource for understanding differentiated instruction in the classroom. It covers all bases, leaving nothing out. However, the examples in the book were not very prevalent. The book focused on concepts, and understanding why they work, or how to address the elements. Examples which we used we resourceful, but a lot of analyzing would need to be done in order to understand if ones personal lessons incorporate all the different pieces which make up successful differentiated instruction. Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone who is looking for information on differentiated instruction as the book was very informative.
Chapter 1: What differentiated instruction is and isn't
  • What differentiated instruction is NOT
    • Differentiated instruction is NOT the "Individualized Instruction" of the 1970s.
    • Differentiated instruction is NOT chaotic.
    • Differentiated instruction is NOT just another way to provide homogeneous grouping.
    • Differentiated instruction is NOT just "tialoring the same suit of clothes."
  • What differentiated instruction is
    • Differentiated instruction is PROACTIVE.
    • Differentiated instruction is more Qualitative than quantitative.
    • Differentiated instruction is ROOTED IN ASSESSMENT
    • Differentiated instruction provides MULTIPLE APPROACHES to content, process, and product.
    • Differentiated instruction is STUDENT CENTERED.
    • Differentiated instruction is A BLEND of whole-class, group, and individual instruction
    • Differentiated instruction is "Organic."
Chapter 2: The Rationale for Differentiated Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms
  • How people best learn: the engine that drives effective differentiation
  • Looking at a classroom through many eyes
  • Understanding the needs of advanced learners
    • Advanced learners can become mentally lazy, even though they do well in school.
    • Advanced learners may become "hooked" on the trappings of success.
    • Advanced learners may become perfectionists.
    • Advanced learners may fail to develop a sense of self-efficacy.
    • Advanced learners may fail to develop study and coping skills.
    • Several key principals which are useful for coaching advanced learners through growth
      • Continually raise the ceilings of expectations so that advanced learners are competing with their own possibilities rather than with a norm.
      • Make clear what would constitute excellence for the advanced learner so "her" know, at least in large measure, what to aim for in "her" work.
      • As you raise ceilings of expectation, raise the support system available to the student to reach "his" goals.
      • Be sure to balance rigor and joy in learning.
  • Understanding the needs of Struggling Learners
    • Look for the struggling learner's positives.
    • Don't let what's broken extinguish what works.
    • Pay attention to relevance.
    • Go for powerful learning.
    • Teach up.
    • Use many avenues to learning.
    • See with the eyes of love.
    • Important principles to keep in mind as you plan for success for students who are struggling in school
      • Be clear on what students must know, understand, and be able to do in order to grow in their grasp of the subject.
      • Set important goals of understanding and use of ideas for struggling students, then figure out how to build scaffolding leading to student success in those goals.
      • Work for learning-in-context.
      • Plan teaching and learning through many modalities.
      • Continually find ways to let the student know that you believe in him or her, and reinforce legitimate success whenever it happens.
  • Differentiating learning experiences to address academic diversity
Chapter 3: The Role of the Teacher in a Differentiated Classroom
  • The teacher's role in a differentiated classroom
  • Best practice accounts for varied learners
  • Learning to lead a differentiated classroom
    • Teachers who become comfortable and competent with differentiation almost inevitably develop skills of:
      • organizing and focusing curriculum on essential information, understandings, and skills
      • seeing and reflecting on individuals as well as the group
      • hunting for insights about individuals
      • peeling back first impressions, looking beyond actions, erasing stereotypes
      • giving students a voice
      • thinking of and using time flexibly
      • scrounging for a wide range of materials
      • thinking of many ways to accomplish a common goal
      • diagnosing student need and crafting learning experiences in response to diagnoses
      • thinking of what could go wrong in an activity or task and structuring student work to avoid potential problems
      • sharing responsibility for teaching and learning with students, ensuring students are prepared for the shared roles
      • moving students among varied work arrangements as a way to see students in new ways and to help them see themselves in new ways
      • keeping track of students proximity to and growth toward personal group benchmarks
      • organizing materials and space
      • giving directions
      • teaching for success
      • building a sense of community in the classroom
    • Three metaphors for the role of the teacher in a differentiated classroom
      • The teacher as director of the orchestra.
      • The teacher as the coach.
      • The teacher as the jazz musician.
  • Differentiating instruction: rules of thumb
    • Be clear on the key concepts and generalizations or principles that give meaning and structure to the topic, chapter, unit, or lesson you are planning
    • Think of assessment as a road map for your thinking and planning
    • Lessons for all students should emphasize critical and creative thinking.
    • Lessons for all students should be engaging.
    • In a differentiated classroom, there should be a balance between student-selected and teacher-assigned tasks and working arrangements
Chapter 4: The Learning Environment in a Differentiated Classroom
  • Characteristics of an effective learning community
    • Everyone feels welcomed and contributes to everyone else feeling welcomed.
    • Mutual respect is nonnegotiable.
    • Students feel safe in the classroom.
    • There is a pervasive expectation of growth.
    • The teacher teaches for success.
    • A new sort of fairness is evident.
    • Teacher and students collaborate for mutual growth and success.
  • Paving the way for respect and success
    • Continually coach students to be contributing members of a group.
    • Plan with flexible grouping in mind.
Chapter 5: A Look Inside Some Differentiated Classrooms
  • Ms. Eames and her 1st Graders
  • Mrs. Riley and her 3rd Graders
  • Mr. Blackstone and his 6th Graders
  • Ms. Jeffries and her 8th grade History Students
  • Mr. Rakes and his High School Math Students
  • The Teacher's Toolbox
Chapter 6: Strategies for Managing a Differentiated Classroom
  • Benefits for students and teachers
  • Managing a classroom: the basics
    1. Have a strong rationale for differentiating instruction based on student readiness, interest, and learning profile.
    2. Begin differentiating at a pace that is comfortable for you.
    3. Time differentiated activities to support student success.
    4. Use an "anchor activity" to free you up to focus your attention on your students.
    5. Create and deliver instructions carefully.
    6. Assign students into groups or seating areas smoothly.
    7. Have a "home base" for students.
    8. Be sure students have a plan for getting help when you're busy with another student or group.
    9. Minimize noise.
    10. Make a plan for students to turn in work.
    11. Teach students to rearrange the furniture.
    12. Minimize "stray" movement.
    13. Promote on-task behavior.
    14. Have a plan for "quick finishers."
    15. Make a plan for "calling a halt."
    16. Give your students as much responsibility for their learning as possible.
    17. Engage your students in talking about classroom procedures and group processes.
Chapter 7: Preparing Students and Parents for a Differentiated Classroom
  • Introducing students to differentiated instruction: a middle school scenario
  • Helping parents learn about differentiated instruction
  • To help parents develop a clear and positive understanding of differentiated instruction and how it benefits their children let them know that:
    • The goal of differentiated instruction is to make certain that everyone grows in all key skills and knowledge areas, moving on from their starting points.
    • In a differentiated classroom, the teacher closely assesses and monitors skills, knowledge levels, interests, and effective ways of learning for all students, then plans lessons and tasks with those levels in mind.
    • A differentiated lesson assigned by a teacher reflects the teacher's current best understanding of what a child needs to grow in understanding and skill.
    • The teacher will be glad to have parents come to school and talk about their children because both have important perspectives to share.
    • A goal in your classroom is to help each student become a more independent learner.
  • A note about differentiation and parents of advanced learners
    • Listen to them and learn from them.
    • Rebuild their trust that school is a great fit for their child.
    • Understand the paradox of parenting a bright child.
    • Think through the "Why is her work harder" question.
  • A note about parents who push students too hard
  • A note about parents who stay away from school
Chapter 8: The How To's of Planning Lessons Differentiated by Readiness.
  • Thinking about differentiation by readiness
    • Foundational to transformational.
    • Concrete to Abstract.
    • Simple to Complex.
    • Single Facet to Multiple Facets.
    • Small Leap to Great Leap.
    • Structured to Open-Ended.
    • Dependent to Independent.
      • 4 stages students needs are in developing independence
        1. Skill building
        2. Structured independence
        3. Shared independence
        4. Self-guided independence
    • Slow to Fast.
  • Equalized Troubleshooting Tips
    • All students need lessons that are coherent, relevant, powerful, transferable, authentic, and meaningful.
    • A curriculum that is good for students pushes them a bit beyond what they find easy or comfortable.
    • Plan to encourage your students to "work up" that is, be ready to match students to task that will stretch them.
  • Using Readiness to differentiate content, process, and product
Chapter 9: The How To's of Planning Lessons Differentiated by Interest
  • Drawing on Existing Student Interests
    • goals of interest based instruction
      1. helping students realize that there is a match between school and their own desires to learn
      2. demonstrating the connectedness between all learning
      3. using skills or ideas familiar to students as a bridge to ideas or skills less familiar to them
      4. enhancing student motivation to learn
    • "Sidebar" Studies
    • Interest Centers or Interest Groups
    • Specialty teams
  • Expanding Student Interests
    • Real-Life applications of ideas and skills
    • New Forms of expression
  • A few guidelines for interest based differentiation
    • Link interest-based exploration with key components of the curriculum.
    • Provide structure likely to lead to student success.
    • Develop efficient ways of sharing interest-based findings.
    • Create an open invitation for student interests.
    • Keep an open eye and an open mind for the student with a serious passion.
    • Remember that interest-based differentiation can be combined with other types of differentiation.
  • A glimpse at strategies that support interest differentiation
    • I-Search
    • Orbitals
    • Design-A-Day
    • Group Investigation
    • Web-Quests
    • Jigsaw
    • Literature Circles
    • Negotiated Criteria
Chapter 10: The How To's of Planning Lessons Differentiated by Learning Profile
  • The categories of learning profile factors
    • Learning-Style Preferences
    • Intelligence Preferences
    • Culture-Influenced Preferences
    • Gender-Based Preferences
    • Combined Preferences
  • Some guidelines for learning profile differentiation
    • Remember that some, but not all, of your students share your learning preferences.
    • Help your students reflect on their own preferences.
    • Use both teacher-structured and student-choice avenues to learning-profile differentiation.
    • Select a few learning-profile categories for emphasis as you begin.
    • Be a student on your students.
  • A glimpse at strategies that support learning-profile differentiation
    • Complex Instruction
    • Entry Points
    • 4-MAT
      • Approach to planning suggests that varied learners would prefer:
        1. mastery of information
        2. understanding of key ideas
        3. personal involvement
        4. creating something new related to a topic
    • Varied Approaches to Organizing Ideas
  • Using Learning Profile to Differentiate Content, Process, and Product
  • Bringing the elements together
  • Diagnosing student interest, readiness, and learning profile
Chapter 11: Differentiating Context
  • Differentiating content for student need
    • Readiness differentiation
    • Interest differentiation
    • Learning profile differentiation
  • Strategies for differentiating content
    • Concept-based teaching
    • Curriculum compacting
      • 3 stages process
        1. The teacher identifies students who are candidates for compacting and assesses what they know and do not know about a particular topic or chapter.
        2. The teacher notes any skills or understandings covered in the study in which the student did not demonstrate mastery, and then lays out a plan to make certain the student learns those things.
        3. The teacher and the student design an investigation or study for the student to engage in while others are working with the general lessons
      • 3 benefits to compacting
        1. teachers demonstrate accountability for student learning
        2. parents understand why it is advantageous for their children to work with an alternative task
        3. students develop awareness of their specific learning profiles
    • Using varied text and resource materials
    • Learning contracts
    • Minilessons
    • Varied support systems
      • Audio/Video Recorders
      • Note-Taking Organizers
      • Highlighted Print Materials
      • Digests of Key Ideas
      • Peer and Adult Mentors
Chapter 12: Differentiating Process
  • A GOOD ACTIVITY is something students will make or do
    • using an essential skill(s) and essential information
    • in order to understand an essential idea/principle or answer an essential question
  • A GOOD DIFFERENTIATED ACTIVITY is something students will make or do
    • in a range of modes at varied degrees of sophistication in varying time spans
    • with varied amounts of teacher or peer support (scaffolding)
    • using an essential skill(s) and essential information
    • to understand an essential idea/principle or answer an essential question
  • Differentiating process according to student readiness means matching the complexity of a task to a student's current level of understanding and skill.
  • Differentiating process according to student interest involves giving students choices about the facets of a topic in which to specialize or helping them link a personal interest to a sense making goal
  • Differentiating process according to student learning profile generally means encouraging students to make sense of an idea in a preferred way of learning
  • Strategies that support differentiated processing
  • Mr. Jackson and Cubing
  • Mrs. Miller and Interactive Journals
Chapter 13: Differentiating Products
  • Creating high-quality product assignments
  • Other guidelines for successful product assignments
    1. Use products as one way to help your students see the ideas and skills they study in school being used in the world by real people to address real issues or problems.
    2. Talk with your students often about the need for both critical and creative thinking.
    3. Require that your students use and synthesize or blend multiple sources of information in developing their products.
    4. Stress planning and use check-id dates as needed to match student's levels of independence.
    5. Ensure that students actually use the entire block of time allotted to the project (rather than waiting three weekes and five days of a month long product span before beginning to work on the product).
    6. Support your students' use of varied modes of expression, materials, and technologies.
    7. Be sure to help your students learn required production skills, not just necessary content.
    8. Communicate with parents regarding time lines, requirements, rationale for the product, how they can help, and what they should avoid doing during creation of the project.
    9. Remember that there are many ways people can express themselves.
    10. Use formative (during the project) and summative (after the project) peer and self-evaluation based on the agreed-upon criteria for content and production.
    11. Whenever possible, arrange for student products to be viewed by someone other than just you.
    12. In sharing products, remember that having every student share with the whole class may be unduly time-consuming and even uninspiring, unless you've taught students how to be high-quality presenters.
  • Differentiated secondary products
  • Differentiating products for struggling learners
    1. Be sure product assignments for all learners require them to apply an extend essential understandings and skills for the unit or other product span.
    2. Use product formats that allow students to express themselves in ways other than written language alone.
    3. Give product assignments in smaller increments, allowing students to complete one portion of a product before introducing another.
    4. Think about putting directions on audio or video tape so students can revisit explanations as needed.
    5. Prepare, or help students prepare, timelines for product work so that tasks seem manageable.
    6. Use miniworkshops on particular product skills such as taking notes in research, conducting interviews, drawing conclusions, editing, etc.
    7. Support students in finding appropriate resources by setting up interviews, bookmarking internet sites, creating special book boxes or shelves or readable sources on related topics, tape-recording summaries of key ideas and information, enlisting media psecialist to work with students at established times, etc.
    8. Provide templates or organizers that guide students through each step of doing research.
    9. From time to time be sure to review the big picture of the product with the students, asking them to reflect on why it's important, what they are learning, how parts of the product fit together to make a big picture of meaning, how the product relates to what's going on, etc.
    10. Where students find tasks daunting think about joining (or having specialists join) individuals or groups in an ad hoc, advisory capacity - meeting at pre-established times for consultation, coaching, and guidance.
    11. Work with students to target portions of rubrics that reflect their individual needs, focusing both yourself and students on goals that seem challenging and worthwhile for particular emphasis.
    12. Help students analyze models of effective products from prior years so that they develop awareness of important components of the product, language skills to thing about the elements, and concrete illustrations of what good work looks like.
    13. When students do not have resources and support for product completion outside of school, provide time, materials, and partnership at school.
    14. When students speak a primary language other than English, be sure the student has access to information in his first language, or a strong support system for translating.
  • Differentiating product assignments for advanced learners
    1. Be sure to structure product assignments for advanced learners so that they're being stretched forward on a number of the learning continuums - complexity, independence, transformation, abstractness, multifaceted solutions, and great leaps of insight.
    2. Consider having advanced leaners study key issues or questions across time periods, disciplines, or cultures.
    3. As much as possible, include advanced-level research, such as advanced materials, multiple materials, primary sources, original documents, and students-conducted original research.
    4. Consider using mentors to guide the work of advanced learners so that the students are stretched in content and quality by someone who knows the area of study at an advanced level.
    5. Consider letting advanced students begin their projects earlier than other students if the complexity of their products warrants it.
    6. Whenever possible, have each advanced learner work with a mentor - someone who works avocationally or professionally with the topic being explored.
    7. Let each advanced learner help you develop criteria for expert-level content and production.
    8. When it would be helpful to do so, have advanced leaners' products assessed by an expert in the field on which the product is based.
Chapter 14: Grading in a Differentiated Classroom
  • Changing the traditional grading system
  • Handling concerns of advanced learners and their parents
  • Record-keeping in a differentiated classroom
    1. You don't have to throw out your grade book!
    2. Student work folders are a valuable record-keeping device.
    3. Share as much record-keeping responsibility as possible with your students.
    4. Consider the possibility that not all work has to be formally graded.
    5. Involve students in student-led parent conferences.