Something I’ve been learning about differentiation this year is that there is no one way to do it. You can differentiate the process. You can differentiate the product. You can differentiate the content. You can adjust all three.
I can remember talking about differentiation in my first rounds of interviews. With no real experience under my belt, differentiation meant eliminating answers on a multiple choice test or giving a word back to select students.
It now looks like so many things in my English classroom, but my favorite approach right now is through a tiered lesson.
It’s basically adjusting the process depending on student needs. The outcome is the same; the route kids take to get there varies (which, I think is a base definition FOR differentiation).
Most recently, I did this with my research unit. The skill I wanted kids to get at was pulling text evidence from non-fiction text to answer an essential question. Students were given packets that looked identical on the outside but had different levels of structure on the inside.
The least structured tier looked like this:
I suppose “least structured” actually means hardly any structure in this case. The students who received this one needed little to no guidance in the process. They could maneuver the databases and track down sufficient articles on their own.
The middle tier packet (which the majority of my students received) looked like this:
Two of the required four articles was found for the students and some guiding questions were given to help them think through it. My goal in this was to give kids a jump start, so that finding an article on their own wasn’t such an ambiguous and lofty task.
The most structured packet, for students who needed the most guidance through the process looked like this:
It forced them in a direction, yes (a problem I have not yet figured out how to solve), but I really wanted these students to focus on the reading skills and not get hung up in the searching-for-a-good-article skill. This chunked down larger texts for the kids, and they found a lot of success with this approach.
Packets were assigned based primarily on a student self-assessment of their needs and coupled with my own observations and knowledge about their abilities (which mostly agreed with students’ own views).
As with anything, there are things I will do differently next year, but structurally, I think I’ll take this approach to research here on out.