I currently teach in an integrated co-teaching classroom. My co-teacher and I have students of all levels of abilities, including students on the autism spectrum and students in the gifted/talented program. I am only teaching for two years, while my co-teacher is in her 15th year. We are looking for ways to differentiate lessons on a daily basis to help support the needs and abilities of all of our students. We have tried several different strategies, however we are struggling to find one that works best in benefiting each student. Do you have any suggestions or strategies that have worked best in your classroom?

Some follow up questions: 1. Do you have common planning time and are you using it? 2. What are the several strategies you have tried? 3. Are you using the main co-teaching structures? I have been co-teaching for 13 years and have used many strategies. They change every day based on the lesson at hand and the needs given that particular lesson. We regularly use flexible grouping which means sometimes we group students based on readiness, sometimes based on interest and sometimes based on learning profile. Recently, we completed a unit where each student had an individual plan based on the standards. They completed the same standards but were able to choose what they read and how they demonstrated their learning. We used a google doc template to track student work and progress. I was really impressed although we haven't seen the final products yet. I may have some more resources with a little bit more information.

With the teacher I co-teach with the most we have tiered the lessons. For one lesson the kids has to write a brainstormers story (some group comes and acts out the winners of the story) but for my kids with writing goals and the newcomer ELL kids we did something called roll a story, that allowed the kids to have the main elements of the story given to them and they just had to fill in the details. For the introduction to fractions I took a small group out to reteach the basics of what a fraction was, spent two class sessions doing that, before they went back to the regular math the class was doing. Made doing that unit much easier for them. ELO's are also a good time to work on basic skills with low kids, at least once a week. Other time we do activities geared just for the low students, but for the whole class. We did an entire 13 day lesson on vocab words commonly used in testing for my kids that struggle with that. The higher kids loved it because they wrote the information faster and got to write their own sentences using the word, offer other times it would be used for a math question etc. Just be willing to do small group activities alongside the whole class activities and you can reach even your lowest kids. Also don't be afraid to vary the length of the final product as a form of differentiation, kids like to do what the others are doing.

My team has had success using a pre-test to help students choose one of two or three learning paths. If they get a certain grade on the pre-test (which doesn't count for a grade), they get a certain path of lessons. The lessons and formative assessments are totally different but are worth the same points. The hope is that they'll be on the same level in time to take the same summative assessment. Your advantage of being in a co-teaching situation could help you divide the class and conquer the material.

What works well for our team is we use a common novel or math goal for the whole class, and the lessons are the same for all students, but the followup assignment is a project. Like a writing project for literacy or an illustrated essay to follow a math experiment. Since the followup is a project, we can assign different expectations for each student. Some students just copy the example and that's enough of a challenge for them, others write a story and submit it to a literary magazine.

Would love to know, with a bit of detail, what this is or looks like. It sounds very very interesting. What do you consider a math experiment? What or how is an illustrated essay that would go with it that can add depth for the high achievers?

An example of this type of lesson: What is an average kid in our class? Students fill out surveys with about 40 questions. They can leave up to 5 items blank if they wish. The questions range from favorite color to how far they can broad jump. The raw survey results are disaggregated and passed out to groups of 2 or 3 students on a team to graph the results and come up with a narrative statement about what they think is average. Teams with gifted students are given the more difficult data to interpret. The broad jump data will not work on a bar graph; no two students jumped the same distance and results were recorded in inches, feet+inches, centimeters and meters. They must figure out a way to display the data graphically in a way that tells a viewer what's average. The favorite color data is simple to display on a bar graph, but that's only part of it. More students choose blue than any other color, but that's only 7 students choosing blue. Twenty kids choose different colors, so what's average? It's a tricky question. Along the way we learn about many different ways of looking at data: mean, median and mode. We look at different types of graphs and how to use spreadsheets and software to create useful tools for analysis. In the end, all students present their findings to the class for discussion and editing. The edited graphs and narratives go up on a bulletin board for back to school night. Parents are impressed that their child is studying statistical analysis at such a young age. When we finally know what a average student is like for our class, we discover that not one student is average for everything. In our class, normal means you are different.