How much do you differentiate?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by waterfall, Sep 23, 2012.

  1. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Sep 23, 2012

    I am really struggling with this. At my last school, they were huge on NO modifications. You differentiated by the level of support that you offered. Using a third grade teacher as an example, that teacher was responsible for teaching third grade content only, even if she had students in her class that were years behind grade level. Even if there was a student (even a student identified for sped) that was working on basic adding and they were in a multiplication unit, it was expected that the child be exposed to the multiplication just like everyone else, even knowing that he didn't have the background to do the skills. We followed a workshop model, so during the "you do" the teacher would pull students who didn't get it into a small group to review the material. At this time, they were still working on grade level material...she was just differentiating by the level of support she was offering. Skill deficits were addressed in interventions, where using below grade level work was permitted (for both identified sped students and non identified students who were just behind). I'm not saying this is the correct way, just the way that I had drilled into my head for two years through countless PD. I was even told repeatedly that if I provided modified work for my sped students in gen ed, they would not qualify for real diplomas in HS.

    At my new school, the philosophy is completely the opposite. They want EVERYTHING to be differentiated. This is not something the school has done before, but the test scores are not good and the new admin thinks this is a way to raise them. There are no out of class interventions offered except for identified students in sped and those that are "high partially proficient" (aka those that have the best chance of being proficient on the test with a little push, leaving the low non-identified students totally up to the classroom teacher). The problem we're having is that they're not giving us clear direction on what exactly they want that to look like. Many teachers are in the same boat as I am, where they have been trained to stick to the "rigorous" grade level curriculum. Essentially what we have gathered is that they don't want to see any kids doing any activity that is way over their heads, since they will not be engaged (their other big mantra-engagement). I agree that my last school should have differentiated more, but as a 3rd grade teacher, isn't it still my responsibility to at least expose my students to 3rd grade standards? I have about 6 non-readers, only two of which are identified for sped and getting extra support. Obviously, they are unable to complete most skills at grade level...but don't I have to still at least expose them to the skills?

    So, how do you differentiate? We're doing centers with guided groups, and my centers are color coded where each student knows to do the activity that corresponds with their color (ability grouped) and of course the guided groups are differentiated. What about whole group though, with the modeling and guided practice? Would you have some students doing something differently during that time, and what would it look like?
     
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  3. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Sep 23, 2012

    Most of the 3rd grade students I had, had one of two things that were true. Either one--they had some 2nd grade concepts that were not mastered yet, and two--they had many 3rd grade concepts already mastered. How you use these two facts will be the main thing that will determine how much your students improve this year.

    Your greatest concern should be the high students. If they are not differentiated--they will learn nearly nothing this year. I once went an entire year learning nothing--(yes not one thing.) in math as the teacher went "by the book". This also made the teacher look bad as my test scores couldn't improve as I didn't learn anything new.

    Also, your low students are going to really struggle if they don't have the prior knowledge that they didn't master in 3rd grade. Challenging them is good. Sometimes though, a step back into 2nd grade will be necessary in order to take steps forward later.

    It is important to meet the students where they are at and then get them as far as they can go. Is this easy? No. If I was shopping for teachers or schools, I would definitely want ones that differentiate. It is essential.

    Should everything be differentiated? No. Your pre-tests should show areas that all students need to learn. I would encourage whole group for that. It is more efficient. Yes, I understand your P says otherwise, and I am not sure how to handle that situation.

    How to differentiate? There are lots of ways, and I don't think there is one exact way. I would guess that your P would be so happy if teachers differentiate, that he would be understanding if your method is a little different than his suggestions.

    Excellent question. When I have more time I will see if I can give more specific ideas.
     
  4. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    Sep 23, 2012

    I differentiate every lesson every day. My lessons are basically the same for all students but the tasks are vastly different. I look at student needs based on data and pull my guided reading groups based on their needs - that includes challenging my average and above average learners. I plan thoughtful questions to help scaffold my students to higher levels of thinking. I plan time for purposeful talk so that students have an opportunity to learn with and through their peers. I plan critical writing events to see where students are in their understanding. I don't use centers... That takes a lot of time and I am usually not pleased with what they produce during those centers.

    The tasks are the best way to differentiate and the way you teach should include a variety of questions to push students at all levels. I would rather spend an hour and a half planning rather than three hours making a center that does not produce the kinds of thinking and writing to move my students forward in their deep thinking. Good luck!
     
  5. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Sep 23, 2012

    Can you give me an example? Tomorrow in reading we are doing main idea. How would you teach the concept and then have all the kids doing different activities?

    I actually strongly dislike the center model, and I've never seen it used anywhere else (therefore I was completely lost making my centers and had to ask for a lot of help), but my school is deadset on it. The teachers were already doing them for reading last year, but now the admin is pushing us to do them in math and writing as well.

    ETA: I don't have any "advanced" students. The classes are ability grouped and I have the lowest group. I might refer to some students as my "high kids" but that's just in relation to everyone else- those are really just students that are barely able to master the grade level material with minimal supports. They're getting B's, sometimes A's, but they are working their butts off for those grades. I don't have any kids showing any advanced knowledge on pretests or anything like that.
     
  6. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    Sep 23, 2012

    We use the workshop model... Tomorrow I am introducing inferring. We will create an anchor chart to anchor student thinking. We will talk about how readers infer... Schema + text = inferring... Visual imagery + text = inferring You get the idea. I use the story, No David, to show how the reader infers by what the author says through the character and through visual images.

    Possible differentiated questions include: How do good readers use the strategy of inference? Why does making an inference help us think deeper about the text? When would you use this strategy and why?

    When my students complete their independent tasks, I would have some students writing their inferences based on the pictures in a lower level text, other students will find inferences within their personal reading, and still others will look for the inferences within their personal reading and explain in their own words the process they used to find the inference and how they knew it was an inference and not a fact.

    Meanwhile, during the work period I work with specific students based on their areas of weakness. During the lesson, I plan for purposeful talk where students explain their thinking to friend.

    In my closing, students would have an opportunity to firm their understandings by sharing their differentiated work. Not everyone shares, I choose some of the better work, but I always choose a child that was incorrect in his thinking to help clear up any misconceptions.

    Happy teaching!:)
     
  7. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    Sep 23, 2012

    This post is what I love about this forum: getting great ideas that you can use in your own classroom. Thanks so much to all of you and especially to SCTeach.
     
  8. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    Sep 23, 2012

    Gee thanks!:)
     
  9. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Sep 23, 2012

    Officially, I have 4 ability-grouped groups in both reading and math, plus, I have a tier II group of 3 (based on DIBELS results) for reading intervention. I am supposed to do math interventions as well, but (1) we haven't screened them yet (Aimsweb) and (2) I haven't been trained with any, so basically, I take my lowest math group and work with them twice. My babies haven't been trained on Fasttmath yet, but as soon as they are, they'll begin working on it.
     
  10. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Sep 24, 2012

    I would still plan some whole group lessons (keep them short: 10-15 minutes). Students who are advanced or behind can benefit from well crafted mini lessons. And your low readers can benefit from developing the skill through listening to text.

    Then you can move into reading books at their level or working with the skill at the level they are at (even if it's using pictures).

    For main idea, you may have some students merely matching titles with a set or pictures (or even one picture).

    In math, I would take a look at your scope and sequence. For most skills there is a progression. For students who are struggling with multiplication, you can definitely have them working on drawing pictures and then counting. For more advanced students, you can progress through the skills. But you still have all students working on the same skill (multiplication).
     
  11. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Sep 24, 2012

    Waterfall, I think a lot depends on the exact skill levels of your students. The more heterogenous your ability levels, the fewer whole group lessons should occur. Take an extreme example - let's say you had 20 students, with an equal number "working" on a K, 1, 2, 3, and 4 level in each subject. In such a scenario, I wouldn't do any whole group lessons in the areas in which skill levels varied, except if the skill being taught could be performed without prerequisite skills. So, as mopar mentioned, if "main idea" can be taught as a language comprehension skill without having to read text, you could teach that as a whole group lesson, then follow up with practice in your small groups.

    Practically, I would take each subject and each lesson separately, and ask if 80% of your class will benefit from the lesson. If not, teach that skill in a small group instead. If so, consider ways of including those 20% or otherwise structuring the lesson so that the skill deficits are less essential to participation.

    In terms of you not liking small groups, they aren't necessarily 100% ideal, but when you're given a group of students with vastly different skill levels, there isn't really another option. What issues are you finding with them, and would you do something differently if you could?
     
  12. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Sep 25, 2012

    I don't view ability grouping as differentiation. Neither does Tomlinson or Marzano. We got away from that years ago. We DO differentiate.

    A basic lesson is taught whole group using literature at the class's maturity level. A high or low student will love a great story, and we use it for the instruction.

    What follows are different assignments. The high students prove they grasped the concept and can move on. The lowest students work on a modified assignment with peer tutors, parent volunteers or me. The rest of the class functions as a regular class. Since we started "no low groups" our test scores have soared.
     
  13. Rabbitt

    Rabbitt Connoisseur

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    Sep 25, 2012

    I use the Daily 5 CAFE for my reading program.
    It allows for differenciated reading instruction for everyone.
    I teach such topics as main idea as a whole group mini lesson or in small groups. When I meet one on one with the student, I find out how much they know. If they do not have the concept, I explain it further.

    For spelling words, I give a grade 2 pre-test. Any missed words, are spelling words. Other words are chosen by the student from a list of more complex words.

    In math, it's all grade 2 whole group. I have one student who attends grade 4 math but I am unsure how that was determined.
     
  14. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I don't mind the small groups, but I don't like centers. In my previous experiences it's been set up where the teacher pulls groups of kids to work on skills while the rest of the class is working on something specifically related to that lesson. So with my main idea example, I might have the kids working on some assignment related to that and then pull a group of kids who either needed more support or needed more challenging material. I dislike the centers because we waste tons of time in transitions- I have a pretty good group behavior wise so they don't go crazy or anything but it still takes a minute or two to switch and begin working again, 5-6 times per lesson...that's a lot of wasted minutes! I also really dislike that the centers are focused more on basic skills rather than the skill of the lesson. I feel like they're doing the "easy" stuff for the centers just to keep them busy and in a routine while I'm pulling groups. I'd rather they do something more meaningful. I also don't really agree with the level of differentiation that they're asking for. They want the kids to NEVER struggle or work on something more challenging...each assignment should be something they can do easily and explain exactly what they're doing and how they're doing it. I really disagree and I think challenging their thinking (at whatever level might be "challenging" for them) is vitally important, even if they need to wrestle with the concept at first.

    It's also just been difficult to wrap my head around the extremely different mantra between my two schools. My previous school was ALL about "rigor" and "not cheating kids out of grade level material." This school is just the opposite. My last school justified it by making up for those deficits in interventions, but my new school doesn't have interventions. Even with my sped background, there is only so much I can do for non-readers at a 3rd grade level with 20 something other kids in the class. They need more intensive intervention and we just don't have it unless they're identified for sped, which my four lowest kids are not.
     
  15. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Sep 25, 2012

    It can definitely waste minutes with transitions, but typically those 5-6 transitions occur over the course of 100 minutes or so, and you'd typically have a similar number of transitions in whole group instruction as well. Still, because of lower supervision, I can see how a few extra minutes would be wasted.

    Are you not allowed to modify the centers? I definitely think independent work is often more helpful it's at the lower end of a child's instructional level (closer to mastery level) rather than presenting information that would either confuse kids or require your assistance and therefore interruption of your guided group, but you should be able to adjust the type and difficulty of activity within a centers format. Easy work isn't inherent in centers as a concept - maybe it's just that way at your school?

    It definitely sounds like a culture shock, and even with your centers discussion, it sounds like your issues are more related to how centers are used, rather than simply that they are used at all.

    How much flexibility do you have with rearranging how centers are structured, including type of activity and difficulty level?
     
  16. msufan

    msufan Comrade

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    Sep 25, 2012

    I always feel like it's easy to differentiate in reading (various Guided Reading groups), somewhat inevitable in writing (as students write very differently based on ability, and then I can just work with their writing from there), but tough in math because we have so much content to teach and, as they don't already know it, I need to spend time teaching (in a whole group) the vast majority of it to all of my students.
     
  17. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    I feel as though differentiation during reading comes most naturally for me. I do Daily 5 and CAFE, so students are doing read to self (reading good-fit books), work on writing (at their ability level), listen to reading, and word work (based on spelling words) all at their own level. I sometimes differentiate work on writing by giving my lower students more support (for example, writing "sentence starters" on their paper). But all students are choosing from the same activities.

    I find it most difficult to differentiate during math. During my mini-lesson and work time, I support the lower students by checking in with them, talking through problems, etc. The SPED teacher is also in my room during this time. I might also have them work through fewer problems, but dig deeper in discovering how to find the answer, and explaining their thinking. Our math curriculum has challenge activities, which I use with my higher kids.

    When looking for activities and games to use during math instruction, I try to find things that can be differentiated pretty easily. Lucky for me, my students this year are all very similar in their abilities.
     
  18. Danny'sNanny

    Danny'sNanny Connoisseur

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    Sep 25, 2012

    I have a lot of realllly low kids this year, and several reallly high kids, and only a few in the middle (on level).

    I do math groups where we are all working on similar topics, but leveled . So, last week we were working on sums of 10.
    We all played a Go Fish card game where they were making 10 with the cards.

    The lowest groups used an anchor chart to help them. "I have a six... The chart says 6+4=10, so I need a 4."

    The middle group made their pairs either by counting up to figure out what card they needed, or by memorizing the facts.

    The high group used 3 or 4 cards to make ten (so maybe a 2, 3, and 5).

    We were all working on the same strategy, and I didn't have much extra work to do for setup, but everyone was challenged appropriately.
     
  19. PowerTeacher

    PowerTeacher Comrade

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    Sep 28, 2012

    You can try the WBT 5 Step Lesson model. This walks your kids through from basic knowledge to higher order thinking in one lesson, differentiating as you go. It is easy, and fun for them and you.
     

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