Differentiation has become one of the “dirty” words in many teachers’ minds. At times, it feels like a hoop we are required to jump through or something we put in our lesson plans in case an administrator looks at them. However, there are tweaks we can make to what we do to differentiate in meaningful ways. Take graphic organizers for example. Using them is second nature to us, and we use them without putting much thought into them, but they are easily differentiated to be more meaningful and effective.
Here are some straightforward and “easy” ways to differentiate graphic organizers.
Gifted and High Achievers
Students Needing Support
Choice of Organizers
Students generate their own organizers that match the purpose and content being studied.
Students select from two or three teacher provided graphic organizers that match purpose and topic being studied.
Student completes the teacher provided the organizer that best matches the purpose and topic being studied.
Differentiating One Organizer for Three Levels
Teacher provides students a completed organizer that contains errors. Students work to find and correct errors; error analysis.
Students complete the provided blank organizer.
Students are given a partially completed organizer and are required to fill in missing pieces of information, and/or students are given word banks to select from in order to complete the organizer.
Differentiating Resources Needed to Complete Organizers
Students use a variety of resources to complete the organizer without specific guidance from the teacher.
Students are given specific resources to use in order to complete the organizer.
Students are provided specific resources to use as well as page numbers in order to complete the organizer.
This question was posed to me in a conversation on another social media site, and I thought it was a valuable one. I have been an administrator at the district and school level and a classroom teacher at several levels, so I know what I wanted the other side to know when I was in different jobs. Here is what I shared in my response, but I am sure there are more.
Teachers would like Administrators to Know/Remember-
1. Remember that teachers have no flexibility during the day because they are with KIDS.
2. Teachers tend to like knowing schedule changes, plans for different days, etc. and are uncomfortable not knowing as early as possible.
3. Teachers often like preparing over the summer when they have time, so not telling them things about their job placement before the summer is very frustrating.
4. Teachers appreciate simple acknowledgments of jobs well done.
5. The wording of things is very important. There’s now way to tell you that now vs I understand why you would like that information now; however, I am not able to tell you yet. As soon as I am, I’ll let you know.
6. Teachers appreciate administrators who are visible in the halls, at lunch, etc.
Admin would like Teachers to Know/Remember-
1. Administrators can’t make everyone happy–ever. I always felt like I could give every teacher a million dollar and there would be people mad that it wasn’t more.
2. Being an administrator is stressful as you try to balance the needs/requirements of teachers, students, school board, parents, etc. in mind.
3. Administrators are responsible for everything that happen in the building/district but are in control of very little.
4. Good administrators recognize the importance of teachers and work to communicate with them clearly.
5. Administrators don’t always have the flexibility to do what they think is best for the school/teachers/kids.
6. Principals often have mandates that they are not always at liberty to share.
7. All teachers don’t do what they are supposed to do, and when the administrators take action, it doesn’t mean that the admin is going against all teachers. Teachers tend to “close ranks” around teachers who are being disciplined or mentored even though teachers know the teacher isn’t doing what he/she should be doing.
8. The teachers who are the most inflexible with students are often the ones who are late with paperwork, fail to follow directives, etc.
I need to reread the report and think about the recommendations some more, but I can definitely see my practice changing to include more implicit instruction in some of these areas.
From the Report:
Eleven Elements of Effective Adolescent Writing Instruction
This report identifies 11 elements of current writing instruction found to be effective for helping
adolescent students learn to write well and to use writing as a tool for learning. It is important to note
that all of the elements are supported by rigorous research, but that even when used together, they do
not constitute a full writing curriculum.
1. Writing Strategies, which involves teaching students strategies for planning, revising, and
editing their compositions
2. Summarization, which involves explicitly and systematically teaching students how to
3. Collaborative Writing, which uses instructional arrangements in which adolescents work
together to plan, draft, revise, and edit their compositions
4. Specific Product Goals, which assigns students specific, reachable goals for the writing they
are to complete
5. Word Processing, which uses computers and word processors as instructional supports for
6. Sentence Combining, which involves teaching students to construct more complex,
7. Prewriting, which engages students in activities designed to help them generate or organize
ideas for their composition
8. Inquiry Activities, which engages students in analyzing immediate, concrete data to help
them develop ideas and content for a particular writing task
9. Process Writing Approach, which interweaves a number of writing instructional activities in
a workshop environment that stresses extended writing opportunities, writing for authentic
audiences, personalized instruction, and cycles of writingWriting Next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools
10. Study of Models, which provides students with opportunities to read, analyze, and emulate
models of good writing
11. Writing for Content Learning, which uses writing as a tool for learning content material
This short and easy to read article provides some simple things to remember about and to try with our tween students. I am really working on the idea of formative assessment this year. The transition to semester grades is a little daunting because the kids are going to have so many grades by the end of 18 weeks if I put a GRADE in the grade book for every assignment that they do. Today, I met with each child as he/she finished a short assignment to talk quickly about the errors on his/her paper. Even though many of the kids were making the same mistake, I wanted to see if the kids got more out of the one on one explanation of errors. We’ll see…
“Of all the states of matter in the known universe, tweens most closely resemble liquid.” This is a quotation from the article, and I love the metaphor.