Differentiation Tips for the Beginning of a New School Year
I love this time of year when it feels like a reset button has been pushed and a year of new possibilities lies ahead.
When your students walk into the classroom, you know what a wide range of personalities, experiences and abilities they will represent. And you know they have a variety of learning needs. So, let’s get a step ahead!
In planning to differentiate for your high ability learners, here are a few tips to get started.
My first tip is to assess. If your curriculum does not include pretests, use the posttest and revise it (or use it as is...gasp!). This is a way to be certain about what your students already know and don’t know so that you can devise a plan to meet their instructional needs. If a student shows mastery of the material at 80% or greater, do not, I repeat, DO NOT make them sit through lessons and do given assignments to learn and practice the material. If there are clearly some gaps, according to the assessment, then pull students in on those lessons only. Likely, they will master the concepts or skills quickly. Instead, plan a meaningful alternative learning experience for the student. This can be done somewhat easily from a management perspective through task cards or independent projects.
Task cards: cards, such as index size cards, that have various creative and critical thinking activities on them. The activities may or may not necessarily relate to the area of study. For management purposes, number the cards. Have a separate notebook and/or folder set aside for the student in which to do the work from the task card. Have students put the number of the task card on their corresponding work in the notebook. Be sure to give the student feedback; grade it; and perhaps allot bonus points for such work. I might suggest setting aside a time intermittently when all of your students can work on such activities. You can locate such activities in your teacher files (usually the things you never “get to” or “have time for”); the internet; teacher manuals in the “enrichment” sections...
Independent projects: an activity that focuses on having students use higher level thinking skills to do something with the related content they have already mastered. When using the term “project,” some may think of this as a week or two long task. It doesn’t have to be. Create the project to be the amount of time you want it to take based on the time you will be teaching content to students who still need to master it. The “project” may only require one or two class periods. Finally, be sure to plan something that is able to be done independently by the student. You will have to set a protocol and train your students in order for this to occur.
So, plan ahead and think about how you will meet the needs of your advanced learners. Try adding one new idea!