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Component 5 of the

SEVA Council of Gifted Administrators

Reflection Questions

1. What are the five main components of classroom


2. The teacher’s responsibility in providing

appropriately differentiated instruction includes what
five tasks?
Table of Contents

 Definition of Differentiation
 The Basics of Differentiation
 Differentiation of Content
 Differentiation of Instructional Process
 Differentiation of Products
 Differentiation of Assessments
 Differentiation of Learning Environment
 Summary
What is Differentiation?

 Definition
Differentiation is the deliberate adjustment of the content, process,
and products of instruction to make sure that each student can
maximize his or her learning. It is the process of making the instruction
a good fit for each student.

 Why differentiate?
Think of it as a baseball analogy. The pitcher will need different
training than the outfielder or the person on first base, but if everyone
gets the right coaching, then the whole team wins the game.
Starting Point: Questions Teachers Should Always Ask
Before Starting a Unit of Instruction

 What should students know, understand, and be able to do as a a

result of this learning assignment?

 How am I going to know who’s learning what I intend, and who

already knows it?

 What am I going to do now that I know who’s where relative to my

learning goals?

 What do I need to do to ensure that my classroom actively supports

the success of each student?
The Basics
Differentiation is not…
• Just more of the same work for
advanced students
• Random groups all doing the same
Differentiation is… • Advanced students tutoring
• Varied assignments for struggling students
students at different levels of • Mostly whole class instruction with
readiness or achievement the same assignments for everyone
• Authentic choices for students • Just remediation
to demonstrate what they • Only for elementary classes
have learned • Grading differently based on
• Adjustment of pacing, perceptions of students’ capabilities
resources, and instructional • Blue paper vs. green paper
strategies to meet the needs
of ALL students
• Using pre- and post- But you already knew that,
assessments to create a good right? OK, differentiation
fit of instruction to the for you! Let’s take it to the
students next level.
What is appropriately differentiated instruction for
gifted students?

From the Regulations:

 “Appropriately differentiated curriculum and instruction” means curriculum
and instruction adapted or modified to accommodate the accelerated
learning aptitudes of identified students in their areas of strength. Such
curriculum and instructional strategies provide accelerated and enrichment
opportunities that recognize gifted students’ needs for
 Advanced content and pacing of instruction;
 Original research or production;
 Problem finding and solving;
 Higher level thinking that leads to the generation of products; and
 A focus on issues, themes, and ideas within and across areas of study.
Such curriculum and instruction are offered continuously and
sequentially to support the achievement of student outcomes, and
provide support necessary for these students to work at increasing
levels of complexity that differ significantly from those of their age-level
What does effective differentiation look like?
The five main components
of classroom differentiation:
 Content/curriculum
 Instruction (process)
 Student products
 Assessments
 Learning environment

According to Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska, appropriate differentiation to

meet the needs of gifted students includes increased:
 Acceleration and abstraction
 Depth and complexity
 Creativity and challenge

As you go through this presentation, note how these concepts can be

included in each of the five main components.
Understanding Differentiation of Content

Effectively differentiated content includes

adjustments in:
 Subject specific content
 Mandated SOL content
 Pacing guides, aka compacting
 Resources
 Vocabulary
 Themes and concepts As you go through the next sets of
 Goal-setting slides, try to see where you are on
the continuum – are you at the
novice level or professional level or
master level? What ideas do you
have for reaching the next level?
Understanding Differentiation of Content

 Subject specific content

What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Curriculum and lesson Some differentiated Some students (or one
plans include consistent, lessons and group) have
specific opportunities for assignments for varying differentiated
expansion, enrichment, skill levels are evident in assignments, but
compacting, and curriculum and required differentiation is evident
advanced daily/weekly lesson only in amount of work
understanding, as well plans (number of problems,
as specific opportunities amount of reading,
for extra length of writing)
Understanding Differentiation of Content

 Mandated content (SOL)

What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
State standards have Some provision is made Students who have
provisions for content to in daily and weekly demonstrated prior
be accelerated, lessons for content that mastery of minimum
compacted, or is more complex, standards are given
expanded to increase advanced, or enriched enrichment activities,
depth, breadth, and beyond minimum but the activities are not
complexity for students standards. specifically designed to
who demonstrate provide greater depth of
mastery. understanding in the
content area.
Understanding Differentiation of Content

 Pacing of Curriculum
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally
Pacing guides incorporate Pacing guides provide Little evidence of
flexibility with suggestions some adaptations for flexibility in pacing
for compacting or advanced students in guides for students
enrichment when students most units of who have already
demonstrate early mastery instruction. Teachers mastered material;
of content; teachers/teams meet content little evidence of
consistently provide requirements in pacing adaptations in pacing
acceleration of instruction guides and adapt by teachers to meet
as appropriate to pacing of instruction to needs of students
accommodate accelerated meet student needs.
learning aptitudes
Understanding Differentiation of Content

 Vocabulary Development
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Varied, advanced Appropriately advanced Minimal use of
vocabulary is vocabulary is advanced vocabulary;
consistently used; a occasionally used; some word wall is solely
variety of word study word analysis occurs; content-based (e.g.
strategies is used word wall has concept science vocabulary)
(thesaurus, word categories/is multi-
etymology, etc.); word disciplinary
wall is dynamic and
updated often
Understanding Differentiation of Content

 Resources
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Resources specified in Some primary resources Resources are teacher-
curriculum include and varied sources of prepared materials,
primary sources, varied information are used, encyclopedias,
internet sites, news with different resources Wikipedia, or video
media, interviews, and sources being used clips; minimal
artifacts, trade books; according to skill levels differentiation in
resources provided are and interests of resources for different
varied according to skill students skill levels or interests of
levels and interests of students
Understanding Differentiation of Content

 Themes and Concepts

What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Curriculum includes Some evidence of Curriculum content is
many opportunities for cross-disciplinary and subject specific;
cross-disciplinary and real world connections; concrete; few
real world connections; some evidence of “big opportunities for real
abstract concepts; focus picture” ideas; some world problem solving;
is on issues, themes, evidence that advanced “rainforests” or “Battle of
and ideas within and students are challenged Trafalgar”
across areas of study; with more abstract
“change” or “conflict” concepts and themes
Understanding Differentiation of Content

 Goal Setting
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Teachers set specific Teachers set learning Teachers set learning
achievement and goals for advanced goals for the class as a
learning goals for their students as a group but whole with little
advanced students to not for individual specificity for advanced
ensure that all students students with unique or students.
demonstrate highly advanced skills
measureable academic and needs.
and intellectual growth.

You know those class goals on your

new teacher evaluation form? Make
sure you have accounted for the
students who mastered the pretest at
80% or above – what do THEY get to
Understanding Differentiation of Content

 Summary
We have reviewed differentiation of subject specific content, mandated
SOL content, pacing guides, resources, vocabulary, themes and
concepts, and goal-setting.

 Your turn
1. What do you already do in your classroom to differentiate content
for your students?
2. Have we left out any critical pieces to this so far? If so, what?
3. What are the possible barriers that you see to implementing
differentiated content? How might you overcome them?
4. What do you think you might be willing to try next?
A word about fairness…

 Sometimes teachers or students may feel that it isn’t fair for some
students to be doing more (or less) than other students. Remember
that everyone is unique and has different educational needs. Just
as it wouldn’t be fair to leave Babe Ruth on a Little League team, or
leave Yo-Yo Ma in a garage band, it wouldn’t be fair to deny
students appropriately challenging work and the support they need
to help them fly.
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

Effective differentiation of instructional

delivery includes adjustments to:
 Developing student skills
 Lesson structure
 Questioning strategies
 Use of technology
 Assignments
 Independent work
 Accommodations
 Acceleration
 Helpful forms
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Content Presentation and Instructional Delivery

What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Instruction is flexible Instruction is often Instruction has some
and varied, includes varied (lecture, small evidence of variability
opportunities for group, discussion, for learning styles and
independent learning, seatwork, student-led, minimal variability for
meets needs of varied etc.) according to skill levels; may use one
learning styles and skill content/task with some or two resources other
levels; focus more on variance according to than textbook
original or current skill levels; multiple real-
sources than on world or original sources
textbook to supplement textbook
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Developing Student Skills

What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Students are given Students are given Students are only given
consistent opportunities opportunities to develop opportunities to develop
to develop skills in some above grade level grade level literacy and
critical thinking, abstract literacy and computational skills;
reasoning, creativity, computational skills and thinking is consistently
problem finding and to extend those skills as concrete and rote;
solving, higher level appropriate, and have occasional higher level
thinking that leads to the some opportunities to thinking is “extra” and
generation of products develop critical thinking not part of required
skills content
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Lesson structure
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Format is widely Some lessons are tiered Lessons are tiered with
variable and flexible; to meet students’ differentiation in quantity
includes evaluation, varying levels of ability rather than complexity;
discussion, predictions, and interests; some limited individualization;
experimentation, lessons are project- “games” focus on
reflection; supports based; instruction varies memorization/recall;
complexity, creativity, (flexible groups, some hands-on
and curiosity; lessons projects, multi-media, manipulatives
are tiered to meet experiments, activities,
varying student skill student-student
levels interaction, mnemonics)
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Questioning Strategies and Discussions

What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally
Discussions include student- Questions are Some evidence of
student responses, abstract frequently analytical analytical or reasoning
thinking and reasoning, high with occasional questions; questions
level questions: “why,” “what opportunities for rarely open-ended;
if,” creative open-ended open-ended focus is on
responses are encouraged; (evaluating, creating) correct/incorrect
Socratic strategies may be responses on answers;
used; questions frequently assignments and preponderance of
are open-ended (evaluating, discussions questions are at basic
creating) both in discussions content
and on assignments knowledge/recall level
regardless of skill level
of student
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Use of Technology
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally
Technology supports Teacher uses technology to Teacher uses
creative instruction; support individual student flipcharts or
technology is used for needs, both to support smartboards; may use
student presentations, struggling learners internet as a resource
student research, and (“practice”-type games) and for whole class; focus
student publications; to challenge advanced is on teacher use of
technology is used to learners (independent technology; little
support advanced research or evidence of
learning (such as on- advanced/enriched skill individualized use of
line mini-courses, acquisition); focus is on technology
digital books) student use of technology
more than on teacher use of
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Assignments (seatwork, homework, “fun” sheets, worksheets)

What do they look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Assignments are deliberately All assignments are meaningful, Remediation is provided for
designed to meet individual needs not just “busy work”; supplemental students who need additional
and skill levels, providing assignments for advanced support; meaningful
appropriate challenge, advanced students may include independent enrichment is provided for
learning, and remediation as research with student choice of students who have mastered
needed; students who topic (including solving real world the content/skills. Standard
consistently finish early (and problems) or critical thinking skills; worksheets are fill-in-the-
correctly) are given interesting, students who have mastered blank, short answer, matching
advanced assignments; less concepts will have less repetitive tasks, and some analytical
repetition and practice may be practice; assignments vary in tasks.
needed for advanced students - complexity; homework is tiered to Graphic organizers are
need is determined by pre- skills and remediation needs of provided. Pre-assessments
assessments and formative students; thinking maps and a are used to determine levels of
assessments; worksheets are variety of graphic organizers are assignments.
differentiated in complexity and used to support non-verbal
type of task (include higher level learners
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Strategies for assignments

Differentiate the amount of work

Consider using:
required by:

 Tiered lessons  Number and difficulty of

 Mini lessons problems
 Graphic organizers  Length and type of writing
  Pages of reading and type of
Anchor tasks
 Thinking maps  Type of questions
 Jigsaws  Demonstrated need for
 Literature circles practice
 Choice boards  Choice of products
 Tic-tac-toe choices  Complexity of tasks
 KWL charts
Remember - Just more or less of
the same work is not adequate
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

That’s just for elementary

classes, right? AP classes
don’t need to be
differentiated, because the
students are all advanced.

 AP classes and other honors classes at the middle and high school
levels also have students with very different abilities, skills, interests,
and needs, and consequently need to be differentiated-- just in
different ways than in an elementary class. While covering the
required content, the depth and breadth of the content,
instructional strategies, and student products should all be
differentiated to provide the most appropriately challenging
experience for all of the students in the class.
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process
 Strategies for assignments

Most Difficult First:

Do consider giving your advanced students the 20% of the problems
on your assignment that are the most difficult first. If they get the
problems correct at 80% or higher, let them move on without having to
do the rest of the problems. This strategy not only motivates the
students to do well on harder problems, but it saves them the
frustration of having to complete repetitive work that they have already

Don’t require students to always achieve 100% mastery before

accelerating them or allowing them to move ahead. It is unrealistic –
we all make occasional mistakes!!
Some teachers would
argue with this… what
do YOU think?
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Independent Work
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Students have Independent projects Topics and products for
opportunities to do are assigned but independent projects
original research and students have minimal are assigned by
writing, structured by choices in topics or teacher; evaluation
the needs and interests products; rubrics are rubrics focus on
of the students; have used for evaluating “neatness” rather than
differentiated products for evidence of understanding
assignments; and have understanding (everyone does
choices of topics and diorama/poster on
products desert habitat)
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Strategies for independent work assignments

Consider using:
 Learning centers
 Learning contracts
 Mini lessons
 Task cards
 Independent study/research contracts
 Menus of choices (on a cube, in a recipe box, in file folders)
 Technology-based presentations
 Online lessons
 Clear rubric for evaluation of independent projects
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Accommodations for Special Needs

What does it look like?

There are no options here. This is an absolute requirement by law.

Accommodations or modifications determined by the division’s special

education IEP or 504 team are incorporated into the instructional plan. Gifted
services are a part of IEP, 504, and other team meetings as needed. All
resource teachers, including gifted teachers, are kept in the informational
loop for special needs students.
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Acceleration
What does it look like?

“When the student is so advanced that you can no longer accelerate

the content, then it only makes sense to accelerate the student.”

Acceleration can mean moving a group of students through the

curriculum at a faster pace, thus making time for additional enrichment
or advanced learning opportunities, or it can mean moving a student to
a different group, class, or grade level.

If whole grade acceleration for a student is a possibility, consider using

something like the IOWA Acceleration Scale, which helps teachers and
administrators objectively evaluate all of the factors that need to be
considered in making this decision for an advanced student.
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Helpful forms
What do they look like?

Sample forms that might be useful to you (can be obtained from the
internet, professional teacher resources, your gifted coordinator, or
 Student learning profile form
 Learning plan/grid
 Progress chart for each student
 Project/product evaluation rubrics
 Independent learning contracts
Understanding Differentiation of Instructional Process

 Summary
We have looked at a number of concepts and strategies for
differentiating the instructional process in a classroom, including
instructional delivery, development of student skills, lesson structure,
questioning strategies, use of technology, assignments, independent
work, and acceleration.

 Your turn
1. What other instructional strategies have you already used to
differentiate for your students? Were they successful? Why or why
2. What assistance would help you be able to differentiate more
3. Do you remember a time when one of your teachers differentiated
an assignment for you? How did you feel about that experience?
Understanding Differentiation of Products

Effective differentiation of
products includes consideration
of options for:
 Projects
 Choices
 Problem solving
Understanding Differentiation of Products

 Projects
What do they look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Real world audience Assignments are tiered Projects demonstrate
and applications; by student skill levels; basic understanding of
demonstrates assessment is through content and subject;
application of rubrics; students have Student has minimal
understanding; cross- some choices and choices; assignments
disciplinary; students options for products may have some
are involved in goal- differences in levels of
setting for products; complexity
products may be open-
ended or original
Understanding Differentiation of Products
 Projects

The key to differentiated projects is really to go beyond the basic poster,

diorama, or timeline.
Projects should have a real-world or cross-disciplinary connection whenever
possible. Try a public service announcement for____; a web page of
authoritative resources for____; publishing a story or article; a multimedia
report including animations, edited photos and theme music; writing a costume
drama; or a cross-disciplinary timeline relating discoveries in science to political
activities and changes in artistic portrayals in the middle ages.
Give students choices so that they can use their strengths in music or
photography, or their interest in animals or outer space, or their knowledge of
languages or mathematics or robotics, to demonstrate understanding of content
in creative and intriguing ways. Then publish their work! (The ultimate
motivator is public recognition for great work.)
How do you grade such diverse projects? Use rubrics based on understanding
of the content and clarity of concepts presented.

And that brings us to…

Understanding Differentiation of Products

 Student Choices
What does it look like?

Master Professional NOT Acceptable

(Ideal) (Yikes!)
Students have multiple Students have authentic No options (everyone
choices for process and choices for process and does a poster on cells or
product; content varied product to demonstrate diorama on desert
by areas of student understanding; creativity habitat); graded on
strengths or interests; is encouraged presentation or
product is graded on neatness or following
application and directions exactly rather
understanding; use of than on demonstration
rubrics for evaluation of understanding of
content; all projects look
exactly alike
Understanding Differentiation of Products

 Problem Solving
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Unpredictable outcomes May include Odyssey of Occasional opportunities
(open-ended); abstract; the Mind creative for problem-solving and
multi-disciplinary; real- problems; may be related experimentation using
world applications; to current world/local teacher-generated
student-generated issues or related to problems; NOT limited to
problems; variations in practical life skills; concrete problems or
process accepted; generally thought- “correct” answers and
includes research provoking; will probably results
have multiple solutions
Understanding Differentiation of Products

Checklist for Projects and Products

 Does the final product include evidence of critical (analytical or evaluative)

 Does it give the student a chance to demonstrate deep understanding of a
 Is there a cross-disciplinary connection?
 Does it involve creative thinking or originality?
 Does it involve research or independent learning?
 Does it involve real-world problem solving?
 Are there multiple possible solutions?
 Do the students have choices?
 How is it differentiated for different skill levels?
 Is there a clear rubric for evaluating the project?
 How can the projects be shared?
Understanding Differentiation of Products

 Summary
We’ve given you lots of ideas here about differentiation of projects and
products, about including problem solving activities, and about giving
students choices.

 Your turn
Sometimes teachers say they cannot do these kinds of activities
because it takes so much time, and sometimes teachers say they
cannot do this because they can only teach what is on the SOL exams.
What is your response to those concerns?
Understanding Differentiation of Assessments

Effective differentiation includes an understanding of how to use

options in:
 Pre-assessments
 Content knowledge assessments
 Reporting of outcomes
Understanding Differentiation of Assessments

 Pre-Assessment
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally
Pre-assessment data is used Pre-assessments are Pre-assessments
to modify, compact, or extend used frequently for data are used but the
the unit. Curriculum provides collection and to data are only used
pre-assessments for each determine levels of to modify instruction
unit of study, with alternate instruction for for students who
lessons for students who advanced learners as are in need of
demonstrate prior knowledge well as for students intervention or
(already know it) and who may need remediation; pre-
students who have remediation, so that assessments are
insufficient prior knowledge pacing and content of used at beginning of
(haven’t learned prerequisite instruction can be each major unit of
skills) adjusted as needed instruction
Understanding Differentiation of Assessments
Pre-assessments can include:
 Flow charts
 KWL charts
 Venn diagrams
 Concept maps
 Drawing or labeling diagrams or pictures
 Experimental design
 Short answers; true-false responses
 Brief essays or other written responses
 Multiple choice quizlets
 Entrance/exit “tickets”
 Responses to discussions

 Pre-tests should not be more comprehensive than post-tests

 Motivation is key – use “Here is what you will learn in the next six
weeks” rather than “Here is a test I know you will fail.”
Understanding Differentiation of Assessments

 Content Knowledge Assessments

Master Professional Novice
(Ideal) (Minimally
Assessments should be Students are given some choices Multiple types of
varied: rubric-based; of multiple ways of demonstrating assessments may be
opportunities for self- understanding of content; may used; some evidence
assessment and reflection; include short essays, creating of critical analysis
essays; open-ended diagrams that explain concepts, and application of
responses; justify reasoning multi-media presentations, skills as well as
and process used; publications; test questions factual recall on
assesses application of include application of skills as tests; frequent
skills; “why do you think…”, well as knowledge of facts; some informal
student choice of products questions require creative assessments used to
to demonstrate thinking; both formative and monitor progress
understanding. summative assessments are
Progress is monitored with used; includes opportunities for
above-level testing as self-assessment
needed to determine
Understanding Differentiation of Assessments
 Reporting of Outcomes
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally
Monitored and assessed Multiple sources of Division-specified
student outcomes based on information may report cards with
individual student’s include rubrics, student comments; several
assessed needs are products or culminating sources of
reported to parents; projects, portfolios, information in addition
includes assessment of self-evaluations, to grades are used to
each gifted student’s learning logs, and other document growth;
intellectual and academic authentic assessments supplemental
growth; includes multiple in addition to report information is general
sources of information; cards but not specific for
rubrics may be used as a each student
supplementary measure in
reporting or assessment
Understanding Differentiation of Assessments

 Summary
Pre-assessments are critical, content assessments should include
higher level thinking, and outcomes should be reported in multiple

 Your turn
1. Who says assessments can’t be fun? Instead of having
assessments be a necessary torment, how can you make them
more appealing?
2. How can the assessments be a real part of the learning
experience, rather than an over-and-done assignment?
Understanding Differentiation of Learning Environment

An effectively differentiated
classroom includes adjustments in:
 Flexible grouping
 Schedules
 Behavioral expectations
 Student support
Understanding Differentiation of Learning Environment

 Flexible grouping
What does it look like?
According to Carol Ann Tomlinson, the teacher deliberately places
students in groups or teams based on the students’
 readiness (skill levels in reading, math or writing),
 interests, or
 learning profile (learning style)
Students may work with one group for one activity, and a different
group for another activity. For some assignments, the student may
be given the option to work alone instead of in a group, or may
choose team members. Groups may be small or large. The key is
Understanding Differentiation of Learning Environment

 Flexible grouping
What does it look like? Do you think this murmuration of starlings is
an example of flexible grouping? Why?
Understanding Differentiation of Learning Environment

 Flexible Grouping
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Students are grouped in Groups have Students may be in
various flexible groups appropriately small groups with
according to skill levels differentiated tasks and different tasks, but
(readiness), interests, or students are usually groups are arbitrary, not
learning styles; groups grouped by skill level in flexible or not planned
may be multi-grade a particular task; groups according to skill levels
level; membership of are monitored to avoid or interests; putting one
group is deliberately one student shouldering gifted student in each
planned for each specific the work of the whole group as the “leader” is
learning task; students group; gifted students not acceptable
may have the option of may be clustered in
working alone if they same group if at same
prefer for some tasks level for that assignment
Understanding Differentiation of Learning Environment

 Schedules
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Instructional time is Master schedules are Advanced students may
provided during the designed to facilitate have some opportunities to
school day and movement as needed for work together with other
week for students above or below grade students at same level of
to work with age- level instruction in content achievement, but such
level peers, work areas (second grader can opportunities are
with intellectual and move to fourth grade inconsistent or infrequent
academic peers, reading class); teachers because of schedule
and work have opportunities for conflicts
independently vertical teaming to support
cross-grade instruction
Understanding Differentiation of Learning Environment

 Behavioral Expectations
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally Acceptable)
Students are active Teacher is frequently Focus is primarily
participants with “guide on the side” teacher to student;
constant opportunities rather than “sage on the some opportunities for
for questioning, students stage;” some flexibility is student generated
may need to have time allowed for pursuing questions; little
for divergent or topics of more interest opportunity for students
seemingly off-task trains in depth; students are to pursue topics of
of thought; students usually active interest in more depth;
given flexibility for participants; active students may have
perseverance on some questioning is evident; some opportunity to
topics; opportunities for students may have move actively
student movement choices for planning (kinesthetic learning)
(changing groups, time or activities and/or generate
changing activities) discussions
Understanding Differentiation of Learning Environment

 Student Support
What does it look like?

Master Professional Novice

(Ideal) (Minimally
A variety of supports Teacher provides consistent Tutoring or
are provided for differentiation and support for additional
struggling students as struggling and advanced instruction is
well as advanced students, with documentation provided by
students who may through parent contact logs, teachers for
have “gaps,” and for tutoring logs, certificates of struggling students
advanced students completion of mini-courses, in
who need additional etc. Peer tutoring may occur remediation/interve
challenges (may after/before class hours. ntion; enrichment
include mentors, Authentic enrichment is time occurs but is
advanced online mini- provided for students who primarily
lessons, partnerships demonstrate prior knowledge. worksheets or
with colleges, etc.) “more of the same.”
Understanding Differentiation of Learning Environment

 Student Support
What should it NOT look like?

Not Acceptable
Advanced students are required to spend class time tutoring struggling
students, which does not facilitate knowledge gain or skills growth for the
advanced students. Enrichment is primarily playing games or doing “fun
sheets,” and is not tied to advanced content knowledge. Gifted students are
expected to always know the material and are not given additional support
when needed.

Would you argue that these

activities are OK under some
circumstances? Why or why not?
Understanding Differentiation of Learning Environment

 What stays the same in a differentiated class?

 Learning goals
All students should gain an understanding of the core concepts. The
instructional process used to help students gain that understanding is
differentiated, but the goals themselves are neither simplified nor are they
used as a ceiling.
 Meaningful, thoughtful assignments
It is definitely “not fair” if only the advanced students get fun projects while
everyone else gets worksheets. All students should have respectful,
interesting work, and support as needed.
Understanding Differentiation of Learning Environment

 Summary
Flexible grouping and flexible scheduling are both important
pieces of the differentiated educational experience.
Behavioral expectations and student support may look very
different in a differentiated classroom than in a one-size-fits-all
classroom; both are part of a student-centered environment
rather than a teacher-centered environment.

 Your turn
1. What do you see as the biggest barriers to implementing
flexible grouping in your grade level or school? How
might you overcome those barriers?
2. What is your biggest success story in differentiation? Why
do you think that was so successful?

 The teacher’s responsibility in providing appropriately differentiated

instruction includes:
1. Providing differentiated learning opportunities on a daily
basis (classwork, homework, independent work)
2. Organizing the classroom for maximum learning (flexible
grouping, schedule adjustments, etc.)
3. Meeting with students for direct instruction and providing
feedback on independent work and assessments
4. Sharing resources, lessons, strategies, and assessment
data with other teachers on the team
5. Communicating with specialists (ELL, Special Education,
Gifted) to support students’ learning

We hope you now feel more



But here are a few more

pointers, just in case!

Still just learning to fly with differentiation strategies?

Here are some random hints from your colleagues who have “been
 Don’t bankrupt your planning time. Work more efficiently, not longer.
 Be a kid watcher – see your student as individuals rather than a
“class” or large group. Respond to what you see.
 Use timelines to help you and your students stay on track.
 Establish clear criteria for success for your students and for you.
 Use process logs or expert journals to document your progress.
 Don’t resort to peer tutoring. It is neither helpful nor fair for the tutor,
who should be using the time to expand his or her own learning.
 Think different work, not more work, for the advanced student.
 Professional standards for teachers of the gifted:http
 Great website for all things gifted, including teacher resources:http
 Carol Ann Tomlinson books:
 How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed Ability Classrooms
 The Differentiated Classroom
 Differentiation for Gifted and Talented Students
 ASCD Educational Leadership: For Each to Excel
 Interesting discussion: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/263/
 Flexible grouping: Winebrenner and Brulles, The Cluster Grouping Handbook
 Great ideas for elementary, middle and high school differentiation (scroll through
document to access each level):
 Lots of links to podcasts, sites and more: http
Reflection Questions
 1. What are the five main
components of classroom
 2. The teacher’s responsibility in
providing appropriately differentiated
instruction includes what five tasks?
 3. What will you consider trying in
your classroom?
 4. Have your ideas about
differentiation changed? Explain why
or why not.
 5. Overall, how would you rate your
current skills and expertise in
differentiation? What information or
assistance do you still need?

 What are three things you learned about differentiation?

 What are two ways you can connect this information to your existing
instructional ideas and strategies?

 What is one burning question or need that you have?