Differentiate is likely a word you have heard about a million and one times if you are a teacher. We hear we need to differentiate assignments for our students, but no one really takes the time to explain what that looks like in the classroom.
Ideally, student learning is unique to each student, but when you have a room with 25 plus kids in it, that’s a lot of differentiation. Even differentiating an assignment for just a few students can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be!
Differentiate by Using Cooperative Learning
Differentiate by Providing Challenge Questions
It is easy to forget when we talk about differentiation that it doesn’t go in just one direction. By providing students with challenge questions we are able to up the ante for our high achievers and quick finishers.
A challenge question can be as easy as asking a student to write their own question about a topic or be more in-depth to include research or possibly a STEM challenge.
Challenge questions can also be given to every level of learner in your class because each student will meet the challenge where they are.
Alternatively, you can have students create their own challenge questions.
Differentiate with a Highlighter
Differentiate with Sticky Notes
Differentiate by Changing the Medium
Pencil and paper just don’t work for some students. I get it. Personally, I HATE writing in pencil. Like, with a passion. When I do have to use a pencil it automatically puts me in a bad mood. I prefer pen, or marker, or just about anything else.
Instead of fighting a student on their writing utensil, let them work in another medium. Is it an assignment which can be completed on the computer? Can they use a whiteboard instead?
These easy for you things can make all the difference!
Differentiate with Student Created Assignments
Giving students the option to create their own assignments opens up a whole new branch of critical thinking.
Giving a student a standard and having them write their own question, do research, or create a project shows a much deeper level of understanding than simply answering a multiple choice question. It is an undeniable use of higher order thinking skills.
This differentiation strategy works to scaffold learning down to our lowest level learners as well as build up more challenge for students ready for it.
Differentiation isn’t just a buzzword. It is, what is best for our students. This doesn’t mean it is easy, but when we step back to the basics we can make it happen.
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