Author: Monique Carter
Monique is the Principal at Lansdowne Crescent Primary School in West Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Monique has allowed us to publish her staff blog ... this post features Differentiation.
Carol Ann Tomlinson describes differentiating as “problem solving on behalf of the kids” and that really resonates with how we teach at Lansdowne.
If someone is not achieving success, is not making progress, has issues which prevent them demonstrating what they know we seek to alter what we are doing to assist them to take their learning further. Like any area of teaching it is an important area to regularly reflect on.
It will be really great to hear about the differentiation strategies people are using with their identified students when we meet together in our learning teams this week.
A lot of discussion on Monday was around differentiating product….providing a variety of ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge.
It was really important that we acknowledged that to have the capacity to give children a variety of product options they first must be explicitly taught these – how do you write an advertisement if you have not been taught that genre?
The Differentiation booklet* has some very practical strategies within it including this great table – it reminds us of the variety of product types we can include in our learning tasks.
*GOOD TEACHING Differentiated Classroom Practice Learning for All (DoE Tas 2014)
Five strategies for differentiating classroom practice - from Carol Ann Tomlinson
"It's not a mystery formula that only a few can understand. It's not a series of mandatory instructional strategies. It's not a recipe. It is problem solving on behalf of kids. One step at a time, all teachers can do that. Working with like-minded colleagues makes the journey smoother and more rewarding. Here are a few other suggestions.
1) Start small. Begin with whatever steps feel right to you. Differentiation isn't so hard. Change is. Go in a direction that's likely to result in some success. Start with one subject or one class. Start with 10 minutes a day or 15 minutes a week. Just start.
2) Study your students. The more you see them as distinct individuals--the more you understand them as human beings--the clearer your motivation will be.
3) Use formative assessments regularly (ones you develop to be close to your teaching--not standardized ones). As you see where your students are in relation to your learning goals, you'll understand more clearly what you need to do next to help students move ahead from their starting points.
4) Invest time in thinking through classroom routines--giving directions, handling transitions, starting and stopping tasks, using materials effectively. Envision how you want things to work and help your students do the same.
5) Make the students your partners in creating a classroom that works well for everyone. Don't do differentiation to them, do it with them. Explain your thinking and ask for their input. Enlist their help in making sure the classroom runs smoothly. Get their input on which approaches work best for them.
Differentiation just asks of us what we commend for our students: flexible thinking, intellectual risk-taking, problem-solving--and a deepening sense of humanity."