Differentiating Instruction in Your Classroom

Student populations in schools today are very diverse. Students differ in their readiness to learn, the ways in which they prefer to learn, and the areas of interest that motivate their learning. Differentiated instruction is based on the belief that classrooms where students are active learners, active inquirers, and active problem solvers are more effective than those where students passively receive a “one-size-fits-all” curriculum.

School improvement plans in virtually every school, regardless of grade level configuration, underscore the importance of helping all students achieve academic success and meet educational standards. It is clear from the research that the intentional use of differentiated instruction strategies is highly effective in meeting diverse learner needs and positively impacting student achievement.

This course focuses on best practices in differentiation and provides teachers with the knowledge and skills they need to implement these methods in their own classrooms. Through learning activities, and the practice and application of skills, participants gain new levels of expertise which will enable them to create instructional experiences in an engaging classroom atmosphere to help all of their students reach their full potential.This course introduces teachers to instructional strategies and methodologies that will enable them to create powerful learning experiences to meet the wide range of different student needs in their classrooms.

For more information and to enroll, click:

Differentiating Instruction in Your Classroom


Check out what other teachers from your area and across the country are saying about this course.

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I have learned about the four continuums in more depth which will help me create more diverse lessons. I am want to now go back to lessons I have wrote and make sure I have both sides of each continuum in the lesson. I have also been able to understand scaffolding better and see that I have been using it in my lessons all along. I also learned that you can change content, process, or product individually and still achieve differentiation. I am excited to take think new knowledge and apply it to a classroom in the near future. (AR)

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This course provided a great refresher on differentiation, what it is and what it isn’t. Students enter our classrooms with a variety of abilities, strengths and weaknesses. It is important that we all understand that we learn in different ways. I will incorporate the learning memory lanes and aim to provide instruction that accesses more than one memory lane. I have already been incorporating more music and kinesthetic into my lessons. When I differentiate, I see students more eager to participate and learn. (CA)

I found the different activity examples to be the most helpful part of this course. We all know that our students vary dramatically in their learning profiles, readiness and interests and I have been striving to address these differences since I started teaching. It is always nice to brush up on the different learning styles and how to serve them and also to think about the different memory lanes again. It is very helpful to be given additional methods and activities to reach out to these various learning styles and create lessons that will enter multiple memory lanes. I will create more anchor activities to have in my classroom so that I can spend more one-on-one time with students which will make it more possible for me to assess different student needs and to provide more successful learning experiences. I will also continue to incorporate more learning styles into my lessons; the ones I find most lacking tend to be kinesthetic/tactile activities. Furthermore, I am excited about creating multiple ‘product’ assessment options for students of varying abilities and interests, the idea of the learning stations has great potential in my classroom. Professional development always makes me feel refreshed and inspired to do a better job of working to reach all students and I am thankful for that. (CA)

This course provides educators with a foundation to impact the greatest number of students in a most effective and focused manner. Most every class is comprised of various levels of readiness, ability and achievement. All of these classes can benefit from the use of differentiation and will see real results in the form of student’s increased learning. The key learnings of this course for me included, instructional strategies, differentiated assessment models, anchor activities, tiered instruction applications, use of differentiation through: content, process, and product. It also provided guidance in the use of learning modalities, in differentiation. All of these practices will be utilized in my classroom. I also found the, “Asking Powerful Questions,” to be particularly informative and useful. The incorporation of strategies to increase active student participation, will also be reflected in my classroom. “Scaffolding performance tasks,” was very helpful in supporting differentiation during the assessment phase, as were the many suggestion for assessing. I learned a great deal from this course and plan to incorporate as many, if not most of the practices. I plan to increase the use of these strategies, as I become more experienced in using them and as I see their effectiveness. I was particularly grateful for the overall viewpoint and approach the course had and the obvious sensitivity to the needs of all children. I believe that the course was reflective of the understanding that all children are equally valuable and have the potential to make important contribution to society, in many different ways and forms. It conveyed to educators that we are a vital and critical force in determining the path to success for our students. It also conveyed, that we must take responsibility if we prepare students in a manner that is not equitable. We can expect all students to reach their full potential if we are the vehicle which supports their individual learning needs and design our instruction around that belief. Every child has much to offer, but need us to believe in their potential and give each of them equal, individual support, for this to be realized. I appreciate the overall philosophy that every child has the right to and must have a quality education, in order to be able to become a productive member of society. (CA)

I have learned several things in this course. Some of the most valuable things I have learned include differentiated the product. I would love to apply this in my classroom this week. It seems like a very easy way for students to be able to show their learning in a way that fits their learning style best. I also enjoyed learning about how to differentiate for the variety of learners. Differentiation embedded within each lesson allows for more students to find success with the concepts being presented. (CA)

I have learned several things in this course. Some of the most valuable things I have learned include differentiated the product. I would love to apply this in my classroom this week. It seems like a very easy way for students to be able to show their learning in a way that fits their learning style best. I also enjoyed learning about how to differentiate for the variety of learners. Differentiation embedded within each lesson allows for more students to find success with the concepts being presented. (CA)

I found this class enlightening and encouraging. Due to working with students with severe needs I found that I already implement some of the tactics in my teaching such as scaffolding and utilizing different learning styles such as tactile and audio. I found it interesting that I tend to have the students produce the same end product when I know that the students differ in their learning styles. Reflecting on this I realized that I use what is comfortable to complete and what I feel is easiest to grade. I don’t have it all figured out and there is much more that I can implement in my class. I was a little worried that differentiating instruction was going to mean that I had to individualize to each student but through working the chapters I realized that it is giving students opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and receive knowledge through different modalities. I am aware through this class that I need to break my lesson into three pieces the content, process and product. Even though they are different I learned that all three parts blend and compliment each other. The tools I learned are the basics and foundations of good teaching. Implementing them in my classroom will not allow students to be successful but will enhance my teaching and breath new life into my lessons. (CA)

I found the 4-step verbal technique to be the most useful in this course… It treats students with respects, give them options before they make a choice, and also it deals with their behavior by listing the consequences. I definitely believe the safety, order, and rights value set will be helpful in my classroom. And I am certain my school and my department co-workers will accept this value set. (CA)

I liked the directives on how to stop behavior in four steps. The idea of stick to the verbage is good too. I have really behaved students, but there is always that one that will come along that I could use this technique on. Our school already has something similiar in place, so accepting it won’t be hard. (CA)

The product I could adapt and use in my classroom would be when students read about the process of photosynthesis, they would have a choice of drawing the sequence on a timeline, writing it in five paragraphs, or taking the role of a leaf and acting it out. Each method must include all parts of the process. Since we learn about plant and animal cells and photosynthesis, which students learn a song about, they can perform the functions of the plant when it receives the sunlight, makes it’s own food, and provides oxygen for other plants and people to breathe in. The entire cycle could be adapted to each student’s need. I would use this as an assessment by giving directions for each one, guiding them through the steps, and provide a rubric on what I will be grading them on. (CA)

Differentiating instruction is the process by which a teacher adjusts methods in delivering content, process and product based on individual learning needs, learning styles, interests and readiness. It begins in the teacher’s realization that students can be gifted in different areas and they have strengths that can be harnessed thru careful and intentional planning of the learning processes. The students, already products of and influenced by different cultures and sub-cultures, with varying readiness, learning style and interests, can be global, analytic, rapid responder, reflective thinker, watch-then-do, trial-and-error or combinations of these. They have multiple intelligences – they can be visual, auditory, tactile-kinesthetic, rhythmic/musical, interpersonal or intrapersonal, or combinations of these. With the end in mind – what we want the students to learn or be able to do after the lesson – we have to design instructional activities and use strategies that fit their learning needs and directed towards the achievement of the learning goals. Differentiation should be based on continuous assessments of where the students are in the four instructional continuum: guided-independent, structured-open, basic-complex, small steps – big leaps; and then, using the four categories of teaching strategies: direct instruction, inquiry-based/constructivists, cooperative learning and processing strategies, we adjust content, process and product in such a way that the student moves a step further from where he was on the continuum, when the learning process started. The brain-based approach and how to activate the five memory lanes: semantic, episodic, procedural, automatic and emotional (the emotional being the most powerful), shed light on how we can influence active processing and accessing of information in the students. The differentiation strategies, such as, flexible grouping, tiered instruction, scaffolding, anchor activities, whole class differentiation, active participation, framing questions and designing and scaffolding performance tasks, are all critical components of a highly effective and high functioning instructional philosophy. From this class, I learned so many other strategies that I can add to what I am already doing in my classroom, such as capitalizing on the five memory lanes, encouraging active participation, getting the most out of anchor activities, using thematic units and empowering my students by mutual goal-setting and developing student responsibility. With time and experience, I hope to help my students more by meeting them where they are and helping them achieve academically, believing in themselves, that they can do amazing things and that they can be successful. I hope to see myself shifting and getting stronger as a coach and coordinator inside my classroom with empowered students turning my classroom into a “workshop” where my students take more ownership of what they are learning, more accountable, more responsible, and more independent. (CA)

This course covered all aspect of teaching and learning that will benefit both teachers and students. I have leaned that ddifferentiated instruction is a way of teaching that considers each student as a unique individual with different interest, readiness and learning style. A teaching strategy that teaches that one shoe does not fit all and that curriculum should be individualistic. As Carol Ann Tomlinson has said, “differentiation means giving students multiple options for taking in information”. Through observations, the teacher see the differences and similarities among students and use this information to plan instruction by providing on going assessment, recognizing that students are diverse in culture, and socioeconomic factors, encourage students to see the big idea, give student choices. It aids teachers to continue to strive, to know, and to respond to each student’s needs in order to maximize their learning. (CA)

There are so much insights that I have learned in taking this class. I have learned how necessary it is to differentiate my instructions to meet students’ different needs. The differentiation could happen in the content, process or product. To help us design lesson plans that will be effective for different kinds of students, we have to have a clear end goal in mind. From that, we could design meaningful learning experiences around the big ideas and essential questions that are significant in sustaining students’ interests of the course. I will definite use different strategies that I learned here. Although, it will entail long hours of preparation, I would like to use it and be committed to its intention of providing realistic opportunities for students to learn. I will use flexible grouping, experiential or discovery learning, scaffolding, graphic organizers and performance task. I will always be aware of where I am with my students with respect to the different kinds of continuums so that I could make adjustment as needed. Lastly, I will keep in mind that assessments are not just to measure learning, but also enhance instruction. (CA)

When I differentiate, I WILL make a difference. This will be my new mantra. What I have learned is that differentiation is not only seen through process, but also through teaching content, and producing a product. Differentiated instruction doesn’t have to be different for each student, but it should be different for students based on their learning profiles, their readiness levels, and their interest areas. Students can be in various groups based on these three criteria and that will make it more accessible for the teacher to differentiate. Differentiated instruction is based on the belief that classrooms where students are active learners, active inquirers, and active problem solvers. These students will then be more effective and as a result, learning will occur. It’s not easy to differentiate, but it IS possible, and every child has the right to receive instruction in a way that is best suitable for their needs. Once we do this, and provide students with an “individualized learning style” then we will only see great results. I have also learned that differentiation does not have to do with just the learning process, but also with the assessment process. Students can receive scaffolds for a performance task for assessment, and that is OK! It’s better to provide support than to give all students the same recipe for testing, because in the end, what we want to see is learning and a way to measure that. So, we can not measure learning if the student doesn’t perform well based on the way the assessment was given, rather than to what the questions were asking. (CA)

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In this course I learned that to truly differentiate I must do so in content, process, and product. My students needs are diverse and the only way to meet these needs is see each student as an individual. Presenting the content in a variety of calculated ways makes sure that the information is meaningful and interesting to students with different learning styles. Providing tiered instruction, flexible grouping, and scaffolding allows students of varying abilities to achieve. This does not mean that anything goes in the classroom, standards still apply to all students. How students achieve these standards can and should differ. This is done by creating lessons with the end in mind. The path to reach this end is adjusted and varied to meet the needs of my students. Students can be their own best resource. Allowing students to choose the methods that they receive, process, and demonstrate learning gives them control of their own learning and makes the content more meaningful. (CO)

I knew that differentiation helpful to many different types of learners we get in our classrooms. However, I learned that differentiation encompasses a wide variety of strategies, approaches, and, for lack of a better word, habits — things that the teacher does naturally in the classroom. I knew that no two learners are alike, but I learned how each learner is a complex amalgam of learning types, abilities, readiness, interests, and cultural backgrounds. Overall, I learned that differentiation isn’t as scary as I once thought it was. I used to think that differentiation to meet the needs of all students was a pipe dream, i.e. I know we should do it, but it’s impractical. Although it’s not an easy task to learn through practice implementing a wide variety of strategies to create the best learning environment for all students, I believe that with practice and time, I will be able to naturally differentiate in my classroom. The word “practice” in the prompt is very apt for the teaching profession. Doctors and lawyers “practice,” but it’s not used that often to describe our profession. It will be a while before I’m completely comfortable with differentiation in my practice. I have, however, in this first week of school, begun to see the students more as individual learners and have tried to approach this first week by making a comfortable environment for the learners in my classroom. I’ve used pre-assessment to judge their readiness. I’ve differentiated both process and product to accommodate various learners. What I don’t see yet in my own practice is implementing the best strategy, or sometimes I forget there was a strategy I could’ve implemented, and I think “That’s a good idea. I wish I would’ve offered that to my students.” In my planning, however, I’ve started to implement strategies such as flexible grouping and designing respectful tasks for each individual. In addition, I’m proactively planning using some of the effective strategies, such as advance organizers, chunking, jigsaw, and scaffolding. It will no doubt be a learning process, but it’s one I look forward to. (CO)

I have a truly deeper understanding of what differentiation is. Before this class I just thought it was about changing the process part of the lesson for different levels of ability and understanding. But now I realize it taking a much broader approach when it comes to the lesson parts as well as a whole child approach. I have never thought about taking learning styles into consideration as a form of differentiation. With all of the new information I got in this course I would say differentiating the product is the most powerful thing I have taken that has impacted my students. Instead of dreading the end of the unit tests the students are excited to do their end products. Since they now know the end product as some options that appeal to them they are more engaged in the second chapter of our social studies. The ELL students have been getting stronger at their thinking maps during the first two lessons because they know that they can use it at the end of the chapter. They also know that despite the lack of English they can communicate their knowledge in a way that will make them feel successful and still get a good grade out of it. My two gifted students are more engaged in the process as well because I have started them on how to take notes and again they see the end product as something that challenges them and the connection between the note taking and their end summaries. I have backwards planned before, but the end product was a uniform assessment. This new way has truly increased engagement and enjoyment of the process. I loved the course and learned a lot. My only gripe was the midterm. The multiple choices were difficult. With so many combinations it was really hard to make sure I picked correct option. (CO)

This course was fantastic! I can’t wait to implement the plethora of ideas for differentiating lessons in my fourth grade classroom. Learning about content, process, and product created a firm understanding for me-these clear cut terms will remind me to ask myself, “What do I want my students to learn, and how will they learn?” I often wondered about assessing certain activities, such as anchor activities. Knowing that assessments don’t always have to be formal is a lift. Authentic assessments tend to help me understand my students more clearly than one day standardized tests. Additionally, I’m thrilled with the actual ideas for anchor activities. Scaffolding is often discussed at staff meetings, however there are few ideas given for how to scaffold appropriately. I plan to use the ideas in this course, such as highlighting parts in directions, and wording the directions in ways that meet the needs of the learners. Most of all, I can’t wait to work more on tiered instruction. The classroom scenarios provided in this course were quite beneficial-I copied several ideas and plan to keep them in a differentiation folder to grab while I’m planning lessons. Thank you so much for an excellent course-I plan to take a second course soon! (CO)

In this course I have learned strategies to help meet the needs of the myriad of student learning styles, interests, readiness levels, and multiple intelligences. Given that all students are different, it is imperative that they are provided with varying methods of receiving the content, processing the content, and demonstrating their understanding of the content. I learned and practiced many specific techniques and ideas in the areas of scaffolding instruction, preparing tiered instruction, creating pathways into all memory lanes, and providing authentic assessments. I am most excited about restructuring lessons so that the same lesson can meet the needs of many students. In order to achieve this, I will begin with clearly stated objectives and an understanding of the critical skills and knowledge. From this end goal, I can start to envision the different tiers and paths to engage all students and encourage each one’s higher level thinking skills. The choice of product will be developed at the start and I can access my own creativity developing the varying processes. In the end, working as coach and guide will be much more rewarding for all! (CO)

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Differentiated instruction is a philosophy, a way of teaching that looks at each student as an individual with different learning needs. These needs vary by learning style, readiness, and interest. As a teacher my job is to meet the needs of each student by adjusting the content, process, and product in my classroom. As a result of this class, I have adjusted my beginning of the year parent survey to include more questions on learning style and interest. I have also given a simple learning style inventory to my 2nd graders. As I write lesson plans this year, I am more intentional in the way I present content. I have always varied my approaches, but am doing so more intentionally based on my students needs and interests. I am making note of auditory, kinesthetic, visual, and tactile ways for students to process information. I am more intentional in differentiating lessons. With the wide range of ability levels in my classroom, I have planned lessons using the instructional continuums of guided-independent, structured-open, basic-complex, and small steps-big leaps. I am beginning to use essential questions in my teaching and am always keeping in mind our learning outcomes and essential understandings. I keep the memory lanes lesson planning organizer close at hand to plan lessons that teach to those specific parts of the brain. Last week, after reading a story about a group of animal friends who carelessly baked a cake, I had three groups of students, with parent helpers, make crockpot chocolate pudding cake. I used it as a lesson in following directions of an authentic nonfiction text (recipe). Each student participated and we compared our method with the characters’ method. I am also using anchor activities in reading and math. Scaffolding is a big part of what I’m doing, especially with my inclusion students with IEPs. I am beginning to tier my instruction more. I plan to change my assessments. I have talked to my 2nd grade team about implementing more authentic assessments. For our tree unit assessment, I have added other test methods, i.e. using diagram to show and say parts of tree rather that just a paper and pencil test. This class sparked my desire to be a better teacher. I will work more intentionally to meet the needs of all my students by knowing them well, developing a great classroom community, and planning lessons and learning activities that engage and meet the needs of all my kiddos! (IL)

Differentiation is a topic that I am familiar with, but often felt that it was an area that I struggled with. Through this course, I have learned that I am already doing many of the ideas from this course in my classroom. I was pleased to know that I was on the right track! I appreciated that the course started by explaining what differentiated instruction is NOT. It was reassuring to know that it is NOT everyone doing their own thing or having 25 different assignments. What I have learned from course is that as teachers, we can provide learning experiences that teach to different learning styles, modalities, and personal interests. By doing so, we are better able to create engaging lessons and offer scaffolding in order to support our students strengths and weaknesses. I feel that I have learned much through this course, and I am looking forward to implementing it more into my classroom. Two areas that I plan on trying to implement more often in my classroom are tiered instruction and scaffolding. I am looking forward to giving my students options that relate to how they learn best! (IL)

I really enjoyed this course. I thought the amount of work was appropriate for the amount of credit hours. I would recommend this course to others.(IL)

Let me start off by saying I loved this course it made differentiation look easier than I thought it would be and helped me to realize that I already do many things in my class that are differentiated instruction. I also found many of the examples to be beneficial and have saved many ideas to my computer. To summarize what the course taught me is that with a little bit of effort the teacher can take a learning outcome and adjust it to meet the needs of all students. You could do this by providing support, scaffolding, giving the student choice, using graphic organizers, using tiered instruction and increase student participation. In order to be effective in the class it is important to know your students’ learning styles, their learning readiness and interests. I found the lessons on memory beneficial and how to create an experience that students can easily recall. I have become more mindful in planning lessons and looking for opportunities to make adjustments in the lessons to benefit my many types of learners. After I decide on the lesson I think about individual students and ask myself how will this work for them, what will it look like to them and what is the real goal and how can I get them there? (IL)

This class explained why everything we teach needs to be differentiated to include all students. It taught me how to create good educational lessons that include all children and all learning styles. I will start observing what my students learning styles are to better meet his educational needs.I will begin each lesson considering the enduring knowledge I want my students to have as well as meeting the core skills and planning for the outcome first. When I deliver the content of a lesson I will change up how it is delivered from location in the room to props and costumes and voice. I learned to allow more time and many ways for children to process new concepts in a lesson and to include tiered instruction and anchor lessons to enable small groups to meet. I leaned that scaffolding is necessary for most students when creating a product for an assessment. This class and its resources will be very helpful in all of my teaching.(IL)

I plan to work toward implementing several ideas presented in this course. While I have used creative ways to present information, I plan to be more consistent in regularly varying the fashion class demonstrates their capability. I liked the additional ideas for class activities during my guided reading time when I am working with small groups. The sites, text and videos are good sources. I have shared these and discussed them with others who are on my team and those taking the class.(IL)

This course has been very informative, and I have already implemented many of the ideas presented in the course into my classroom. I have learned numerous strategies and techniques to help me intentionally modify my lessons to meet the needs of each student. I feel I was guilty of teaching to the middle in my class, but I now vary the ways I teach content, adjust the ways students process the information, and offer more choices in how my students can demonstrate their learning so that I can help every student be successful and truly learn. I have put numerous instructional strategies from this course in place in my classroom such as advance organizers, anchor activities, centers, compacting, graphic organizers, learning contracts, rubrics, tiered instruction, and self-assessment. I have organized my classroom more efficiently. For example, students know exactly where to find anchor folders for independent activities while I’m working with a guided reading group. I have gotten away from mainly paper and pencil assessments and now use a variety of ongoing assessments. The articles on cultural differences, how the brain learns, and why we remember were totally new to me and extremely helpful since I have many ELL, ADHD, and IEP students in my classroom. I now use more strategies to help students learn and retrieve information in multiple memory lanes. My students enjoy my purposeful use of movement activities, learning games, music, and stories in my room. I now spend the majority of my time planning lessons and use tiered instruction to meet individual readiness levels and learning styles, and I always make sure I ask myself what I want students to know, understand, and do as the result of the lesson. Student motivation and success has increased because I use a variety of ways to assess students and give my students a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning. I am more confident in designing performance assessments because I can check them against the guidelines presented in this course. I also use more differentiation with my whole class and encourage active participation with techniques like “showdown” and “numbered heads together.” I am very conscious of asking critical thinking questions during group discussions and often refer to the question frames the course provided. I am much more confident that I have the skills needed to differentiate in my classroom to accommodate multiple types of learners and student preferences. Most importantly, my students are more actively engaged in the classroom, demonstrating their learning with products they are proud to show off, and feel more confident as learners.(IL)

I have learned a lot from this course on differentiated instruction. This course has made me more aware of the learning styles of students and has helped me use the various interests of students to drive the process and the products I can offer them. I like how the course broke things down such as content, process, and product. I can capitalize on students’ interests to allow them to process the enduring understanding by way of drawing, writing, making charts, etc. I have already incorporated singing, games, and have had generally more movement in my classroom. It has helped me tune in to those students who are global or analytical learners, rapid or reflective responders. I knew they were there, but haven’t called them as such until now. It will make it easier to direct certain questions to each of these kinds of learners. I plan to explore more the multiple memory lanes and how that can benefit my students. I really liked the tiered instruction, because it hit home as I assessed my students’ needs. The tiered instructions helps direct the proper kind and amount of work to my different ability groups. I like how the anchor activities were categorized into the different subjects or reading, spelling, social studies, science, and math. Although I have used some of these ideas in my centers, there are more I can now choose from. Knowing the readiness levels of students will help me scaffold instruction. I like how the course provided examples of many of the concepts. By asking questions and giving tips, students are given the structure they need to carry out an assignment. These kinds of aids from the course made your concepts more concrete and will be easier to implement them. The things I’ve tried have made my students more involved with their learning. They seem to go through the day happier and are more eager to tackle a task. Thank you so much! (IL)

Differentiation was a concept that seemed very time consuming and difficult to me in the past. After reading more about it and learning more techniques, I am more comfortable with making the changes in my instruction and assessments. I found that I was already using many of the techniques but I needed to fine tune my instruction to better meet the needs of all my students. The pre-assessment process wasn’t something I did in my class before but after reading about its importance I feel it is going to be a good tool, especially for my higher-level thinkers. I am going to work towards making my classroom a more empowering environment. I will do this by giving my students more responsibility and coaching them to be more accountable for their own work, instead of always just giving them the work. I use flexible grouping in my classroom but I now see how I can vary the work more and yet still cover the same objective. The differentiated products are what I am most excited about. I have a better understanding of how I can use scaffolding to help my students to create products that will truly show their understanding and be something they can be proud of at the end of the task. Differentiating is a concept that I now feel more comfortable with and look forward to creating a more successful learning environment for my students. (IL)

This has been a very good learning experience for me. Although I have known about differentiation for a long time and have used some of the strategies in my own classroom it has been very hard to break away from the traditional teaching methods I have used for the last decade. From this class I have taken a lot of ideas that I have begun to use in my classroom and will continue to use more and more as I become more comfortable with the processes. I think one of the biggest things I have taken away is the idea of scaffolding. It is not modification but the same assignment just presented to students based on their readiness to work in that subject. The idea of differentiated product or assessment is also another idea that I feel will really boost my level of teaching. It will give students different ways to express that they have learned the subject. Once again this had been a great class and I would definitely recommend it to others.

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I will use differentiation of process and products to increase the effectiveness of instruction. I work with students who are reading at least two years below grade level. I will use centers to provide them with tasks that are meaningful, yet still meet their ability level. I am also excited about using tiered assignments and using anchor activities to allow for meaningful assignments while I work with small groups of students. Along with using the specific principles and strategies of differentiated instruction I want to try to change my own role in classroom to one of a coordinator and to allow students to take responsibility for their learning. The idea of a classroom where everyone is able to work in manner that best meets their needs is very appealing.(IN)

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Coming into this course, I felt I had a pretty good understanding of what differentiated instruction is, but I wanted to learn more specific and practical ways to implement it better in my classroom. I have learned that differentiated instruction is more than just shortening an assignment for struggling learners, but that it is adapting the process, content and product to reach students of all abilities, interests and levels of readiness. In differentiated instruction, kids are active learners and the teacher provides routines and structure so that he or she can work with individuals or small groups, as in scaffolding. I have learned that there are a variety of ways to assess and that my assessments should be sure to include those higher level thinking skills such as analyzing and making inferences. Performance assessment is ideal in that the students do something to show their understanding and whatever they do to show this understanding can be adapted to their readiness level, interests and learning style. I have learned many excellent strategies that I have written down and plan to use in my classroom this fall. Thank you! (IA)

This has been a very valuable course for my future teaching. Differentiated instruction has always sounded like a great idea, but I have struggled with ways to actually incorporate it into my classroom. This course has taught me ways that I can make changes in my teaching to help meet the wide range of students that are in my classroom. I now know that there are 3 characteristics that students possess that make a difference in how they learn and how I should teach. These characteristics are readiness, interests and learning styles. The three phases of instruction are content, process, and product. I plan to adjust the way that I present the content in my classes, delivering the instruction in a variety of ways. I will model for my students and discuss my thinking as I do so. I will also provide visual representations, as well as, words and symbols to help with my content presentations. When in the process phase, I will give more choices for students to process their learning in ways that work best for them. Some of my students may prefer to use numbers and symbols to create equations to solve problems, while others may prefer to draw pictures and/or diagrams to help them solve the problems. I will allow my students to work with a partner and/or group that choose to process the information in the same way they do. When demonstrating their learning in the product phase, I will allow my students choices as to how they would like to show me what they have learned. I may need to provide templates for some learners to help them set up the problem in a visual way. I may also need to provide templates for some learners when I ask them to describe their thinking to me in writing. I do know that I will be adding anchor activities to my classroom setting, so that I am able to work with small groups of students that are struggling with certain concepts. The anchor activities that I know I will implement in the fall are Timed Tests, with stopwatches and recording sheets at their desks, and Problem of the Day questions. I believe these activities will keep my students actively engaged in worthwhile tasks while I am able to work with others. I now see that differentiation is possible in my classroom in many different forms, and I know that by incorporating it into my classroom I will make a true difference in the learning of my students. (IA)

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I would like to modify this strategy for the A&P class I taught. In a study of the book “Tuck Everlasting” the teacher sets up six learning stations to differentiate products to demonstrate their knowledge. All students have to complete three designated stations and then choose one additional station. The stations vary from writing five paragraphs on the theme using specified vocabulary from the story, to assuming the persona of one of the characters and writing a letter to explain his or her actions, to designing a brochure advertising the book in order to get someone to buy it. When we are looking at blood and the different types of blood cells I can give students choices to create an informative brochure showing all the types and the importance of each of the cells in the healthy functioning of our immune system. This would be good for visual, interpersonal and global learners that like to have an overview of the big picture. Students could write a paper describing the same thing good for reflective intrapersonal learners. Students could create a rap song to share which is great for kinesthetic, trial and error, auditory and musical learners. Students that are kinesthetic and interpersonal could act out the functions of the cells for instance, having neutrophils demonstrate phagocytosing bacteria in the body. (This would be very cool!) (KS)

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I have learned that informally, I do a good bit of differentiation already. What I take away from this course is that I must make sure these activities are formalized and that each becomes a part of my plans. I’ve internalized the necessity of beginning with the end, that I must begin with the content’s product and ask the important questions of whether it’s valid, important, and achievable. In looking at the content’s product, I must work backwards toward making the process achievable for all students and to again formalize the unconscious differentiation I do, transferring all to the conscious part of my plans. By making these adjustments to the volumes of process-related activities I create, all students will gain access to the same material. (MI)

I know that the one-size-fits all style of teaching is a thing of the past, but the idea of how to change that practice in my own classroom has been daunting. I have been teaching for 22 years and have become rather stagnant. I felt with all the changes and new programs my state and district are constantly inundating us with , overwhelmed by the idea that I need to differentiate also. What this class has brought to me is deep understanding that differentiation is a logical, basic premise. I know that it is my responsibility to reach all students, that they bring what they have to my classroom and I need to meet them where they are and move them forward. I have adjusted my own thinking to embrace differences and enjoy the challenge of creating new modes of content, process, and product. I will use various inventories to establish learning styles of my students as we begin the year to be able to plan tiered instruction, and scaffolded assessment. Above all, I am grateful for the many practical ideas I have learned about in this class. It has exposed me to practices I can readily adapt in my classroom to meet the differing needs of my students, and has taken the angst out of differentiation. (MI)

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It has become increasingly clear of the importance of knowing each student in the classroom. The idea of differentiating instruction to accommodate the different ways that students learn involves a caring of all children and a belief of the theory and research of the value of differentiated instruction in education and the classroom. As a effective teacher I must acquire and apply teaching strategies to help meet the needs of students with different learning styles, through the adjustment of instruction to accommodate students based on each student’s preferred ways in which they learn (modalities). The importance of awareness of student learning styles, be it visual, auditory, kinesthetic, global or analytic, rapid or reflective and trial/error or watch-then-do, these differences in each student’s learning behavior plays a significant role in how they learn. After determining the learning modalities for each child in the classroom, it will take more thought and time for teacher preparation, yet the success of student achievement for all students is determined by the teacher’s understanding of the systematic approach to planning curriculum and instruction for academically diverse learning. It is important that I design teaching strategies and learning experiences that will encourage, interest, engagement, and motivation in learning as each child has experiences success. This approach to effective instruction has focused on the classroom factors relating to the nature of the student and the essential meaning of the curriculum. Particular emphasis has been placed on classroom elements that the teacher can differentiate to increase the likelihood that each student will learn as much as possible, as efficiently as possible. This includes the areas of content, process, product, affect and learning environment; the value of differentiation of instruction is viewed through the various teaching strategies (content), how the students learn the content (process), the choices provided for students to demonstrate their learning (product) and alternate methods of product assessment – each with consideration of differentiation while considering the three core student characteristics that I must consider when creating curriculum and instruction – readiness, interest, and learning profile. I must design instruction methods that ignite the memory lanes that emphasizes critical and creative thinking, lessons that are engaging for all student whether using centers, whole group instruction, small groups, flexible grouping that may allow for scaffolding, or mixed-ability groups. My goal is to create a learning environment that addresses the diversity of mixed-ability classrooms, using the principles and strategies to help determine what differentiated instruction is needed to provide a positive learning experience for every student in my classroom. (OH)

I choose this course because I felt like I wanted to be a better effective teacher to my students. My student are somewhat attentive to me when I teach and I believe as I teach they are gaining an understanding but when I issue an assessment some show me that they were just following along but not really comprehending. I wanted to find other alternated ways of teaching so that our lessons are not monotonous and I lose their attention. In taking this course I realized that some methods that I used to approach subject matter to my students was actually differentiated. I just thought I was being creative. I use songs to introduce new vocabulary words to my students. Many of them have difficulty with pronunciation but the song seems to help the strugglers with it. When I teach fractions I use hands on manipulatives that include fraction strips or circles. For every science lesson that I teach we perform an experiment or hands on lesson (drawing pictures of a food chain) to help reinforce the science concept. I pleased to know that I am already differentiating many of my lessons. I still have gaps, however. I never thought about differentiating my assessments. As teachers we get focused on curriculum based instruction and lag behind the making it fun for children part. If my only requirement is to give an assessment, I will begin to better develop differentiated assessments that will better serve my students. I try to make learning suitable for all my learners, but I feel like for some lessons I am not successful at doing that. I also have times when I give an assignment and some of my students finish before others. I will begin to use anchor activities to help ensure that my students are always engaging in an activity and not just sitting around waiting for others to begin. I have often wanted to include centers or activities for my students to have independent practice instead of it always being guided by me but I was never sure of how to make that look. I now know that anchor activities will help me to organize that. This course have been very beneficial for me. I am now ready to be a more effective teacher, understanding that my lessons now have to be more student focused as opposed to curriculum focused and that I need to begin with baby steps and gradually increasing myself to total effectiveness. (OH)

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What I will continue to work on are those powerful questions. Some of Tomlinson’s questioning strategies are invaluable. Fine-tuning how I ask my students questions will improve learner involvement and accountability – asking/targeting specific students with direct questions and then opening the questions to the rest of the class creates a sense that all/any of the students will be responsible for their own learning. I can’t wait to include more active participation in my history class. I started to include a little more this year after taking a SIOP refresher course, but next year my goal is to try to integrate those active participation strategies into most of my curriculum. Again, the accountability piece is invaluable. The term “readiness” resonated with me… I don’t always consider “readiness”. It feels awkward to write that – especially when readiness is such a key part to assimilating and understanding information. I try to create pre-tests and measure where students are, but I’m in the beginning stages of understanding exactly how to do that easily and quickly for every unit I teach. It’s a slow process, adjusting and changing each unit to fit the needs of both teacher and student. I used to wonder how teachers could teach the same thing for so long – and I’ve realized that we are ever tweaking our work, perfecting and morphing it to be accessible to all. Another piece of this course that I will work on improving in my own classroom is giving students options. Assessment is not my strong point, but I loved learning about how to differentiate assessment through demonstration. I am already starting to think about how I can differentiate and tier some of the tests I will be giving in the first few units next year. Finally, what I have learned is that I actually differentiate more than I thought I did. I am a fan of Tomlinson’s writing and I was excited to see some of her work offered as part of the curriculum’s reading. Prior to this class I have read some of her work due to a colleague’s enrollment in a master’s program – I borrowed her book and poured over it, trying to figure out how to reach some of the higher functioning students while continuing to reach the students on the lower end. Because there has been so much focus being put on proficiency in the classroom and utilizing student learning and growth to evaluate our teaching practices (with the passing of HB 22-20 and SB 290) differentiation has become an invaluable tool for helping teachers reach all students. Despite the pressures with this change in education, with it is a very powerful injection of renewed energy to evaluate what I teach and how I teach it. I appreciate the things this course has shown me and am looking forward to putting much of what I have learned into action. (OR)

The biggest take away I got from this course was realizing that I although I differentiated my content and process pretty well with instruction, I did not differentiate my products well. I did not provide a variety of means for my students to demonstrate their enduring learnings in their products. My formal assessments mostly took the form of paper and pencil, which did not always properly reflect my students’ knowledge and abilities. Realizing this, I have been more intentional about assessing the same learning objective via a variety of means through performance tasks in conjunction to paper-pencil tests. I am excited to better develop my skills in creating performance task products, and I am certain my students will be more enthused about showcasing their enduring learnings. I know that offering another formal assessment option besides pencil and paper will be a stretch to me because it will require me to be creative with our class time usage, which I often feel am limited to. (OR)

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South Carolina

Before taking this course, when I thought about differentiation I thought it was extra work for me. I think this course has made me think a lot about feasible ways for me to differentiate in my classroom. After using some of the strategies in this course, such as numbered heads together, I realized differentiation can be quick and useful for keeping students engaged. This course has also made me realize that I have been differentiating in my classroom, but just didn’t realize I was doing it. I’ve been using graphic organizers, questions for scaffolding, activities for students to incorporate movement, and flexible groups. I am going to continue to do these activities and also make sure I plan activities that incorporate all learning styles. (SC)

This course has provided a vast amount of information that I can use to grow as an educator. There is so much practical information that I can use to help facilitate learning for my students where they become the “stars” on the stage and I am there to help aid and guide their learning. Understanding that learning styles of students differ and it is ultimately important to know their levels of readiness is key to presenting content, explaining the process, and thus receiving a product that they have learned the standard being taught. I am now more aware of the need to scaffold lessons that will help my students learn. I will create assessments that will be meaningful for my students and I will begin with that end in mind. The teaching strategies of tier lessons for learning will be used more in order to ensure that I am reaching all of my students. The act of thought provoking questions to stimulate learning is an important element that I will apply to my teaching. Finally, I have learned that all learning and learners must be respected. All students can learn. They learn differently and as a teacher I must make sure that I do all I can to reach all of my students in a respectful, comfortable, and supportive learning environment. (SC)

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South Dakota

I have been teaching for 30 years now. This course helped me to broaden some of my lessons and how to expand and create new ones that can benefit all of the students in my classrooms. Quite a few of the things, I already do, but found out they had a name. It’s made me think of newer ways to present certain materials to not only help students who are struggling, but those who need to be challenged, also. Early on, the course talked about how we tend to teach to the middle students. That is so true. Over the 30 years that I have been teaching, of course, technology has greatly improved educating students, but the one thing that I’ve really noticed is the wide variety of assessment that is now being used. If there is one thing that I took away from this class is that you need to “give the students what they need” in our profession.(SD)

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I learned that most teachers teach to the middle. “Sameness is always easier to accommodate than difference . . . “ according to Pat Burke Guild, thus easing a teacher’s stress and work load. This sameness does not address a student’s learning style and may be one of the causes of dropout. I will try to be more efficient in learning each student’s learning style and plan activities with appropriate scaffolding around these styles. For example, in the classroom I will allow the advanced students to be more independent with more complex activities. In my classroom I now see that I teach more to the middle. Secondly, it was so interesting for me to take the Myers Briggs then read the piece on diversity. Learning my learning style which is global and according to Myers Briggs intrapersonal/interpersonal I now know why I relate to some students in my classroom so easily and others take more effort. This will help me tremendously in understanding students whose culture values are not the norm. This knowledge will also aid me in my curriculum choices. I will be more diverse in my choice of reading material. I will choose more reading material with themes and characters from more diverse cultures. Students will demonstrate this by being more apt to read the material and by showing more interest in the assignments related to the material. They will feel more comfortable joining in in the discussions about the text. Third, the “backward design” concept of beginning with the end in mind. I think about elements of the short story unit. My goal at the end of this unit is for my students have an enduring knowledge of these elements and use them without hesitation in their conversations. They will demonstrate this when in groups or whole class discussion of a reading assignment use these terms without prompt. My contribution will be to have them design their own word wall with these terms and definitions and examples from a short story they have read. (TN)

This was the most amazing and informational course I have taken in my five years of being an elementary teacher. Not only have I learned how to identify the different learning styles of my students, but I also learned how I can differentiate the content, process, and product to make learning easier and more intriguing for each student. I learned many new teaching strategies that I was not aware of, and since this course provided lots of examples, I can now adapt some of them to fit into my classroom. Before starting this course I honestly just wanted to get my continuing education hours completed. I feel that after completing this course I now know much more about each of my students as individuals than I ever have before. My students now come into my class each day with a smile and say, “I wonder what cool,new things Ms. Kendra will have us try today!” To have your students look forward to coming into your room and spending the majority of their day with you is a feeling of happiness I cannot describe. I want to thank everyone, from the creators of the websites to the authors of the articles to the teachers in the videos,for creating such a wonderful learning tool for teachers. The best teachers never stop learning and I now feel more empowered and capable of creating a learning environment that is welcoming for EVERY child! I look forward to my next online course with this group. Thank you again for giving me so many tools and strategies to make my classroom a more successful learning environment for ALL! (TN)

As a result of this course, I have learned the following: Basically, for me, I looked forward to answering one of the first questions asked in the lessons at the beginning of the course. That one question was “How can I create a powerful learning experience to meet the wide range of students’ needs that exist in the regular classroom?” I understood that first and most importantly, those students had to be identified as needing differentiated instruction. Secondly, in order to create powerful learning experiences, differentiated methodologies and strategies must exist that will meet the wide range of students needs in the regular classroom. In other words, as the teacher/coach/coordinator of the classroom, I must vary the way I teach in order to adjust to students’ needs. This can be difficult sometimes because one size does not fit all. For example, home environments, language barriers, an inability to see the “big picture,” can all cause differences in one’s ability to learn even when the same content is taught. One student may hear directions or speak dominantly over one who has visual or viewing skills. There also may be a rapid responder and a watch and do learner in the same class. These all call for different methods of teaching. Small adjustments in the regular order of learning in the same class will take time to adjust to. Regardless, students should be learning the same content. Adjustment in content, process and product can meets students’ diverse needs in the classroom. Also, as the teacher/coach/coordinator, assessment should be authentic and integrated in my teaching in order to guide needs for all diverse needs. There are different ways people are smart due to multiple types of intelligences meaning, there are multiple ways to teach. For example, linguistic intelligence is not the same as a musical talent but both are “smart” intelligences. These human intelligences define human nature. Remembrance of this makes me reflect on my own teaching practice. Another idea from this course was the information given about “backward design: where a lesson begins with an end in mind. Teachers and students should know where the lesson ends up and what types of assessments to expect. Not to mention, the lesson should definitely be student-focused. Activities like learning language strategies, use of films and technology all play a important role in student focused learning. In all, the most important information I obtained and more than anything to grasp from this course is how differentiated instruction in the classroom should be divided in three areas of instruction: content, process and product. As a teacher/coach/coordinator I clearly understand how each are defined and now, how it is applied. Content is objective driven and should address the same concepts for all students in the classroom and the learning objective should be understood and written in incremental steps to build content that leads to understanding the content of the lesson. The process stage of the differentiated learning could be the hands-on activities that allows student to interact and work together with other students in order to be focused on the content of the lesson. The process stage of the lesson should be essential to understanding the objective and purpose of the lesson while adapting skills that are easily accessible, interesting and engaging. Then, the product of each lesson should be the finished result that is produced after the content is leaned. In the product stage of learning, students are able to use their own creativity to demonstrate their understanding of the content. Here as the teacher/coach/coordinator I can respond to different level of interest and some open options for students to learn. I plan to adapt all of these ideas, strategies, and methodologies as part of my differentiated instructions. These are only some of the numerous strategies and ideas I obtained from this course. (TN)

I have learned a lot of information in this class. I learned that students are either rapid responders or reflective learners. Students learn better when information can build upon itself or scaffolding. I think it is important to have different activities of the same lesson for the array of learners in the class. Students need to feel successful, the material does not need to be too easy or too hard for the learners in the classroom. (TN)

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Differentiation is an area that I have really been wanting to focus on and I’m so glad that I learned so much from this course. One of the most important concepts is that teachers need to plan instruction to meet the students where they are and give them multiple paths for success. We need to consider their readiness levels, learning styles and interests when planning our instruction and we must intentionally plan strategies for 3 phases of instruction, content, process and product. Some of the instructional strategies that I think would be particularly useful to my classroom would be anchor activities, flexible grouping, graphic organizers, hands-on activities, literature circles, scaffolding, and tiered instruction. Using tiered instruction is useful for tailoring to the individual ability levels of each student, and can be especially useful in planning for “product” activities and assessments. Planning for differentiation requires much more thought and is definitely more time consuming. However, I think it is well worth the effort to ensure that each and every student is learning and being successful! (TX)

The three key points that I have learned from this course are as follows: a) I have learned that differentiation instruction is based on the awareness that students differ in their learning profiles, their readiness levels, and the interest areas. b) I have learned that the ultimate essential question for teachers to consider at all times is: “How can we create powerful learning experiences to meet the wide range of student needs that exist in the regular classroom?” c) I have learned that all students have the right to learn and all students can learn – if the teacher takes the time to learn about them through multiple assessments, observations, and collaborations. In order to better understand my students, I will definitely use Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Survey, as well as a Student Interest Survey. I will also try to activate all memory lanes, but especially the once which activates emotions. Because an emotional connection makes a child not only remember a memorable learning experience forever, but also makes a child feel safe, capable, and loved. That is the most important thing. I feel that differentiated instruction shows students that the teacher is making an active effort to connect and care about the students’ learning experience. (TX)

This course has offered a lot of information about the many ways I can differentiate lessons. It has given me some tools that will help me plan lessons that will present information to facilitate effective learning. I will consider the multiple intelligences strategies when planning my lessons to insure that students can use different intelligences when learning new material. I will also consider ways to differentiate the process and product whenever possible to give students more choices in their learning. This article also helped me see the usefulness of using graphic organizers more often. I will be incorporating them into more areas of my lessons. I will also be using the instructional continuum when planning my lessons to help me plan ahead for opportunities to differentiate learning activities. I will also be looking for different meaningful ways to use formative assessments with my class. (TX)

I feel through the course I had a good review of the differences we see in our students. I had previously learned some of this information in college but know it was more indepth here. I then was able to understand through the numerous examples how to make adjustments to lessons in content, process, and product to meet so many more students needs. I now feel it is a much more doable task to vary my instruction for so many of my students. Because I teach early childhood I was conscious of different developemtal needs, and now I feel the lessons I teach will be more dynamic for more of those needs. I like the ideas of beginning with the end in mind as it gives me the educator a more clear goal for both myself and my students. (TX)

I have learned a lot as a result of taking this course. I knew what “differentiated instruction” meant, but have a much more thorough understanding of what it looks like in a classroom, and how to implement it in my own classroom. I learned a great deal about identifying my students’ learning styles and utilizing this information to meet their needs more effectiviely. Learning about content, process, and product has provided me a blueprint for differentiating. I don’t have to be worried that it’s “too difficult” or “too time consuming”. This course has provided me with many great resources I can use in the future to create graphic organizers, design rubrics, and to find ideas for performance assessments, etc. I will take a lot of valuable information with me as I head back into the classroom. Thank You. (TX)

From this course, I have learned that differentiated instruction is a way to make sure that all students have optimal access to learning. Because students differ in their learning profiles, readiness levels, and interest areas, teachers must use a wide variety of instructional strategies to reach all of them. One of the cores of differentiated instruction is that the student is the center of instruction; the lessons/activities are based around his/her needs, interests, and readiness levels. A one-size-fits-all model is not the best. Differentiated instruction allows me as a teacher to create powerful learning experiences that meet the needs of all of my students. I already use many differentiated lessons/activities in my classroom, but there are several more that I would like to implement. During reading and science, I use learning stations quite a bit. Now, I will make sure to make the learning stations differentiated, with rubrics available so that students may reflect on their own understanding. Furthermore, I will differentiate product more by giving my students choices in how they would like to demonstrate what they have learned. For example, now we are learning about the organelles in plant and animal cells. To show what they have learned, I will give students the option of either creating a cell model, writing an expository essay about a plant or animal cell, or they may give an oral presentation to show what they have learned. I have really enjoyed this course, and I am eager to experiment with many more of these great instructional strategies that will undoubtedly engage, enthuse, and most importantly, reach all of my learners. (TX)

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Forum Post 10d Putting It All Into Action In Your Own Classroom W. Chilton Summarize key learnings and your application of them in your own practice by writing a paragraph on what you have learned and what you will use in your practice as a result of this course. Part I. Teacher, Classroom, and Students The first thing to re-evaluate as a differentiated instructor is to become more personally involved in the learning of the students. For the most part this requires pairing down lecture time and finding new ways to divulge content. One way to do this is to shift the burden of controlling all the content to the students; let them take some responsibility for their own learning. This can be done by chunking a unit of content and giving individuals, or groups of students the responsibility to acquire their assigned chunk of knowledge, process it, and then share it with the others. It doesn’t get them out of having to worry about other chunks, but they do become part of the process rather than inactive recipients. In order to effectively accomplish the assigning of chunks to individuals and groups, it becomes important to know the preferred learning styles and interests of the students in the classroom. This is accomplished, in part, by having them complete a questionnaire about themselves and their preferences. Once this information is in hand, it is merely a matter of assigning chunks that are tailored to individual strengths. This helps students develop a sense of ownership towards the course material, and should serve to ratchet up their motivation and interest levels. The transition from audience to participants helps change the classroom culture and dynamics. The students begin to realize that the classroom, and what goes on in it, are for them. They are no longer a passive audience enduring the time and looking at the clock. Once they have an active hand in shaping their learning, the culture and dynamics of the classroom change. Hopefully, when all students realize that no one is going to look stupid, and have to bear that label, they will feel safer and willing to take risks. After all, the idea of education is to push one in new directions, and learn to do things that one couldn’t do, or couldn’t do well, before. Part II. Student types and Communication First day questionnaires can reveal much about the students, but to truly understand their learning strengths and learning style the teacher needs to probe deeper. Often the student is not aware of his/her own preferences and tendencies. This is usually revealed over time, but the teacher can do some detective work and be more observant. In all fairness, it does take at least two weeks to isolate single personalities out of 60+ students, although a number of those students, especially in smaller schools, should not be mysteries. Gardner offers “intelligences” that help teachers better categorize student learning preferences. Usually simple observation reveals those, as students tend to gravitate towards those activities that reflect their nature. One sure way to discover these intelligences is to vary class investigating and processing activities. Students, even at the high school level, have a hard time containing their enthusiasm. When normally detached, docile students suddenly become animated…well, a bell should go off. Student reflective writings often reveal personalities as well, especially when students are charged with an assignment that offers a creative outlet. Introverts and extroverts often reveal themselves in what they write about, as well as if they think analytically or globally. I’ve found that extroverts usually think more globally. Likewise students who respond well to visual aids, videos, etc. are probably the visual, auditory learners. The challenge with auditory learners is their tendency not to want to take notes. I’ve found that rewarding them for doing sop, like being able to use their notes on an assessment, sometimes helps kick start the habit. Observing students working in groups helps identify the trial-and-error as well as the watch-then-do learners. It is easy enough to pair these up with those who will unconsciously guide them along (like an independent learner with a watch-then-do). The communication piece is important in certain circumstances, especially when dealing with ESL students. Identifying cultural norms and preferences can alleviate student anxieties and cement strong relations with families. Parent night is a good window on parents’ expectations and priorities. Getting students to talk openly about home and relatives is a tricky business, as one doesn’t want to be labeled a snoop, but once trust is gained with a student, they can be quite open about things they are proud of, embarrassed by, and stressed over. Teachers are not social workers, although at least not directly, but should be cognizant enough about their students out of class time in order to make the proper decisions which will enhance each one’s learning experience. Knowing what goes on outside the classroom, and in which direction the various cultural norms are driving the student can be helpful in choosing proper tasks and products. Part III. Differentiating Methodologies for Content, Process, and Product The crux of the matter is the actual differentiating. Once the teacher knows who is capable of what, and what each student’s style, personality, and preferences are, it becomes a matter of trying to match up instruction with needs. Teachers have to bow to the god of curriculum, which holds sway over enduring understandings and to some degree the essential questions. Some enduring understandings might deal with achieving a level of competence in a given fundamental skill that is not comfortable for a student, as it goes beyond their current skill level. Differentiating instruction can help success happen. The course encouraged teachers to use variety in instruction. Given the wide array of preferences and learning styles within a given classroom, there are two ways to reach all in some way. One would be to differentiate a given unit in such a way that the students choose a direction to take that is custom made for their style. All are working, presumably on the same issue, but working on it along multiple paths. The teacher needs to look at the essential understanding (the product needs to reflect that this has been attained) and find the multiple pathways for reaching it. This looks great in theory, but things get more complex in practice, for if the essential understanding is the achievement of one particular skill that is not visual, global, auditory, or kinesthetic, for example, then those pathways alone will not bring the student to the necessary goal. However, the idea is to keep a student engaged, motivated, and working towards that understanding. That some will get there more quickly than others is a given, hence the need for anchor activities to keep the independent, fast-paced learners engaged while the teacher works personally with others to help them “catch up”, or better, improve the necessary skills. For the latter group, the “continuums” become quite important. Scaffolding assignments so they can work their way through the complex by making each step more basic (the “hill-climbing” heuristic). Personal guidance over the tough spots is often required, and many graphic organizers can be employed to provide the structure these students would need. The second way to use differentiated instruction to get all students through a unit would be to pair subsections of the unit up that naturally play to a particular skill/preference/style. I mentioned using the film ‘Amadeus’ as part of the unit on the Enlightenment. The film is rich in visuals, auditories, music, clothing and costumes, lifestyles, and subtle enlightenment perspectives. There is drama and mystery, strong characters and personalities, and a total emersion in 18th century life. The video can span a variety of processing activities that can strike a chord with practically every student, and should be employed in such a way. I often use the video the gateway to the unit’s capstone project, which can stand beside the more standardized objective/subjective test as an additional means of assessment. Much creative writing, research, pathways into music and opera, and even scientific investigations can be inspired by this one video, and students seem to enjoy it. Thus, differentiating instruction can be a “fun” thing. Teaching is rewarding when students get enthusiastic and engaged. I tend to list all the activities that a class will be doing with a particular unit, so there will be something for all to look forward to. It seems to make it easier for them to endure the activities that don’t necessarily appeal to them, and then shine when their moment comes. For example, the unit on absolutism employs a creative (right brain) exercise which enables students to solve real-world problems as an absolutist might, charts and graphic organizers are used to help with class work and lecture (guided/structured/basic/small steps), a video on the Three Musketeers (visual/auditory) is employed to create mood for the age of Richelieu, which turns into a research project (analytical/left brain) to see if the cardinal really was that evil or Louis XIII really was that pathetic, a Frederick the Great game is used to put students into the power-politics of the 18th century (kinesthetic), and the students get to create books for young (2nd-3rd grade) readers featuring the monarch of their choice and more (artistic/global/analytic/visual/literary). Activities such as the above are fun to do, and the students tend to respond to them well. When all is covered, the question reverts to product, which should properly reflect what all students should know, understand, and be able to do. Part IV. Teaching the Classes, Always Learning and Adjusting Though I have been differentiating to some degree, oftimes without even realizing it, I have found some gaps which do deserve attention. Foremost, I have discovered that the key to higher understanding and learning starts with knowledge and comprehension. I do not feel comfortable minimizing the importance of these fundamentals. One cannot process information if one has no information to process at hand. One cannot make connections unless there is something is someone’s head that recognizes similarities and differences. I do see that the way to further knowledge and understanding, and the way to true reasoning, problem-solving, and proper decision-making lies along the road of application-analysis-synthesis-evaluation. I tend to think, that with enough knowledge and comprehension crammed into one’s head, the final four rather become a natural evolution. While this has been true for me, I tend to think it might not be true for all. The ultimate goal of differentiating is to be true for all, and so there are some things I will continue to amend, improve, and try. While I differentiate activities in my classes, I believe I could do more in the way of differentiating products. I do have a few capstone projects for some units that, for the most part, do not stand alone as product, but some can. The ones that do not stand alone as a product are that way due to the limitations of curriculum and the specific standard that must be met. If the standard is writing a coherent persuasive essay, then obviously someone creating a dance interpretation of the answer is not going to work. However, some units like Romanticism, Immigration, Imperialism, Revolutions, and the Renaissance could justify more differentiated products occurring, or at least weighing more heavily than a standardized test. It is to this end that some effort be made. I think it important that students learn new skills, and learn to work effectively, if not comfortably, outside their zone of preference. Growth will not occur if they do not. I fear a danger with differentiation may be a tendency to NOT push a student into new and different directions. I do not see how a student can truly achieve an enduring understanding if every task they undertake is visual, or kinesthetic, or global, or analytical, etc. There needs to be variety. I do think differentiation is a means to that end, and not a means of itself. If students can get enthusiastic about learning, and if they can begin to convince themselves that what was thought to be unattainable is now attainable, I believe that differentiation will have served its purpose. (VT)

Differentiating instruction is a teaching concept that has been around for quite a while and I have seen a wide representation of what differentiating instruction could be, from a teacher saying differentiating was watching a movie instead of reading a book to another teacher saying she was differentiating by exempting a student from the writing expectations. I’ve always felt a certain amount of confusion on how to use differentiating instruction effectively and was intimidated by how much time would have to be devoted to changing the curriculum in an already full day. After taking this course I am so excited about some of the ideas that I have learned. This course has given me a clear idea of what differentiating instruction is and how it can be used effectively. For example, when I think about designing a lesson, I am paying attention to the content, process and product of each lesson. Each area offers multiple ways to differentiate the instruction. If I have an understanding of each student’s readiness, interests and learning styles, I can provide multiple versions of the same lesson that allow all the students in the classroom to engage effectively in the learning. In many ways, I have already been engaged in using aspects of differentiating instruction, but having now completed this course, I will be much more deliberate, focused and informed on using differentiating instruction in the classroom. (VT)

Throughout this course, I have been reminded of many important truths about my students that have come up in many other courses I have engaged in. It is always important to be reminded that all of my students learn differently, and to think in a conscious way about how to meet those needs for such a wide range of learners. I have been provided with a number of strategies that I can use to implement the ideas of differentiation in my classroom, and some have been so small and simple it makes what sounds like an overwhelming task (differentiating) seem remarkably doable. As many of the examples provided throughout the course were geared more towards the elementary classroom, I really had to think about how I could adapt and apply those ideas to fit in my high school science classroom, which I believe resulted in some fun and interesting lessons for my students. One of the greatest things I feel that I got from this course is the idea that I actually already differentiate quite a bit, and that responding to student needs leads naturally to differentiation. What I need to do is be more deliberate about the process, especially when it comes to assessment. Overall, I hope to continue implementing some of the strategies provided in this course throughout the rest of the year and into the future. It is important for me to remember that I do not need to change everything I do today, but to continue adapting and changing my teaching each day, each year, so that I am constantly responding to and meeting the needs of my students. (VT)

I have learned to incorporate Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences into my classroom. In order to do this I will need to know all of my students by giving them formal and informal pre- assessments. I will use this information to adapt my teaching content, process, and product. I now know to be aware of my own teaching style and how important it is to meet needs of all of the students in my classroom. I will use my knowledge of how to differentiate instruction in my classroom and apply my understanding each and every day. I will be extremely flexible and open for new ideas to enrich their development in all areas! (VT)

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I am very fortunate to have been exposed to compassionate schooling prior to taking this course. The superintendent of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has brought this topic to the forefront in the State of Wisconsin’s education system. I have had the opportunity to attend symposium’s on this topic and have heard Dr. Bruce Perry speak. I have also attended many other workshops where this has been the topic in my work both as a district Therapeutic Counselor and as a private practice psychotherapist. When faced with training our district teachers about creating compassionate classrooms, I knew I needed more which is what led me to this course. One of the primary themes that I will take directly from this course is that although teachers bring their whole selves to the classroom, they are going to need to be able to be able to leave their personal biases at the door if they are truly going to be able to stay “curious” about their students and their lack of progress. Another key point made that has stuck me since the onset of this course and that is the difference between empathy and compassion with compassion being a verb. When training teachers in our district about compassionate classrooms, I am excited to be able to find out if teachers will use the two words interchangeably. A third component that had not been emphasized in my other trainings is that of reflection of my own “perceptions” of students. As a therapist, I often reflect on my clients and what may or may not be going on in their life. I have a curiousity about my students that has fueled my passion for my work most of my career. I have used reflection as a way to critique myself professionally. I had not made the connection of teachers needing to reflect in order to be able to stay compassionate and curious about there students as well. (WI)

I have had a lot of training in trauma prior to taking this course, but I did learn a lot of helpful tools that I can give to teachers to use in their classrooms. I have already bought the book “Lost at School” and I know that will be helpful. There were a number of resources like web sites and studies that will be helpful to me in my job. Everytime I study this it reminds me to slow down and look at things in a different way before I react to a student. I am thankful that you offered this class and hope that more teachers will take this course. (WI)

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Some key elements that I have learned through this course, are looking at and being aware of how differently students learn. I have been able to practice and apply teaching methods ranging from content, process, and product while being cognizant of individual learning needs and interests. Understanding how to engage students and finding out their interests and readiness levels, have been especially helpful with my teaching. In the future, I hope to become more familiar with “tiered instruction” as I believe it is a little more complicated and time-consuming, but is a type of instruction that is more than worth it for student growth and learning. (WY)

I have learned that there are more than just two types of learning. I always thought there were active learners (students who either worked by moving around, in which case they did not always get their work done), and independent learners (students who liked to sit and work quietly by themselves). It is great to know that there are ways that students prefer to learn, there are the ways that students perceive information, there are students that find and respond to the answers differently, and every student is intelligent in their own way and at their own level. I have also learned different ways to teach and how to get the students to remember what they have learned. Honestly, I would pretty much be a direct instructor and not put enough thought into whether or not the students understood what was being taught. As a result of this course I will put more thought into how I plan a lesson. With all the new ideas that I have learned I am going to make every lesson more differentiated to help all students learn. I feel that my lesson planning may take a little bit more time but also be a little bit more fun to think about. (WY)

I think my ideas about differentiation have become more clear since taking this course. I understand now that not only do students learn differently, but as teachers we need to be trying our best to meet all of our students learning styles. We can do this through the way we present information, how the students go about applying the information and how we assess the students. I think it is important to think about the end goal first in order think of ways for your students to get there. I found it very interesting that not only are there auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners, but there are global, analytical, reflective, responsive, and so many more different types of learners in our classrooms. As a 1st grade teacher, I plan to use many different ways of presenting content to my students. I realize now that they need to make that emotional connection as well as one other connection with what they are learning in order to remember the information. 1st graders already have a hard time sitting still for long periods of time, so why not get them up and moving! I want to scaffold for those struggling with their readiness and get them a good start, but then let them finish on their own so they feel successful. Planning will be hard, but I think if I can get the other 1st grade teachers to help plan different parts of our lessons then differentiation won’t be such a scary thing to do. I am excited to start implementing some new strategies into my classroom in August. (WY)

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