Differentiation is ‘different’ not more, not less, just ‘different’.

DI_TechnologyIt is of no use to keep going the way we are if we don’t constantly reflect and review what we are doing in and out of the classroom. Students no longer accept that we as teachers know everything and that our sole purpose is to feed them the information so they can regurgitate it back to us in tests and exams. Our journey in investigating the differentiated curriculum is an introduction into a different way of thinking about knowledge and skills. Many of us already apply some of the strategies while others, well we are happy to continue giving them the same worksheets, the same tests and hoping for the best. We are very busy people after all.

However, we are also out to make a difference, or at least I hope we are. So if this is the main objective then we need to teach them content, yes, but more importantly we MUST teach them what to do with it once they’ve got it.

Let’s reflect for a moment:

  • The students we have in front of us today are the ones who will be looking after us tomorrow.
  • The students we teach today will be the parents of future children who will change forever what we know and do.
  • The student who today may be difficult could be a future Einstein or Rosalind Franklin or Shakespeare or Martin Luther King Jr. or even the next Dr. Who –and by this I don’t mean the actor who will play him, I mean the scientist who will invent something extraordinary like the 15 year old who has developed a test to diagnose pancreatic cancer.

Too much, well, they had to be in somebody’s class didn’t they?

Anyhow my point is that it’s worth the extra effort to ensure that all students are engaged and that they develop a love of learning. The only way this is going to happen is if you and they believe they can. One of the ways we can help this along is to meet them at their level, regardless of where that might be, and ensure they move along in value added learning.

One way to do this is to differentiate our classes. Differentiation “consists of the efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom. Whenever a teacher reaches out to an individual or small group to vary his or her teaching in order to create the best learning experience possible, that teacher is differentiating instruction.” (Tomlinson)

Call back next week for Part 2: The 3 Ps in Differentiation

Thanks for reading 🙂

“This is not how our teacher does it!”

Good Morning Folks,

The other day I had the privilege of delivering the  Keynote address at the TLN CRT Conference. I have to say I was rather nervous at first but once I put my hands on that lectern it was all over and off I went. I really love doing what I do and I love meeting and speaking with educators, sharing ideas and anecdotes about teaching and learning. During my Positive Classrooms workshops, at the same conference, there were many ideas thrown around that I hope participants might try the next time they are in the classroom. My favourite idea was the alphabet game where the first person chooses a word – say –  learning, the next person must then say a word beginning with the last letter of the previous word – growth – and so it goes until everyone has had a turn. We then tried it using only words relevant to the topic at hand, and while this was rather difficult it is an excellent way to really challenge the students and stay on topic. It might also be useful as a revision or prior / post knowledge game.

Many thanks to all those who participated on the day. Remember that each child is taught by a CRT for almost 2 years of their 13 years at school. We can make a BIG difference to their lives, make sure it’s a positive one!

Lastly…for those who would like to know how the “I failed preps” story ends please click here

tigerinjunglebookThanks for reading 🙂

“My brain is full!”


2014conf_1dinst_7Connecting Content and Kids: Understanding by Design and Differentiation – 1-Day Institute

Last Monday I attended one day of the Hawker Brownlow Thinking and Learning Conference. I attend almost every year and have always chosen to follow one ‘hero’ for a day. This year I decided to attend Carol Ann Tomlinson‘s and Jay McTighe‘s 1 day institute. They played it like a tag team where Jay talked about Understanding by Design (UbD) and Carol on Differentiation. They integrated the two and while one day is simply not enough to really do these two areas justice we got an overall picture of how to integrate them to benefit the students in our classes.

12 things I heard that made me think:

1. Curriculum is a plan to get kids where they need to go

2. UbD provides the framework for developing the curriculum

3. Instruction is a plan on how we need to teach the curriculum

4. Differentiation provides the framework to carry out instruction

5. Teach all kids as though they are really smart

6. Start with planning for top level learners rather than aiming in the middle, do not dumb it down but work towards getting the students up there

7. Formative assessment is not for filling in report cards but to inform instruction

8. There is a logic in backward design

9. Essential questions are not the right answer questions

10.Teaching is not just serving ingredients but rather blending them in different ways to suit all people’s tastes

11. We learn when things are just a little too hard for you

12. One cannot ‘hand over’ understanding; this is something each learner needs to develop for themselves

Some other things I thought you might find interesting…

Evidence of understanding means you can do one or more of these:

  • explain in your words and justify your responses,
  • interpret,
  • transfer the understanding to a new situation,
  • see other people’s point of view or take a critical stance,
  • empathise, and / or
  • know yourself as a learner.

Reading and writing shouldn’t impair the student from showing you what he/she knows and can do.

One cannot differentiate poor quality curriculum.

Differentiation does not mean multiple assessment tasks, instead, one can simply change the complexity of the task to challenge students based on their skills and knowledge.

As a reference check on the validity of your assessment tasks in meeting your original aims and objectives, why not show the tasks to another teacher and ask them to state what they think your initial goals might have been.

I also think it’s valid to carry out the above with the students who are actually going to be working on the task.


Thanks for reading 🙂