Friday, May 3, 2013

Differentiation ... I can do better!

Differentiation is a hot topic, a challenging teacher skill, and necessary for a thriving classroom.  I wish I could say I did a good job of differentiating instruction this year but I did not.  I tried a few strategies with some success.  I can do more, do better ... and hope to learn from my online colleagues as we blog about this topic.

One strategy that worked for me for routine practice was differentiated circuits (or loops).  I post problems around the room.  The answer to a problem is on another poster.  Students work any problem first ... then find the answer that matches ... work the problem on that poster ... and repeat until the loop closes.  It is easy to differentiate by creating 2 or 3 different loops and making sure that identified students start with a card in the appropriate leveled loop. This worked with solving systems, factoring quadratics, solving equations and so on.  One such loop is on my TpT site.

Another strategy or resource that worked well for differentiating has been Manga High.  I can't say enough about this free source for math practice.  I can assign different challenges or expect different levels of success at the same challenges.  The program keeps up with student work, provides tutorials, and awards points/medals.

Last, I used working in groups to manage differentiation.  I know many teachers insist on grouping low, middle, and high students together.  I found, though, that pulling out my highest students to form groups provided the challenge they needed.  Then I mixed my lower and on grade level students together to meet their needs in group work.  I assigned a different strand of problems for each leveled group.  I wrote about one such lesson here.

I have found a few resources I want to explore more fully next year.

I like the book More Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Secondary Math Instruction.  The book highlights 2 strategies.  The first is open ended questioning.  The second strategy in the book is parallel tasks.  Now that I am familiar with the curriculum in my new assignment, I believe I can apply the ideas presented by Small and Lin.

A second resource on my "to-do" list is a list of "problems" that are already developed in 5 levels.  I found these "Problems of the Month" at Inside Mathematics.  The problems are connected to the Common Core Standards and range from primary to high school expectations.  I don't know if I can use them as they are but they may be the perfect inspiration for creating parallel tasks of my own.

Last, a website that I refer to when I want to explore differentiation is "dare to differentiate."  Just tonight I was reviewing the Think Dots strategy ... I could use that next year to provide more choice in routine practice.

I look forward to reading what you have to say about differentiation.  I'm finding it's much easier to talk about it, write about it, even create plans for it ... than to actually implement it!