Fair is a very difficult concept for many students to grasp. Many students will see differences in assignments, differentiated instruction, as frustrating at all levels of ability. The advanced or gifted student might resent the lower levels because they may see their work as easier or shorter. The lower levels may feel like they are not as good as the upper levels or embarrassed that they were given a different assignment.
It is very important that the teacher differentiate instruction correctly. Don’t just add busy work to upper level students and don’t just take away parts of an assignment for the lower level students.
I try not to level activities at all but to differentiate them using multiple intelligences instead. I also give students the choice of what they want to do and how they want to work (self, partner, group) through the use of flexible grouping. That way everyone is different so no one feels different.
There are some occasions when leveling/scaffolding/tiering an assignment is necessary. Accommodations for SPED and ELL students are constant too which can make certain students stand out more and resentfulness and embarrassment can take place. This is when the teacher needs to step in and explain to everyone that “fair isn’t always equal”, to quote my former Principal Lauren French, Gouverneur Middle School. Explain that all students are starting with different background knowledge and need to be taught from that level and brought up to the next level. No one should feel jealous of another group because at some point in the year, during different concepts, people are going to change levels. You need to bring it down to their level and possibly relate it to a sport or video game. These accommodations or levels of an assignment equal the playing field like a handicap does in golf.
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Kasha-Mastrodomenico helps social studies teachers differentiate their activities and writing through the use of multiple intelligences and leveling/scaffolding/tiering.