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Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated Instruction Systems

Use Differentiated Instruction Systems to Save Time During Planning

The administrations that I worked under were always pushing differentiated instruction. I think I attended more differentiated instruction training seminars than years I taught. The biggest problem I found when I taught middle school social studies was finding time to plan for differentiated instruction. I had to learn the content before I could create a lesson plan and then I had to differentiate it and with only one planning period which was many times a week taken away for meetings. I was staying at work until nine at night and getting there at six in the morning to try to get everything done. Needless to say, I was exhausted and I was burned out before five years. I took a year off after moving, my husband is in the Army, and then started again. I ended up running around in circles once more.

I realized that there were two ways this could go for me. I could switch careers and work normal hours and actually have weekends off, or I could figure out a way to plan for differentiated instruction in a much faster way. I decided on the latter because I love to teach. I began to systems that helps me plan for differentiated instruction.

The first system I created was a leveled expository writing system. It has nine levels that can help bring a student who needs to focus on just writing a topic sentence and then listing the facts that support it underneath to a DBQ essay within a year’s time. Each template included the directions. They also included the grading checklist so that the student could see how they were going to be graded. All I had to do was write in the question I wanted my students to explore and the assignment was created. By using my leveled writing system, I increased the amount of writing that was done in my classroom and my students became much better writers. There wasn’t one student that didn’t show some sort of improvement in writing that year. When I became the SST chair for my grade level, I realized that this could also be used for the RTI process because it shows small achievable goals each student has made in their writing.

The second system that I created was for activities based on the Multiple Intelligence Theory. At the top of each activity were the Multiple Intelligences used in the activity. Under those, student roles were included to help keep the students focused and on task. This also provided consistency in the way activities were run. All I had to do with the activity templates was write in the content I wanted my students to use for that assignment. I could provide four choices of activities for my students that could be ready in less than five minutes! Each one of the templates also included a rubric specific for that assignment but with an equal grading system as all of the other activity templates.

I was pretty proud of what I had created and since they took less than five minutes to include in a lesson plan, I saved a lot of time during planning. My brain wouldn’t shut off though. What about the other sections of a lesson plan? Was there a better way to do those too? Could I create a system for that as well?

After much deliberation I realized that there was a way to differentiated instruction for vocabulary that could be done with templates too. I created a template with three sections; one for the vocabulary word on the left, in the middle was the area for the definition, and on the right side students could choose from drawing a picture to represent the vocabulary word or write a sentence to show understanding. This choice brought in the Multiple Intelligence Theory and student choice.  From there I decided to level it. The enriched level allowed students to write the definition in their own words to provide a bit of critical thinking. The average level allowed students to fill in the blanks of the definition. The basic level provided the full definition. I chose this option for the lower level because I realized that many of them were having trouble just decoding the definitions even in simplified form. This allowed them the time to read and comprehend it and then use it in their choice box on the right.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t a way to systemize the creation of PowerPoints, note sheets and primary sources quickly. However, I have created many for American History for you to download. Most of my PowerPoints have two levels of them; enriched and basic. For each PowerPoint, there are two levels of notes; enriched and basic. The enriched notes allow for more critical thinking and the basic notes allow students to fill in the blanks as they go through the PowerPoint in class. There are many differentiated instruction primary sources available in my social studies differentiated instruction lesson plans as well to help you bring in the common core standards too. You can access my plans at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Kasha-Mastrodomenico.

To learn more about differentiated instruction, click here.

Written by,

Kasha Mastrodomenico



How do you explain why activities are different when differentiating instruction?

Differentiated Instruction Misconceptions

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

Written by,

Kasha Mastrodomenico