Carol Ann Tomlinson defines differentiation as a continual process of assessing and monitoring students’ readiness levels, interests, and learner profiles. We are in an unprecedented time and unchartered teaching territory as we aim to support all students virtually (synchronous or asynchronous).
As such, our learners are logging into our virtual classrooms with various emotional and academic needs. Based on such diversity, differentiating instruction is the one approach that will work. Upon pre-assessment/diagnosis in virtual and online environments, teachers can differentiate with the following:
Learning environment is the where. The learning environment is a strong community of learners. It involves the organization of time, space, and resources for teaching and learning. In our online environments, we can provide students with check-ins, fun community builders, and offer gratitude journaling to support the emotional well-being of students.
One of my favorite starting activities for online communities is to provide students an opportunity to use a mood meter to share how they are feeling. National Educators for Restorative Practices provides lots of self-awareness meters for students to check in. Lucky Little Learners provides dozens of community builders and fun activities for zoom. Also, Hooked On Innovation provides fun games to reinvigorate students before starting academic instruction.
Content is the what. Content is defined by the curriculum guides based on standardized assessment. The content is what students will know, understand, and be able to do. In our online environments, we can provide diverse materials with varied readability (NewsELA.com and Scholastic Learn At Home) and elicit student interest and multiple ways to access ideas/information.
Process is the how. Process is how students will make sense of the content. The process is made up of the strategies and methods that form the sequence of teaching and learning. In our online environments, we can use small-group instruction; provide choices about how to work (alone, pair, small group); assign tasks in multiple modes; and provide a variety of scaffolding.
For example, many teachers are using YouTube or Vimeo to create videos as another form of instruction. LearnZillion.com, CrashCourse.com, and Edpuzzle.com are also great video alternatives for students to navigate content for review or acceleration.
Products are the evidence of student’s knowledge, understanding, and skills. They are the tools teachers use to assess student progress toward the content goals. In our online environments, teachers can provide product assignments with multiple modes of expression; choices about how to share learning; and opportunities to connect learning with individual interests. If the objective allows for flexibility, students can create a skit or use household objects to create diagrams (no-tech) and record their voice using Educreations.com or Flipgrid.com (with tech).
As always, teachers RISE, showing just how amazing and important we are in facilitating more kind, critical thinkers of the future.
Please find time to rest, self-care, and celebrate the victories over the past few months. I look forward to working with you in August!