Sunday, May 29, 2011

Differentiation - What's it all about? How do I do it in my classroom?

At one time, a teacher could teach a subject to a whole class.  Now, rather than teaching a subject to a whole class,  teachers teach individual students. 

 Differentiation is about how a teacher modifies their lesson plans, so as to regularly and continually meet the individual learning needs of each and every student in their classroom. 

The learning objective for the secondary teachers was to understand and practice how to differentiate by lesson objective.  In other words to write different lesson objectives, to meet the different needs of different students -  lesson objectives written by:

Thinking skill - the verb used in the objective
Content - what the students will learn
Resource - where the students will get the information
Product - what the students will create

The workshop objective for the primary school teachers was to learn how to differentiate instruction by:

learning style

First the teachers wrote their own definition for differentiation and shared this with their table group.  Mr. T then facilitated a whole class discussion on the term.

The primary school teachers were given grade level lesson plans to review, using a handout Mr. T had created.  At each grade level, the lesson plan was differentiated by readiness, interest, and learning style.

When the teachers completed the handout, they discussed which form of differentiation might work best in their classrooms.
Mr. T modeled for the secondary teachers, a way of writing their lesson objectives by changing the verb.  In this example, the Unit Mr. T was teaching was "early humans."  The topic within this Unit Mr. T decided to teach was "tools used to survive." Mr. T showed three objectives, based on ability levels:

Students will be able to list three tools early humans used to survive.

Students will be able to compare and contrast the three tools early humans used to survive.

Students will be able to create a new tool early humans could have used to help them survive.

By changing the verb, the objective becomes more and more complex, therein differentiating based on ability grouping.

The basis for Mr. T's lesson was Blooms Taxonomy which he shared with the teachers.  At each level, the verbs change, so the objective becomes more complex, requiring higher order of reasoning.  For example, verbs that could be used in a lesson objective at each of Blooms' six levels could include:

Remembering:  list, define, recall
Understanding: classify, describe, paraphrase
Applying:  choose, illustrate, solve
Analyzing: contrast, examine, distinguish
Evaluating: appraise, judge, value
Creating: assemble, design, formulate

Following his having modeled how to differentiate by objective, Mr. T randomly gave teachers (small groups of two to three) a Unit word written on a piece of paper.  Unit words included, for example, Global Warming, Maldives, Economics, etc.

Teachers were then asked to select a topic within that Unit, and write a lesson plan objective for each of the six levels within Blooms Taxonomy.

At the end of the mini demo lesson, Mr. T used the "thumbs up and thumbs down" with the class to check for understanding - to make sure the directions were clear to everyone.

Teachers were given a specific amount of time to develop their six lesson plan objectives, using the Blooms verbs.

With the local Maldivian secondary teachers (a class of 14 teachers so only 5 groups), Mr. T had each group present to all the teachers, their lesson plan.... talking about each of the six objectives and explaining how at each subsequent level, the objective becaming more complex.

Here Mr. Hamad, the Deputy Principal at the school, explains his group's unit topic of democracy.

Teachers were divided into groups to work together on the assignment of designing lesson objectives, using the six levels of Blooms Taxonomy.

The secondary expatriot teacher workshop group was large, with 23 participating.  Rather than having each group share to the whole class, Mr. T had the small groups present to each other.  Each group was given a specific amount of time, using a timer, to present.  Then, when the buzzer went off, Mr. T asked the small groups to go in search of a different group to make their presentation to.

This procedure allowed the small groups to present their six part lesson objectives three times, and for them to hear the six part lesson plans of three other groups.

An added bonus..... teachers had been sitting at their tables a long time working on a difficult topic.... differentiation.... so this sharing out by small groups, got them standing up and moving about!

A brief reflection on the session, brought this part of the workshop to a productive end.

No comments: