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Differentiated Instruction III

Thanks for joining us today. This week we will be posting a series of blogs from NCCAT Lead Fellow Dr. Deb Teitelbaum on differentiated instruction. Today, we continue with talking about Differentiation by Process.

Differentiation by Process (continued)

Yesterday, I provided an example of how you might differentiate the reading process in science through the use of a Jigsaw. Today, we’ll be looking at another means of differentiation by process through tiered assignments and flexible grouping.

Picture this. You’re a middle school or freshman English teacher in the midst of a unit on figurative language. The essential question guiding this unit is “How do writers use figurative language to describe the indescribable?” Daily learning objectives leading toward this goal included definition and identification of such figurative language as similes, metaphors, and personification. Your students have been at this for about a week, and their achievement shakes out into the following categories:

- Group 1 has 5 members. They can sight a simile like a special ops sniper. They can further deconstruct the simile and tell you that the tenor is “sight” and the vehicle is “a special ops sniper.” They can further explain how the comparison of these two very unlike things is both appropriate and edifying. If you give these kids one more worksheet, they will rise up in revolt and beat you to death with a Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces.

- Group 2 has 16 members. They can accurately identify the various types of figurative language. Their ability to analyze the meaning of figures of speech, however, is weak. “’Hope is a thing with feathers …’ That’s a bird, right?”

- Group 3 has 7 members. Unless the figure of speech is incredibly obvious, these kids have trouble noticing, and they regularly confuse similes, metaphors, and personification.

tumblr_inline_mqie311YRt1s5tdiq[1]Now, before I go on, I must tell you that I have an awesome idea for differentiating this lesson by content, and if you’re a middle school or freshman English teacher, I encourage you to send me a message. But today, we’re all about process.

In addition, if you’re NOT a high school English teacher, it’s up to you to figure out the analagous tasks for your subject matter and age group. Feel free to shoot me a message, though, if you want to brainstorm some ideas.

There are a couple of ways you might approach the next class with these students. Here’s one:

First, divide the class into seven teams. Group 1 will have 1 pair and 1 trio. Group 2 will have 8 pairs. Group 3 will have 2 pairs and one trio. Never allow students to work in groups larger than five.

Next, distribute the lyrics to Katy Perry’s “Firework” to every student. As a class, listen to the song and, if students are able, begin annotating the lyrics. If you don’t like this song, or think your students won’t, find another one that is equally metaphor-laden.

Group members then accomplish the following tasks:

Group 1: Work individually to identify what abstruse or ephemeral quality the songwriting team is attempting to illuminate by comparing it to a firework. Then, with partners,

- Debate the relative merits of this metaphor. Is “firework” the best comparison?

- Individuals who think not should select a more apt metaphor and write four lines of that song.

- Individuals who think so should evaluate the use of onomatopoeia in the song. Revise the “boom, boom, boom” portion to be less clichéd but still rhyme.

Group 2: Working in pairs, complete the task that Group 1 accomplished as individuals. Upon completion, check in with the teacher. Meet with pairs to discuss their findings and redirect them if they have gone off the rails. Portion out the remaining tasks as Group 2 pairs demonstrate their understanding of figurative language.

Group 3: Provide each pair with a graphic organizer that has a check list for accurately identifying similes and metaphors, as well as two columns labeled SIMILE, METAPHOR. Working as individuals first, find no fewer than twelve similes and/or metaphors and place them in the appropriate columns. When they’re finished, they can check their answers with the other member(s) of their pair or trio. Finally, each pair or trio should check in with the you so you canevaluate their findings and coach them if there are mistakes. If the pair has been successful, ask them to collaborate in writing an explanation of what abstruse or ephemeral quality the songwriting team is attempting to illuminate by comparing it to a firework.

You should circulate constantly. Part of what makes this differentiation by process is the amount of teacher support provided. Students who need you should have you, while students who can work independently should be encouraged to do so. Another element that characterizes this as differentiation by process is that students are enabled to work within their respective zones of proximal development (ZPD) and, as their competencies increase, the relative sophistication and difficulty of their tasks increase.

Next up, we’ll discuss differentiation by process through alternative modality, often referred to as “learning styles.”

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