Below you will find a series of differentiation strategies that I have implemented or learned from former colleagues in previous schools.
Keep in mind that these are only some ideas and not THE ONLY strategies one can do.
Scaffolding for Struggling Learners
■ Reteaching with a different method: I made sure I had an audio file in case I wanted to re-enter the process through listening; if using a text; I made sure I had a version whose sections had a task each and, hence, contributed to help students connect ideas; I also had images and graphic organizers ready to be used in case students needed to look at information differently.
■ I asked one of my studens to be a reading partner if needed. Since reading aloud also helps him focus, this was a win-win situation- This provided peer support for collaborative learning.
■ Througout the unit, I asked students to take notes in different formats. I knew exactly how new information was going to be useful in future tasks, so by taking notes in one way, students were generating tools for the future- their notes became classroom resources to complete future tasks.
■ I made sure there was a model or exemplar that allowed students to see a pattern, which they could replicate.
■ Breaking down the task in order to furnish step-by-step directions was also part of my repertoire. This helped students wrap up learning cycles and be able to continue with what was not finished.
■ I made sure I included hint bubbles to information or past lessons that could support their work.
■ I color-coded different elements; highlighting specific focusing; including mini-processes that helped students process information more rapidly without noticing.
■ Provided sentence strips or sticky labels with useful, categorized terms, or manipulatives that could help students visualize possible formulas or combinations.
■ Although this was not one of my favorites, a couple of times this strategy did rescue students from not being engaged: a partially completed graphic organizer or outline.
■ Since we had a growth mindset that students used as a learning path, out-of-sequence steps were provided for students to sequence their thinking and also to check their work.
■ Since I had recorded a text in some ocassions, I transformed the text/script into a cloze (fill-in-the-blank) series of paragraphs for students whose language is extremely limited (I think this could also work for those who struggle with grapho-motor skills).
■ For encouraging rich ideas in the writing process, I gave a framed format with ‘check points’ or ‘standards’ to help students organize their writing and use a variety of language and ideas. These served as labels for students to simply place information appropriately.
■ I prepared slips of paper with guiding questions for work at different stages or in different sections of a long task.
■ Established a direct connection to assessment criteria, supply a word bank that students could use to be successful.
Challenging Advanced Learners
■ I designed activities in various format: more complex, abstract, independent, and/or multistep. This also encouraged me to ask students to choose the challenge for the day.
■ I had a series of extension questions as a challenge or task that requires them to think beyond the concrete and obvious to more abstract ideas and new use of the information. This represented an opportunity to practice transfer to and from other areas of knowledge / subjects.
■ I included more detailed question items, asking for more complex expression of ideas: different types of sentences, more than two adjectives or type of verb (action or stative) to describe what’s happening. Students are used to generative grammar patterns, so they knew what challenge each pattern represented.
■ I encouraged them to use metaphors and/or similes, idiomatic expressions, or specific literary elements be included in their writing, instead of responding in what would be a more natural answer.
■ I asked students to note relationships and point out connections among ideas: compare and contrast; cause and effect; problem and solution; sequence; advantages and disadvantages; benefits; past lessons; information covered in other subjects, etc.
■ I used the visible thinking routine ‘circles of perspectives, in order to have students tell the story or ask questions (and interact) from a different point of view.
■ I asked students to practic empathy and place themselves into the story or time period and write from the first-person point of view, choosing one character that is the least similar to them (when there are multiple characters).
■ I encouraged students to consider and prepare “What if?” scenarios and exchange them with other (advanced) students.
■ My favorite strategy was providing a problem or model that did not work, so that students coould solve it.
■ Presented different choices of work for students to choose. These options had to do with using information in a completely new way (Design an awareness campaign about … ; Create a flier to inform …; Write/give a speech to convince …; Write an article to educate …; Write an ad to warn others about …; Design a program to solve the problem of …. )
■ And finally, this is something I never truly had the chance to do, as I think this was the ultimate challenge for my most advance students in this class: asking students to suggest tips or hints that would help others who struggle to make sense of the information.