Thursday, March 6, 2014

Methods of Differentiation

Hello all! Hope that this post finds you well. I'm currently away on another PD mission, observing fellow teachers implement MDC lessons. Ah yes, I remember my first implementation, not hot. not hot at all.....

Anyways, that's not the purpose of this post. A few weeks ago, I had my post conference meeting with my principal where we discussed my fall term (aka, results of student growth, what she observed in my classroom, suggestions...etc). All in all, I was fairly content with the review and I openly welcomed her suggestions. Being a previous intervention specialist, I should have known that an area that she really looked out for was my area of differentiation. Regardless, I agree and it really got me thinking about how I could improve in this area.

How do I currently differentiate?
- Grouping my students. Whenever I implement MDC lessons, I group based upon misconceptions (per the request of Concept Development lessons). This is really helpful so that I can ask the same question to the same group of kids once rather than asking the same question multiple times to kiddos that have the same misconception
- I post additional resources (guided notes) to my class website that have additional examples
- I post additional instructional videos (myself, Khan, others) to my class website that have additional examples and additional explanations
- Kiddos take Check for Understandings (typically at the end of a lesson) so that I can basically see who all and what all I need to either readdress right then and there
-Not always do kiddos excel in a testing environment, I get it. So, I remember loving projects in high school but rarely did I do a math project. Thus, my kids have both forms of assessment in a unit, a project and a test. Typically, I do like to offer this so that kids who are perhaps struggling in a stressful testing environment have the opportunity to shine elsewhere
-The lessons vary from time to time. There is some direct instruction. There are practice days with various activities (group and solo). There are also flipped days where students learn at home. I expect that my kids can adapt to different styles of learning because 1) it keeps them on their toes and 2) it allows for me to hit each type of learner with their best style

What could I do differently?
-Why do I only group for MDC lessons the way that I do? Well, duh, it takes more work. It's a lot easier to randomly generate groups than it is to put thought into my groups. So, I tried this recently. For my unit review in Algebra 2, I grouped the kids based upon the concept that they struggled with on their check for understanding so that they could start at that station and rotate to other stations that they were also struggling with. I liked this because my low level kids could start at a prerequisite skill station (solving equations) and then move into the actual learning targets of the unit. It was because of the pre prerequisite gaps that they couldn't move forward in the other areas of the unit.
-Why do I post these resources and not advertise the resources? I could do a better job advertising that these guided notes exist. I could also print these off for my kiddos whom I recognize actually need these. I think I did that like twice last year..... bad Jessica
-Once again, why don't I do a better job of advertising my videos that I spend a while to make? Also, I could send these out to the kids whom I recognize could benefit from these
-The last one, yes I have been trying to do a better job with using the data created by the Check for Understandings by going back and reteaching or really honing in on who needs something more (challenge wise and help wise). I've also done a better job of using the data right then and there and discussing based upon these results. In fact, I even took the prerequisite preassessment and based upon the results for my Trig kids, I assigned them some skillbuilders on ASSISTments so that they could improve the skills they struggled with (fractions/solving/quadratics, etc).
-Another method that I'm going to try (soon, when we return from spring break) is assigning personal project problems based upon their level. So there are some varying difficulties on the problems that I have for linear programming and I feel like this could really help with differentiating with a few of my kiddos.

Now, I really want some suggestions. How do you differentiate in your math classroom? Please comment with more suggestions!


  1. One thing I have done in Geometry is group students based on ability- like you seem to talk about above.

    While teaching a lesson on Surface area and nets:

    lower level students- worked on SA of a rectangular prism (LxW was a good place to start), learned to add up all the squares and rectangles to get total SA. Measurements were provided.

    average students: found SA of a pyramid using area of triangle. For this group- they had to first find the altitude using pythagorean thm.

    Above average students: SA of cylinder - using area of circles and noticing the lengths of rectangle is also the circumference! (For this group I had some measures given and had them solve for circumference, etc)

    I placed students in groups by abilty ahead of time- and once they were in their groups, I told them we had lots of 3d shapes to explore and so each group would be given a different shape. They then each found the SA of their respective 3d shape and some even had time to cut them out and create the shape from the net.

    AS a closure activity- I had a student of each level come together and do a practice problem involving a triangular prism. That way, even my lowel level students could bring in their "expertise" on the rectangle area, etc.

    The students LOVED the hands on activity and I think learning that surface area is the sum of the areas of the shapes that make up a 3d shape really helped them to problem solve any type of problem they may see on the Regents!

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