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Differentiating the Process #diffimooc

February 27, 2013

This week the essential question is: What does it mean to differentiate the process (content, strategies for instruction) in the classroom?

The traditional teacher’s manuals all come with ideas for differentiating the content according to level of difficulty or readiness.  There is the approaching level, on level, and above level, activities for reteaching, and resources for ESL. We can adjust the number of problems, reading levels, and amount of time given to complete a task. In addition, to the tiered assignments, we can use flexible grouping to  work with small groups of students for specific reasons. We can also use anchor projects, which are ongoing assignments that students can do if they finish early or that students can work on while the teacher is working with a different group.

But what about the process? What does it mean to differentiate the process?

The process is what the student does to make sense out of the information.We can differentiate the process through interests, readiness, and learning style.

Differentiating the process

Slide taken from

We can also differentiate by asking questions of varying levels of difficulty. This allows all students to be successful. Question and answer sessions can be made more productive if the questions are well thought out, use scaffolding, build on student’s background knowledge, and  include different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I learned that there is a revised version  of Bloom’s Taxonomy with creativity at the top of the pyramid.

And technology? Where does that come in? Many computer programs can be helpful in monitoring student progress as well as providing instruction at the student’s skill level. Programs I have used include Lexia, Moby MathRead Naturally,ThinkCentral, and RazKids. My first graders love the interactive lessons that computers offer and I love being able to individualize the lessons. Web Quests and virtual field trips are also ways in which technology can be used for differentiation.

We may choose to use technology to do a student interest / learning style survey. Once the learning styles and interests are known we can create some controlled choices. I recently learned about choice boards set up in the form of a tic-tac-toe board. The idea is that you incorporate different learning styles and/or different levels of difficulty. One could also incorporate various interests. Below are two examples of choice boards. One I found on Pinterest and simply offers a variety of ways to write words. The other I created to use with my class during a reading/writing workshop time.

Words choice board                            Choice board, centers

I used my document camera and digital camera to take the photos. I used a word doc. to create the choice board, which I copied and gave to my students. I was able to use my document camera to project it on the Promethean Board when introducing it to the class. Since I created it at school, but am writing this blog at home, I used my Dropbox to retrieve it. I found I needed to save it as a jpg. to get it to show up here as a photo. Being able to use photos of the actual classroom materials, makes it easier for my first graders.

This week I saw the completion of the Early Elementary Differentiation wiki I feel very fortunate to have had such a great group of people to work with. I am also happy to find many of them in my group for project 2. We have been communicating mostly via email. I did talk to one person on the phone and also via twitter. The focus for our group is going to be the use of smart boards and Promethean boards. I chose this because the Promethean Board is at the center of my classroom and although I use it every day, I know I am not using it to its fullest potential.

I was able to complete my first story on Storify. At first I couldn’t find my saved drafts, so I final created one and published it without saving a draft. Later on I clicked on something and found my many many drafts. Luckily there was a delete option. It is pretty neat. It makes it very easy to collect things from the web and to share them.

I watched Barbra’s tutorial about how to get your Diigo bookmarks to appear on your blog. If I am successful, mine should be appearing on Sunday.

With my class I am currently in the process of making a recording for a puppet show. We just got done having an artist in residence  at our school and he made life sized puppets with the kids. He suggested we all make a voice recording of our class so the students could focus on moving the puppets during the show. I used a digital voice recorder to record the story.  From there it is a simple matter of loading it onto a computer and burning a CD. I could do this, but then I thought maybe I should add some pauses  and sound effects . Also it would be nice to add some pictures. The file type is not compatible with Imovie. Also you can not record directly from Imovie – at least I didn’t see how. So I recorded again this time using garage band. I would also like to do a voice thread once I get more pictures of the puppets. The show is on Friday, so I better get busy experimenting. If I am successful with any of these, I will post it as an example of varied instructional strategies. My students did enjoy hearing their voices when I played it back for them. Voice recordings can be a great tool for developing fluency and reading with expression.


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  1. Lori,

    I love all the different ideas you have for differentiating the process. I couldn’t help but think about how amazing it must be to be a student in your class! When considering what to do with students and how we will get them to the end goal it takes differentiating to meet those needs. I am amazed at how much technology you have already integrated into your class and your own personal use to better your teaching. I loved the resources you shared with us in this post! I will be sure to go back to my own classroom now and reflect on ways I can incorporate some of the technologies you have mentioned in this post. Kudos for the amazing work you’re doing with your students!

    • Thank you for your kind words. Although my words reflect that I know how it is supposed to work, in reality it is still a daily struggle. I am always searching for ways to improve and to best serve all students.

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