Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff
Differentiation can be a scary word for teachers. With all the different learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) are we really expected to create multiple versions of the same lesson plan?
Before you start panicking, differentiated instruction is not a methodology designed to torture teachers! According to Carol Ann Tomlinson, author of How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms:
“At its most basic level, differentiating instruction means ‘shaking up’ what goes on in the classroom so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn. In other words, a differentiated classroom provides different avenues to acquiring content, to processing or making sense of ideas, and to developing products so that each student can learn effectively.”
When we talk about differentiation, we’re also talking about options, choice and making sure that every student gets what they need so that they can learn.
If that all sounds great in theory but seems complicated in practice, stick with us and we’ll help you out with some easy strategies to differentiate your teaching without spending every waking hour lesson planning!
1. Introduce the Station Rotation Model
If you’ve never tried the station rotation model before, we think you (and more importantly, your students) will love it.
What does it involve? You’ll need to plan three different activities, or “stations”, which your students will rotate between during your class.
We’re partial to Catlin Tucker’s suggested stations: an online station, an offline station and a teacher-led station. That way students can use a different skill set at every station and enjoy personalized instruction from you.
For your online station, think videos, webquests, research or working on a presentation with creator tools, while your offline station could be geared towards more collaborative tasks like think-pair-share or discussion questions. You could also approach it the other way around and design the online station for collaborative group work and the offline station for quiet instruction and reflection like reading or essay-writing.
When it comes to your teacher-led station, have a plan, but also be flexible enough to let your students help set the pace with their questions and specific needs. You can explain a new concept, review homework, answer questions or have your students explain the concepts to you as they understand them to assess their knowledge.
If you’re doing remote learning, consider how you could adapt online and offline stations to your context. An online station could be asynchronous with edtech while an offline station could be synchronous by using a video-conferencing platform.
Keep in mind that no one is expecting you to use this teaching model every day, but when you have the time, it’s a great exercise in differentiation that you can repeat from year to year!
2. Use Edpuzzle for Formative Assessment
It’s difficult to differentiate your teaching without a benchmark for how your students are doing with the content. That’s where Edpuzzle comes in!
With interactive video lessons and detailed student analytics, you can get data on which of your students understood the lesson and how long it took them to “get it” so you can see who’s ready to move on to more complex topics and who needs some extra practice.
When you assign a video lesson on Edpuzzle, you can add multiple-choice questions for quick understanding checks as well as open-ended questions, which are great for reflection and deeper exploration.
See how many times each student watched a particular section of your video, allowing you to determine which areas are the most difficult, and see how much time they spent watching or rewatching your video.
Armed with all of this priceless knowledge, you’ll be able to better tailor your instruction based on your students’ needs backed up by actual data rather than just a gut feeling.
3. Review or Go Into Extension Materials Based on Results
Like a choose-your-own-adventure in education, once you’ve got your student insight from Edpuzzle, you can go further into differentiation and set review exercises or assign extension materials.
One of the fantastic things about differentiation is the fact that it allows you to make sure that all of your students understand the concept before you move on to new material, so no one gets left behind.
With the results you’ve obtained from Edpuzzle, you can reteach concepts to students who haven’t achieved mastery, either in small teacher-led groups or with more video lessons to supplement the original.
While those students are getting the help they need, you can assign more advanced video lessons to students who are ready for extension materials, or try having them do a student project on Edpuzzle so your more advanced kids can find their own video to edit on the same topic (which could also be helpful for your other students to review!).
4. Start a Makerspace
If you’re not familiar with the idea of a makerspace, all it is is a room in your school or an area of your classroom with materials for creation, usually at least partially related to technology or STEM.
Once you’ve learned how to set up your makerspace and gathered your materials, your students can get started creating!
You can either give them a prompt to get started (i.e. design a bridge using popsicle sticks) or let them propose their own project to work on whenever you designate time for the makerspace.
If you're doing remote learning, have your students create their own makerspace at home. Ask your students what materials they have available and see what amazing stuff they come up with!
It’s a fantastic opportunity for students to explore their creativity and for you to differentiate your teaching as you guide them through the process.
5. Move to the Flipped Classroom Model
Finally, if you haven’t played around with flipping your class yet, it really is the key to making differentiation easy.
By introducing new concepts for homework through Edpuzzle videos, you’re freeing up class time (or “face-to-face” time) to work on practical exercises so you can meet with students one-on-one and answer questions, personalizing your teaching to a degree that isn’t possible with the traditional model.
After all, one of the biggest hurdles to differentiated instruction is finding the time to dedicate to the specific learning needs of each of your students, and flipping your classroom is the best way to unlock that time!
So, now that you’ve got some ideas to inspire you, let us know on Twitter how you differentiate instruction with your students!