I am wondering why we still need to differentiate at the high school level; students have already been streamed into appropriate courses, so why do we need to be doing this?
Differentiating instruction is important, regardless of course or content area. It is crucial to remember that we are supporting the student through the coursework, which means we must put the student first. Knowing your learners and creating an environment that meets them where they are at emotionally and intellectually is incredibly important. A quick way to capture a snapshot of what kind of learners you have is to have them complete a Multiple Intelligence Survey (http://bit.ly/yBeHRx). This will provide direction in planning activities and/or choice in assessments that reflect the types of learners you have in your room.
Perhaps you have a high number of musical/rhythmic students â provide an option to have them write new lyrics to a well-known song to review a unit while your visual/spatial and verbal linguistic students create a concept web on a bulletin board to summarize their learning.
Two of our teachers, Kirsten Brinks and Amber Shelley have collaborated this year to build a Summative Unit Project for their Biology 30 course. You can view their Endocrine System project by clicking on the image below:
Once you have developed activities and assessments that allow students choice, they stop seeing things as what you are doing to them and instead start considering how they are choosing to learn the new material. Having students explore the material through MI activities rather than completing closed questions from the text can be a valuable activity as well. Rather than spending hours building an assessment piece, you could use this document to let students choose their own method of presenting their learning:
Another easy way to differentiate is to provide tiered sets of vocabulary for students to include in their projects. For students that need a more condensed project, this can help them keep the focus on the content rather than the quantity of output. The higher level vocabulary words can be required for students that a need a challenge.
Some teachers can be hesitant to allow students to work in their area of strength, feeling that it is still imperative that their students complete the reading and writing tasks. Keep in mind, when working with Multiple Intelligences that the message should still be that students need to be developing skills in all areas, but that we are spending time recognizing and valuing that none of the intelligences are more important than the other. When students find a way to show you what they know that appeals to them, they are often empowered and motivated by it. Dennis Littkey sums this up in a powerful way:
âIf kids are going to be respectful, they must feel respected. And respecting them means allowing them to make decisions about the things that affect them, and, most of all, believing in their potential.â
This blog and resources website has been developed through the work of various AISI coaches in PHRD. The lead collaborative teachers for the 2015/2016 school year, Cheryl Frose, Christine Quong and Tammy Tkachuk will continue to update this site. If you have resources you would like to share or would like to contribute to the blog, please contact us.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada License.