CINGHS Week 3: September 6-9, 2016

Week 3 School-wide Events:


Week 3 featured our very first Game Night.  About a dozen students stayed after school Friday to play video games, games with foam dart guns, etc.  They enjoyed each other’s company and also pizza.  Game Nights will be a regular event occurring roughly every other Friday at CINGHS.  In addition, our school is starting an eSports club so that students can be a part of a team that plays video games competitively.


Week 3 in Algebra 2:


During Week 3, students interviewed Laura Hayden, a graphic designer who works for National Instruments, using FaceTime.  They asked Laura all of their Need-to-Knows related to logo design.  The students had many great questions about the processes graphic designers use to design effective logos.


During the week, I allowed students to use self-pacing to differentiate the class according to students’ individual needs.  Some students completed extra practice on parent functions and their properties (domain, range, axes of symmetry, asymptotes).  Students who were already comfortable with parent functions moved on early to workshops and practice sets dealing with inverse functions.


By the end of the week, the students were introduced to decision matrices so they could use this tool to select the brainstorming sketch that their team would develop into their amusement park logo.


Week 3 in Integrated Physics & Engineering (IPE):


In IPE, we continued exploring the Design Process by applying the following steps toward the design of next generation cooking devices: Define the Problem, Specify Requirements, and Identify Solutions.  The students created summary problem statements for the project (Define the Problem).  They analyzed the project design brief and rubric to create lists of project constraint and requirements (Specify Requirements).  They conducted background devices on old and current versions of their team’s cooking device (Identify Solutions).  They compared the old and current devices to identify improvements and to get ideas on new improvements that could be made to create their next generation devices.  They also created several brainstorming sketches in a Quick Draw activity.  Then they elaborated on each other’s favorite sketches in a Carousel Brainstorming activity.


Also, during Week 3, we introduced the Heat Equation and used it to analyze the required heat in several cooking scenarios.  Students voluntarily chose to attend follow-up small group workshop on the Heat Equation when they found practice problems challenging.  I like how students are starting to advocate for themselves by choosing to attend optional workshops to sharpen their skills.  At the end of the week, the students took a 3-color quiz on Heat Transfer mechanisms and the Heat Equation.  They used 3 colors to show what they were able to do with (1) their brains only, (2) with notebook assistance, and (3) with workshop assistance.  Many students were able to excel at the quiz with only 1 or 2 colors.


Week 3 in 8th Grade Math:


During Week 3 in 8th grade math, we continued to explore club data using more statistical tools.  We introduced a new spread value: mean deviation.  We practiced calculating it first on small data sets.  Then we started discussing methods for calculating it for large data sets so they would know how to analyze data sets that included the opinions of all the students in our school.  By the end of the week, the classes collaborated to create a survey that was completed by the entire student body that gathered data on students’ interests on a variety of clubs.

127: Differentiated Curriculum Charts



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Offer students choices for learning learning targets by creating Differentiated Curriculum Charts:
  • The chart provides learning mode & extension activities for each learning target.  See below for example.
  • Students get to choose which activity to perform to explore learning target
  • For extension ideas, see the Analysis, Evaluation, & Synthesis products & trigger words in this article.
  • For learning mode ideas, see below.
  1. Auditory Products 
    • audio recording, autobiography, commentary, crossword puzzle, debate, dialogue, documentary, editorial, experiment, fact file, finding patterns, glossary, interview, journal, newspaper, oral report, petition, position paper, reading, scavenger hunt, simulation game, song lyrics, speech, story, survey, teach a lesson, video, written report
  2. Visual Products 
    • advertisement, art piece, brochure, collage, comic strip, diagram, diorama, drawing, filmstrip, flow chart, graphic organizer, greeting card, multimedia presentations, illustrated manual, magazine, map, photo essay, picture dictionary, poster, slide show, video, website
  3. Tactile – Kinesthetic Products
    • acting things out, activity plan, animated movie, dance, demonstration, dramatization, experiment, field experience, flip chart, game show, how-to book, jigsaw puzzle, manipulative, mobile, model, museum exhibit, play or skit, rap, scale drawing, sculpture, simulation game, survey, TV broadcast, video


Differentiated curriculum charts create options for students that fit their learning styles and readiness levels.  Charts like these can be used as tools to create scaffolding that fits the needs of diverse groups of students.


Preparation Steps
  • Recruit teacher team to help gather all the scaffolding.
  • Analyze standards and rewrite in terms of long term and supporting learning targets
  • Develop activities for each learning target that go with each learning mode – see above for example.  Use suggested products above and here for ideas.
  • Create learning centers to house the activities for the different learning modes.  If many resources are posted online, this can be as simple as different wall segments (1 per learning mode) that house QR codes to activities.
  • Create a grading system for crediting students’ different choices – a simple way to do this is to require 1 activity per learning target and assign a daily grade to each
Early Implementation Steps
  • During scaffolding days, allow students to select 1 activity per targeted learning target.  Explain how to get to resources and how to get feedback on work.
  • Provide a lot of formative feedback on the work and (if possible) grade student work in class in conjunction with formative discussions with students.
  • Use other formative assessments to ensure that ALL students are developing an understanding of learning targets.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Develop a bank of short rubrics for assessing various types of products that appear frequently in differentiated curriculum charts.
  • Use formative feedback data to determine which learning activities are the most engaging and effective and incorporate similar activities into upcoming differentiated scaffolding

72: Writing to Learn (2 of 2)




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4 Writing to Learn (WTL) Strategies (for more WTL’s go here or here or here)


  1. Nonstop write:
    • students write nonstop in response to a prompt for set time (3-5 min)
    • write in sentences and paragraphs
    • focus on quantity, not on perfect grammar
    • uses:  varied, include by not limited to:
      • reflection
      • introduce material
      • recall material just covered or uncovered
      • build up student perseverance
      • practice for essay writing on timed tests
      • watch how thinking evolves over a project
    • Play by play:
      • start with shorter period of time and build to gradually build up student stamina
      • explain purpose of writing activity and how writing will be used
      • explain norms – silence write for entire period of set time
      • to alleviate writers block – give students 1-2 min to brainstorm what to write with a partner
      • quick class brainstorm on class visuals
      • reasons students may shut down before time expires:
        • putting thoughts to paper is a skill that needs to be practiced
        • continuous sentence and paragraph writing takes effort
        • requires students to expand on details until exhausted
      • work the room and encourage students to continue writing who stop early – ask for more examples and details
      • leverage the work:
        • use as conversation starters:
          • read aloud in pairs and discuss and report out findings
          • share in groups of 3-4 and identify common threads and report out findings
        • guided rereading – reread piece and look for:
          • sentences that get to heart of your message
          • examples that illustrate message
          • off topic and vague sentences
          • 3 favorite words
        • self evaluate writing style
          • rank how quickly one gets off topic
          • rank how well you keep writing for set time
          • number of words in entry
          • what do you need to do differently to meet later expectations (ex: min 150 word count)
  2. Reflective Write:
    • writing piece meant to get students to reflect on learning
    • uses:
      • pause and note what was learned and how learning occurred
      • situate learning in larger context
      • diagnostic tool – are students on track? what’s hard? how deep is their thinking?
      • process readings
      • gather thoughts for upcoming task
    • play by play:
      • model what reflective writing could look like, include:
        • reflections on mistakes and confusion
        • reflections on learning processes
      • read and analyze features of sample reflections from previous years
      • practice reflective writing on a simple common process
      • work the room
        • encourage individual students who struggle
        • if most struggle, stop work time and model again
      • leverage the writing:
        • follow up with one-on-one conferences on student thinking and struggles
        • use as conversation starters in reflective conversations
  3. KWL:
    • brainstorming used to drive instruction:
      • K – what do I know
      • W – what do I want to know
      • L – what have I learned
    • used throughout the project (note – another form of this is a Knows, Need-to-Knows and Next Steps chart)
    • uses:
      • expose and build on prior knowledge
      • expose need-to-knows and want-to-knows
      • expose misconceptions
      • review what has been learned
      • engage students in co-planning upcoming learning activities
    • play by play
      • prior to teaching a topic have students individually brainstorm everything they know about the topic
      • gather student ideas on flip chart in the K column – record all ideas, even misconceptions
      • can put question marks next to statements that contradict each other
      • students brainstorm list of questions about the topic in groups of 3-4
      • remind students they can ask questions that go with disputed ideas (ones with ?)
      • gather student ideas on flip chart in the W column
      • encourage students to nod heads if they have the same question being put on the flip chart
      • later in the project, have students brainstorm more questions – gather these in the W column
      • later in the project, have students brainstorm list of what they have learned – gather these in the L column
      • tips:
        • if students hesitate on the want to learn lists – ask them to predict what they are about the learn
        • do not use on topics that students have no prior knowledge of
        • prior to gathering whole class lists, ask students to share what they wrote in groups of 3-4 and come up with list of 5 common items and report these to the whole group share
        • could ask students to brainstorm next steps to learn what’s in the W column
  4. Teacher student correspondence:
    • teachers and students passing notes / letter over extended period of time
    • uses:
      • model writing
      • individualized texts
      • get to know students
      • gather feedback to target instruction
      • improve morale
      • deeper learning
      • build relationships with students
      • hear from students who don’t talk much
      • cues for guiding individualized instruction
      • cluster student needs for responsive teaching
      • self-assessments
      • classroom management
    • play by play
      • get students set time (~ 15 min ) to respond to prompts such as
        • how is the course going?
        • how can I help you be more successful?
        • anything you want to tell me about your life out of school?
        • what kind of things do you do outside of school?
        • what makes the course challenging?
        • what connections do you see between the course and your life?
      • alert students that you will alert the guidance counselor if they reveal things that need guidance counselor follow-up
      • write a short note back in response to each student’s writing
      • tips
        • do with one period a week to avoid getting overwhelmed
        • if individual letters take too much time – read all letters and write one long letter in response to all of them to the whole class, try to work all students input and questions into the letter



Teachers can use a variety of Write-to-Learns (WTLs) to get students to actively process information in a variety of ways.  Teachers can use the non-stop writes to see how student thinking is evolving and to help students gather thoughts that can impact products.  Teachers can adapt the KWL steps above to facilitate more detailed and helpful Know, Need-to-Know, Next Steps discussions.  Teaches can use teacher student correspondence to model writing, convey caring, and build up moral and relationships.

Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards and generate learning targets
  • Analyze behavior norms and student behavior and generate character learning targets
  • Use knowledge of content and students to Identify which WTL’s can be used to process information in ways that highlight useful connections
  • Develop prompts and tools related to selected WTL’s that target academic and character learning targets
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement WTL’s.  See ideas above and also  herehere  and here.
  • Facilitate follow-up discussions and activities that make use of the WTL’s.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Have students reflect on WTL’s and try to identify which strategies are the most helpful.  Use their suggestions to build WTL routines that match their preferences.
  • For individual WTL’s – give students choice among several strategies that match their preferred modes of communication.



36: Instructional Practices that Deepen Understanding (2 of 2)




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WHERETO Framework: Framework for developing good scaffolding
  • W: How will I let students know WHAT they are learning and WHY they are learning it?  How will I communicate my expectations for the unit?
    • display driving questions, project rubrics, and exemplars in a class bulletin board
  • H: How will I HOOK and engage students in their learning? How can I connect student interests to curricular goals?
    • start projects with an interesting mystery or challenge
    • other HOOKS: counterintuitive phenomena, provocative essential questions, emotional encounters, humor, controversial issues, authentic problems, problems based on student interests
  • E: How will I EQUIP students to meet learning goals? What learning EXPERIENCES will deepen their understanding of key ideas?
    • use balance of constructivist learning experiences, structured activities and direct instruction.  See this article for simple idea for deciding which experiences go with which types of knowledge.
  • R: How will I encourage students to RETHINK prior knowledge? And also REFINE and REVISE their work?
    • use this R with difficult to understand, counterintuitive content
    • techniques: play devil’s advocate, present new info, conduct debates, regular self assessment
    • use prompts to encourage self-assessment:
      • what are you most proud of? most disappointed in?
      • how does your preferred learning style influence … ?
      • how will you make use of what you’ve learned?
      • for more ideas, see this article
  • E: How will we EVALUATE student learning and student work?
    • 5 minute paper – what have we concluded? what remains unanswered or unresolved?
    • attach self assessment to each product
    • 1 minute paper at end of workshop – what was learned? what is confusing?
    • train students how to use rubrics to self assess to plan next steps
    • start class with burning questions from 1 minute papers and debrief at end of class to check if questions were answered
  • T: How can we TAILOR learning activities to match students’ interests, learning profiles and readiness levels?
    • See all blog articles under the Differentiation tag
    • Use diagnostic and pre-assessments to identify student needs
    • Cluster student needs and design scaffolding for these
    • Give students some CHOICE in their scaffolding and products
  • O: How will learning experiences be ORGANIZED or sequenced?
    • Introduce the HOOK early and revisit often
    • Teach enabling skills when they are needed to make sense of a problem
    • Revisit the WHY often
    • Cycle between learning-doing-reflecting
    • Cycle between whole-part-whole
    • Use 6 facets to design scaffolding that deepens understanding
  • W  – Communicating end goals and essential questions can help students organize knowledge. Student can better organize their own learning when they are aware of the overarching ideas and goals of the project.  Students are more likely to produce high quality work when expectations and models are communicated early in the project.
  • H – Engaging topics help students apply knowledge in novel contexts.  Education should be an itch, not a scratch.
  • E – Building enabling skills in the context of complex tasks will build relevance for those skills and enable students co create better products.
  • R – Big ideas need to reconsidered and big understandings must be refined over time.
  • E – Building self assessment skills can improve products and develop student independence.
  • T – Tailoring to specific learner needs can make learning more accessible to more students.  Tailoring to specific interests can make learning more engaging.  Identifying and resolving learning gaps can make learners more able to solve complex problems.
  • O – Organizing in ways that use cycles gives students opportunities to grasp and re-grasp new material.  Resisting the urge to frontload information and reserving instruction for just-in-time moments will create more willing learners.
Preparation Steps
  • Use WHERETO framework to design and evaluate scaffolding, assessments, driving questions, and project calendars
  • Use WHERETO framework to refine project prior to launching it
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project – identify, observe and document learning events that fit in the WHERETO framework (or missed the mark)
  • Used WHERETO evaluations to finetune scaffolding
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Design and implement a WHERETO graphic organizer that students can use to evaluate projects
  • Design and implement a similar WHERETO graphic organizer that students can use to evaluate their own collaboration and project work

35: Instructional Practices for Deepening Understanding (1 of 2)


Chapter 7 in Tomlinson, Carol A., and Jay McTighe.  Integrating Differentiated Instruction & Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids.  Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2006. Print.




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  1. Use Essential Questions in Teaching
    • use essential (driving) questions to launch projects and revisit throughout the project
    • make questions provocative and student friendly
    • make questions point toward key understandings
    • Examples:
      • Math: Can everything be quantified?
      • Science: To what extent are science and common sense related?
      • Bio: How are form and function connected in the natural world?
    • Can use essential question as an open-ended pre-assessment at start of a project
    • Can use essential question as a diagnostic question throughout the project
    • Less is more – 1 to 5 essential questions per unit
    • Help students personalize the questions
    • Post essential questions in the classroom
  2. Use 6 Facets of Understanding as Instructional Tools: Use 6 facets of understanding to generate activities to explore content
    • 1 – Explain: demonstrate, derive, describe, design, exhibit, express, induce, instruct, justify, model, predict, prove, show, synthesize, teach
    • 2 – Interpret: analogies, critique, document, evaluate, illustrate, judge, make meaning of, make sense of, metaphors, read between the lines, represent, tell a story of, translate
    • 3 – Apply: adapt, build, create, debug, decide, design, exhibit, invent, perform, produce, propose, test, use
    • 4 – Perspective: analyze, argue, compare, constrast, criticize, infer
    • 5 – Empathy: assume role of, believe, be like, be open to, consider, imagine, relate, role-play
    • 6 – Self-knowledge: be aware of, realize, recognize, reflect, self-assess 
Exploring essential questions models how knowledge is made.  This contradicts the common misconception that knowledge was not made; it always existed.  Essential questions answer the WHY question for why knowledge and skills are important.


The six facets allow students to explore knowledge and deepen understanding in a variety of ways.  Ladders are false metaphors for learning.  The brain needs both higher order and lower order thinking skills to make sense and meaning of new material.  Lower order skills don’t always need to be presented first (example: we learned how to speak before we learned grammar).


Preparation Steps
  • Design provocative essential question(s) that are student friendly and open enough to serve as a pre-assessment and diagnostic tool
  • Post essential (driving) question(s) in the classroom
  • Decide what facets of understanding will be used to explore each learning target
  • Use verbs above (and research) to design activities that use several facets to explore learning
  • Use 6 facets to design and evaluate product rubrics.  See 6 facets question stems and 6 facets scaffolding ideas articles.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use essential question as an early journal prompt to pre-assess student perceptions and knowledge related to the project
  • Guide students to generate many questions related to essential questions and research these
  • Use essential question at strategic points in project to assess how student knowledge is progressing
  • Implement learning activities that are aligned to standards and leverage several facets of understanding
  • Use frequent formative assessments to give students specific feedback that they use to improve learning and products and to fine tune instruction.  See article on descriptive feedback.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Teach students 6 facets and use it as a framework for students to design learning tasks that demonstrate their mastery of learning targets (these activities can replace re-tests)
  • Teach students to use 6 facets of understanding to reflect on their own learning and to explain which facets are helping them make a stronger deeper connections to learning targets



34: Classroom Management That Supports Responsive Teaching





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Classroom Management Strategies that Support Responsive Teaching
Managing Time:
  • Use homework, personal agendas, etc to balance need for whole class and self-paced instruction
  • Provide anchor activities (PBL project work) for students who finish early
  • Move slowly with differentiation – tackle one remediation and one topic at a time
Controlling Noise:
  • Provide and use signals for noise reduction
  • Teach students to monitor noise levels as needed
  • Use headsets or earplugs for students who need less distractions
Classroom Movement:
  • Use task and room charts to help students locate where they should be for what they are doing
  • Designate one student per team to gather materials
  • Make seating area that faces away from active parts of classroom for students who need freedom from distractions
Flexible Use of Classroom Space:
  • Experiment with ways to move furniture to create learning spaces
  • Use center-in-a-box – partitions on the floor that serve as designated work areas
  • Designate an independent working area for students who need extra practice or need to move ahead
Organizing & Distributing Resources:
  • Design a table or area for storing and distributing key materials
  • Use in-class folder filing system with student names, class periods, and team numbers
Monitoring Student Work:
  • Use checklists of criteria to record competencies and trouble areas
  • Record observations on sticky notes and store in a notebook that has at least 1 page dedicated per student.  Review notes at least once per month
  • Have students turn in work to designated physical and online locations
Make Time for Small Group Instruction:
  • Let students know when you are off limits and why
  • Establish experts who will answer questions while you are teaching small groups
  • Use materials already available to you for small group activities
  • Grade less daily work
  • Go slowly but deliberately to differentiate
  • Use guided practice, anchor tasks, personal agendas, centers, learning contracts, and other strategies and routines to help students work independently



Responsive teaching needs to be supported by classroom management routines that are both orderly and flexible.  Research has shown that teachers who maintain orderly classroom environments are more likely to teach for meaning and understanding.  PBL work can be complex and chaotic.  Framing PBL work in terms of orderly routines and strategies can build student confidence.

Preparation Steps
  • Investigate available classroom space.  Brainstorm different furniture configurations that will create different learning spaces.  Trial these spaces with students.
  • Create diagrams that represent positively-tested furniture configurations
  • Train students to move furniture between different configurations and the purpose of these configurations
  • Set aside storage areas and turn-in areas (online, physical) for students to turn in work
  • Survey students to see which noise reduction signals work best
  • Create checklists that describe skills and common errors related to key concepts
  • Pre-assess and assess students to determine who can serve as experts on select topics
  • Gather resources for small group instructions
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement small group instruction that uses data to determine appropriate goals for specific learning groups
  • Implement system (includes experts and resources) that allow students to work independently while teacher is focused on small group instruction
  • Use formative and pre-assessments to let students know when they need to attend workshops and when they are workshop-exempt and can skip to project work
  • Make connections between workshops and good project work explicit so students understand the relevance of workshop
  • Grade less daily work – see Grading Smarter, Not Harder for ideas
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use tools such as Aurasma to add another virtual learning layer on top of areas of the room
  • Teach students how to use assessment data to set and track goals and plan related next steps – See Checks for understanding and Engaging students with data articles
  • Use tools such as Nearpod to let students know during workshops if they are understanding content as it is being presented

33: Clustering Student Needs For More Efficient Planning


Chapter 6 in Tomlinson, Carol A., and Jay McTighe.  Integrating Differentiated Instruction & Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids.  Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2006. Print.



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What does clustering learner needs mean?
  • use patterns to identify and plan for common student needs
Common Clustered Needs & Remediations:
  • Need for reading supports:
    • Optional reading partners on new texts
    • Make highlighted and marked up texts available
    • Teacher reads aloud complex parts of text
    • Provide audio recordings of texts
  • Need for vocabulary building:
    • Provide vocabulary lists with clear explanations
    • Pinpoint and focus on key vocabulary
    • Students hunt for vocabulary in textbooks, editorials, cartoons, TV, magazines, etc
    • Word walls
    • Vocabulary posters with words and related visuals
  • Difficulty Staying on Task:
    • Think pair share groups
    • Student choice on learning tasks and learning modes
    • Multiple modes of teacher presentation
    • Shift activities during a class period
    • Graphic organizers designed to model the flow of ideas
  • Strengths in Specific Areas of Studies:
    • Jigsaw groups
    • Interest groups, interest centers
    • Use learning contracts and learning centers to personalize learning
  • Need for targeted instruction and practices:
    • Routinely meet with students in small groups
    • Assign homework targeted to key skills students need
  • Varied Levels of Readiness
    • Tiering
    • Compacting
    • Think-alouds
    • Varied homework
    • Text digests
    • Writing frames
    • Small group instruction
    • Learning contracts
    • Learning menus
    • Materials with varied lexile levels
    • Word walls
    • Guided peer critiques
  • Varied Interests
    • Interest centers and groups
    • Expert groups
    • Web quests and inquiries
    • Group investigation
    • Independent studies
    • Personalized criteria for success
    • Design-a-day (personalized daily agendas)
  • Varied Learning Profiles
    • Visual organizers
    • Varied work options
    • Varied entry points
    • Intelligence preference tasks – see Differentiated curriculum charts.
    • Opportunities for movement
    • Varying modes of teacher presentation
  • Multiple Categories 



Clustering needs is more efficient than fulfilling IEP’s for every student.  More students benefit from intended remediations than initially intended.  It’s easier to plan units with built in remediations that address common needs than to identify these during the unit and make them a la carte.

Preparation Steps
  • Survey students interests and learning profiles
  • Pre-assess students to see who will need extra (less) support and what topics need extra resources
  • Determine what are the common clustered needs and variations – the top 3 that will serve most students
  • Gather and create resources (see above) that match common needs and common sources of variation
  • Assign students to groups that match activity types – it’s possible to use more than one grouping over the course of a project – learning groups could be different from product groups
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement learning strategies that align to common clustered needs and sources of variation
  • Use formative assessments with all students to give feedback on their progress so they can improve and to improve activities
  • Use student reflections to improve activities
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Design and implement systems that teach students how to set, track and reach academic goals
  • Continually survey students to check if the identified clusters of needs are the correct ones

32: Flexible Classroom Elements for Effective Responsive Teaching





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How to Change Several Classroom Elements as Part of Good Responsive Teaching
  • Negotiate extra time on tasks for students who work diligently, yet slowly
  • Compact or exempt advanced students on work related to topics they’ve already demonstrated mastery
  • Use stations, homework contracts, and learning centers to help students work on deficits on precursor skills
  • Create a quiet zone in room where noise and visual stimuli are minimal
  • Post and use several seating arrangement charts so that students can rearrange room quickly
  • Collect textbooks at different lexile levels
  • Bookmark websites at different lexile levels and languages
  • Use audio and video clips to teach
Student Grouping
  • Use prearranged groups and established work areas so students know where to sit during group work time
  • Plan to use multiple group styles: homogenous, heterogenous, interest, and learning profile groups
Teaching Strategies
  • Teach with both part-to-whole and whole-to-part emphasis
  • Intersperse lecture with small group discussions.  See Writing breaks and Classroom Conversations articles.
  • Make connections between key ideas/skills and students’ cultures and interests.
Learning Strategies
  • Provide practical, analytical, and creative options for student work.  See differentiated curriculum charts article.
  • Provide tiered assignments and assessments
  • Encourage students to work alone or with a peer
  • Use expert (jigsaw) groups to teach key ideas
Teaching Partnerships
  • Have students perform all classroom functions that are not imperative for a teacher to perform
  • Survey parents for insights into students’ interests, learning preferences and needs
  • Work with other teachers, especially those who are good with Differentiated Instruction


While “varying” instruction for responsive teaching, it’s good to know or be reminded of how many elements can be readily changed to meet students’ needs.  Also it’s important to know and experiment with how changing classroom logistics (use of space and time) can impact student learning.


Preparation Steps
  • Recruit thought partners
  • Gather websites and textbooks at varied lexile levels and formats for upcoming projects
  • Decide what seating configurations work for different workshop types and activity types
  • Experiment early in the year with seating configurations before creating diagrams
  • Train students to switch classroom seating between seating configuration types
  • Label group work areas and other key work spaces
  • Set up and communicate a flexible due date policy
  • Pre-assess students to see who qualifies for compacting and exemptions
  • Set up student groups – heterogeneous for product groups and homogeneous for learning groups
  • Design menu of learning activities that will serve students in different learning groups
  • Develop good questioning sequences for facilitating workshops and for reflection prompts
  • Elect and train classroom officers who lead students in key classroom functions
  • Survey parents to learn about student interests, learning needs, and challenges
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use student team roles to make sure team members in heterogenous groups all have meaningful group tasks
  • Lead small group workshops to align to specific learning groups needs
  • Observe students to determine who qualifies for compacting, exemptions, and delayed dead lines
  • Use interest groups and learning groups to deliver workshops that match students’ needs & wants
  • Use stamping method (or similar tracking system) to give lots of formative feedback and to track that students are moving towards mastery in key topics
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Consult students on strategies that can be implemented in the future to improve bridge between content and student needs and interests
  • Teach students how to effectively track their progress and select good next steps to meet academic and project goals

31: Core Beliefs Connecting Curricula to Student Diversity




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All students should consistently experience curricula rooted in the important ideas of a discipline that requires them to make meaning of information and think at high levels
  • All students develop products that apply knowledge of core ideas
  • Differentiate for enabling skills that help students understand core ideas and skills
Students need opportunities to learn the basics and opportunities to apply them in meaningful ways
  • Communicate connections between basic and complicated applications
  • Do not deny any students the opportunity to use their skills to play the game inherent in the discipline
There is a need for balance between student construction of meaning and teacher guides.
  • Play 3 roles as needed:
    1. Direct instructor – for teaching simple concepts
    2. Facilitator – for teaching deeper understandings of core concepts
    3. Coach – for teaching skills
  • Guide student reflections on how they are progressing towards enduring understandings
Students need to know the learning goals of a unit or lesson and criteria for successfully demonstrating proficiency with goals.
  • Share learning goals and rubrics early in lessons and early in projects
  • Students regularly reflect on how what they are doing relates to big goals
Research has shown that both high and low performing students benefit from classes that use meaning-driven, thought-based, application-focused curricula.  Applications of ideas give meaningful contexts for knowledge and skills.  Students must make meaning for themselves, it can not be imposed on them.  Having students construct meaning will enhance their ability to learn new content.  Students need a framework of goals and expectations to help them prioritize their ideas and goals.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards – identify related key understandings, enabling skills, and misconceptions
  • Design and implement pre-assessments that assess student knowledge, skills, and misconceptions related to learning goals
  • Interpret pre-assesment data in order to develop remediation and advanced learning activities (if needed)
  • Design project contexts that create meaningful ways for students to apply core and foundational knowledge and skills
  • Develop project rubric prior to launch
  • Determine types of learning that will occur in workshops and the appropriate teacher roles that go with these learning targets.  Design lessons that match the learning goals and the teacher roles that makes the most sense.
Preliminary Implementation Steps
  • Share the rubric early in the project and facilitate an activity that has students develop knows, need-to-knows and next steps that tie to the rubric
  • Implement workshops acting as direct instructor, facilitator, and coach depending on the types of learning targets
  • Use formative assessments frequently to provide specific feedback that students use to improve their products and learning and that teachers use to improve scaffolding
  • Design activities and tools that make connections between foundational and core skills explicit and clear to students
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Develop and implement tools that students regularly reflect on how their completed tasks relate to their understanding of big learning goals
  • Engage with classroom dialogues that use student input to create and refine project rubrics

30: 4 Assessment Principles that Honor Student Differences & Promote Learning





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1 – Assess before Teaching: Use un-graded pre-assessments to help prepare for varied student interests and varied levels of readiness.  Related strategies include:
  • Pre-assessments focused on essential understandings, related skills and misconceptions
  • Pre-assessments precede related lesson(s) and are ungraded
  • Use pre-assessments to get insights into students’ interests and preferred learning modes
  • Varied formats include: 3-2-1 cards, Frayer diagrams, journal entires, quizzes, checklists, concept maps.  Also see this article on assessing prior knowledge.
2 – Offer Appropriate Choices: Offer assessment choices aligned to learning targets that permit students to use their strengths to express content mastery.  Related strategies include:
  • Use common set of criteria (aligned to learning targets) to assess products, regardless of form
  • Use secondary set of criteria to evaluate details specific to specific product formats
  • Make sure student choices do not trump learning goals – example – student can not opt out of writing if the learning goal involves writing
  • Options must be worth the time and effort required for the product
  • Consider feasibility – not all assessments can be varied by student choice
  • Also see article on differentiated curriculum charts
3 – Provide feedback early and often: Provide timely, specific, understandable feedback and allow time for students to use feedback to improve.  Related strategies include:
  • Use student friendly language in rubrics
  • Use models and exemplars to demonstrate high quality work.  Also, see this article on models and descriptive feedback.
  • Give opportunities for students to use feedback to refine products
  • Make sure feedback clearly communicates what students have done well and what they need to improve
4 – Encourage Self-Assessment & Reflection: Use self assessments to make students more aware of how they learn and what they are doing to set and reach goals.  Related strategies include:
  • Leave spaces on rubrics for teacher, peer, and self feedback
  • Ask student questions such as:
    • What do you really understand about … ?
    • What question do you have about … ?
    • What was the most (least) effective in … ?
    • How could you improve … ?
    • What would you do differently next time?
    • What are you most proud of?
    • What are you most disappointed in?
    • How difficult was … for you?
    • What are you strengths (deficiencies) in … ?
    • To what extend has your performance improved over time?
    • What grade do you deserve and why?
    • How does your learning connect to other learning?
    • How has what you’ve learned changed your thinking?
    • What follow up work is needed?



Pre-assessment data can help teachers design appropriate remediation and advanced work.  A one-size-fits all approach to assessment will favor some students and neglect others.  Specific feedback can be used by students to improve.  High levels of metacognition support high levels of academic achievement.  Reflection on goal setting helps student develop ownership over their choices and results.

Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards – identify related key understandings, enabling skills, and misconceptions
  • Design and implement pre-assessments that assess student knowledge, skills, and misconceptions related to learning goals
  • Interpret pre-assesment data in order to develop remediation and advanced learning activities (if needed)
  • Select from question prompts above (and others) to design regular journal prompts for students to reflect on their learning and goal setting progress
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use frequent formative assessments to give students feedback on their learning and products and to fine-tune instruction
  • Give students time to use feedback to improve learning and products
  • Use reflective journal entries throughout the project to makes students more aware of their learning and goal setting processes and to improve these
  • Use clear rubrics and models/exemplars to communicate expectations for high quality work
  • Use clear rubrics to guide self- and peer- feedback on student products.  Allow students time to use this feedback to improve projects
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Offer student choices (within reason) on assessment and product types
  • Develop and use rubrics that allow for flexibility in product formats but still assess common key understandings in student work