Week #3

“Differentiation affirms that principle, but reminds us that what may “hook” one student might well puzzle, bore, or irritate others” (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 17). We need to always keep this in mind and be ready for it through other means. Pearson states that there are 7 categories that we need to keep in mind when using differentiated instruction in the classroom.

  • Differing Tasks According to Student Needs
  • Mixed Grouping (whole group, small groups, mixed abilities)
  • Varying Resources (basic, advanced)
  • Pace that Matches the Student
  • Varying Outcome
  • Dialogue and Support
  • Ongoing Assessment (Pearson, 2010)

By keeping these in mind, you can facilitate a differentiated classroom keeping in mind all students, not just the one who was “hooked.”

I love how Tomlinson creates a list of skills that good teachers learn to use in order to be able to differentiate instruction within the classroom. (p. 17) Though hers is longer than Pearson’s it is worth looking at. She then proceeds to put them into three metaphors; the teacher as a director of an orchestra, a coach, and a jazz musician. I can relate to the coach metaphor. Not only because I am a coach, but because I agree with her thoughts for the teacher’s roles and the students roles. Miller pushed Project-Based Learning (PBL), stating that they allow for …”effective differentiation in assessment as well as daily management and instruction” (2012). Through PBL students have differentiated instruction through team learning, mini lessons, reflections and goal setting, choice in their products, as well as balance among their individual work and their group work.

“The core of differentiation is a relationship between teachers and students” (McCarthy, 2014). This relationship is what connects the process of learning with the outcome created from it. If students are interested, ready and motivated they are more likely to retain the information that the instructor is trying to teach. The teacher needs to be constantly monitoring and guiding the instruction according to what they learn is necessary for the individual child. I found a concept map by Tomlinson which lays out a way to use DI that is visually pleasing. (Figure 1.1, 2000)

I used to teach mini society when I taught third grade. This unit is a wonderful example of differentiated instruction. By creating a miniature society within the classroom, students are able to learn the economics involved in being a part of a society. By creating their own currency, government, laws, even their own businesses they learn how to work together as well as individually in a community. (Day & Ballard, 1996) We have to let kids take charge from time to time, it is so empowering.

Day, H. R.,  Ballard, D., (Oct. 1996). The Classroom Mini-Economy: Integrating Economics into

the Elementary and Middle School Curriculum. Indiana Department of Education.

McCarthy, J. (2014, July 23). 3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do.

Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-ways-to-plan-john-mccarthy

Miller, A. (2012, February 8). Six Strategies for Differentiated Instruction in Project-Based

Learning. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-strategies-pbl-andrew-miller

Pearson. (2010). Methods of Differentiation in the Classroom. Retrieved from


Tomlinson, C. A. (2001, April) How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classroom.

Alexandria, Virginia. pp. 16-26.

Tomlinson, C. A., Allan, S. D., (2000, Dec.). Leadership for Differentiating Schools and

Classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100216/chapters/Understanding-Differentiated-Instruction@-Building-a-Foundation-for-Leadership.aspx



8 thoughts on “Week #3

  1. I also liked the metaphors she used for describing an effective teacher. I especially enjoyed the metaphor of an orchestra director. Sometimes it feels like all the students are trying to play a different instrument. I also agree that teacher student relationships are important. I have three new students in my room after the break and it is really difficult to reach them because I haven’t developed the same relationship with them as I have with others in the class. Thanks for the post!


    • I know! With new students it’s so hard to gain that trust and relationship. It’s hard enough on the student for feeling so alone in a new school, but to be expected to just dive right into everything when it takes the classroom a couple of weeks to get used to routines and rules is even tougher.


  2. I found the statement that stuck out to me the most this week in the reading was one of the quotes you used about how just because something may hook some students doesn’t mean it won’t bore other students. I think sometimes it’s easy to focus in on the students who can be hooked on the subjects we enjoy teaching and forget that there are students that don’t necessarily love learning math, science, etc., easily forgetting (at least for me) that these students need to be brought into the learning process with something that is exciting or interesting for them. At least for me I think that if I’m really excited about a subject and super energetic about it that it’s got to be interesting for students, which I think that helps their interest level, but doesn’t totally get them everything they need.

    I also enjoyed reading the article Tomlinson wrote with the three different metaphors, I can relate to the coaching one as well, and it got me thinking about how we can do the same type things in the classroom we do with our students when we coach them in sports.


    • I know what you mean, we think it’s going to be an awesome lesson then it bombs because the kids just aren’t interested. This is the time I put it out to the kids and ask them straight out for their insights. It’s amazing how brutally honest they are, they will totally tell you what they would do instead and help you with it. Then the class becomes invested in the lesson. It’s so fun to do, and the kids learn so much from becoming the instructors.


  3. I think PBL and the mini society in your classroom are valuable experiences for students of any age; it creates a context for students to understand what they are learning and they can continue to build on that experience when they see the same concepts at home and in their communities. I also agree that a teacher should be constantly monitoring student needs and progress, but it’s that relationship built between teacher and student that also allows the student to become more skilled at communicating their progress and needs back to the teacher. When a student takes ownership over that process of finding what and how they learn best, it makes differentiation a partnership between teacher and student rather than just a tool for teachers.


    • I completely agree. Many times teachers do just use it as a tool for teaching, but that relationship is key to the cooperation and comfort in working together through their learning. Becoming a student who can independently figure out how to progress on their own is the ideal we are looking for. At that younger age we just have to guide them a little more.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sunshine
    I can relate to that as well. I see myself relating to a coach as well. That is a good point that if students are interested and motivated then they will likely retain the information. Otherwise if they are not and don’t care they will not want to remember it. They will think why do I need to know this. I think it is important to try to motivate and relate to your students interest when you are teaching them.


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