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Differentiating Instruction: Content

Differentiating Instruction: Content

Author: Katie Hou

In this lesson, you will learn about differentiating content for diverse learners.

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Differentiating Instruction:Content

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Hello, and thank you for joining me today to discuss differentiating instruction with a focus on content. By the end of today's tutorial, we will be able to answer the following essential questions-- what ways can content be differentiated? And what are some examples of differentiated content?

So to begin, let's just really quickly review what differentiated instruction is. So differentiated instruction is, essentially, a framework that teachers can use. And it involves several changes.

We have changes to the content that's taught. And so this is, what exactly are we teaching? So if you are a high school English teacher, it's your English content. If you're an elementary school teacher, it's whatever you're teaching at that point of the day. Maybe it's social studies. Maybe it's reading.

And then it's also making changes to the process. And this is just how we teach the content. And changes in the product-- and this is how the students show us mastery of their skills.

It also involves changes in the environment. And this can mean both the physical environment and also the mental environment or the mentality of the classroom. Another important aspect of differentiated instruction are student profiles.

And we need to talk about this quickly before we can move onto content. Because this is really the crux of differentiated instruction. Profiles for students can be made up of many different things. And this includes student interests. So what are they interested in beyond the schoolwork?

What is their learning style? This isn't something that students necessarily know right off the bat. And this isn't something that teachers can tell just by looking at a student. You might have to give some sort of survey or do some observation to figure that out.

We're also going to look at the dominant multiple intelligences. And this might require the teacher giving multiple intelligences survey at the beginning of the year. And other important things are gender-- because we do know that girls and boys learn differently-- and also culture. What sort of cultural influences impact our student learning? And then also what other factors are there that might impact the student profiles?

This could include things like home life. So with that in mind, we want to look at content differentiation. So basically, it can be differentiated in terms of a pyramid. And the pyramid is split into three levels.

So the bottom level is basic content. And this is just the minimum that all students should be able to master. This could be a minimum for a grade level or a minimum for a content area.

Then we have the, what I called the average content. And this is just the middle level. And this is what most students should master. And then we have the high-level content. This is the highest level of the pyramid. And this is what is considered enrichment content.

So you are going to have some students who right off the bat know what you're talking about. We have to come up with enrichment activities so that they can get to that high-level content. When you introduce a new concept, perhaps, it's an algebraic equation.

There might be some students who the content is brand new to them. This would be in line with the lowest level of the content differentiation pyramid.

Then you're going to have some students who do know what you're talking about. However, their experience is just very average. They know what it is. But they don't know all of the facets that go into it. So this would be in line with the average content.

So you want to introduce the content. And you want them to understand how to use it. And then you're going to have those students who've mastered the content already before you even start talking about it.

So these are the students who are going to need that higher level content and enrichment. In the case where you have a classroom with students who have different familiarity levels with a concept, you really want to try to teach to the different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. So let's review Bloom's.

On the bottom level of Bloom's Taxonomy where the information is completely new to the students, you're going to be working with them at the comprehension or the knowledge level.

And then you have those students who are somewhat familiar with the material but haven't necessarily mastered it. Those students are going to be working at the application and analysis level. And then for those students who've mastered the content before you even begin the lesson, they're going to be working at the synthesizing and evaluation level.

Now, you might ask yourself, don't I want all of my students to be performing at the highest level of Bloom's Taxonomy? And the answer is yes.

This is just for beginning a lesson. It's important to understand that differentiated instruction is not watering down what we want the students to learn. It's not lowering our expectations.

The goals of the lesson aren't modified. And we're not changing the standards. Because a lot of times we have to meet the common core state standards. So we can't lower the standard, even if we wanted to. It's just using a variety of content strategies to differentiate so that the students can reach the levels.

So if you want more information on differentiated instruction, I highly suggest that you look at some resources by Tomlinson and McTighe. And in the meantime, I just want to talk to you about a couple of different strategies that you can do for differentiating content.

So this is where the fun part starts. Well, one way you can implement it is through independent studies. And this just means maybe you have a student who, like I said, is already mastering those algebraic equations. Give them an independent study to do to where they can take this to the next level.

Or you can also have interest groups. This is something I did recently where I grouped my students and young adult literature groups based on their interests. Some kids were really interested in reading dystopian novels. And some students were interested in reading biographies or autobiographies.

So we grouped based on that. Another really good way to have differentiated content is to have open-ended activities that the students can do where there's really no right or wrong answer. And the direction that they can take, the activity, is endless.

The perfect example of this is going to be in an art class, where you are going to ask the students to create a product to experiment with maybe the use of pastels. But it's open-ended.

What sort of product they create using those pastels is completely up to them. And this doesn't just have to be in creative classes. We can do this in our regular classrooms as well.

Book choices is so important. Students really do want to have a choice in what they're doing. I teach a really rigorous curriculum at my school. But at the same time, I make room in our curriculum for the students to choose one young adult literature book each semester that they read.

They love having that choice. Learning centers is another really great idea. It gets students up and moving around the environment. It breaks up the monotonous day, especially if you have students for 90 minute periods or if they're in the same classroom all day long in an elementary school.

This way, students can move around to the different centers and learn different information to gain the content knowledge. Learning contracts is another really important way. This is where the student and the teacher can sit down one-on-one and come up with how the learning is going to happen in the classroom.

And then, of course, we have PBL activities. Remember, Problem-Based Learning activities are when the teacher generates a real world problem for the students to solve. We live in a 21st century world. And we want to talk about technology with differentiating content.

Well, when you're doing formative assessments, which, remember, is where you're taking the temperature of the classroom to see what they know, you can use things like Google Forms. You can create a survey. Students can answer the survey. And then you're automatically creating data.

So it's taking the data collection part out of it for you and giving you instant data. Socrative is another awesome resource that you can use. And, again, this is where they're doing surveys or quizzes for you. And they can actually take them from their smart devices.

Schoology is, essentially, a learning management website where students and teachers can engage in classroom learning through online chats. The teachers can create websites for their classrooms. They can create message boards. There's mobile applications that are available to the students, which really help with one-on-one learning or BYOD learning.

For communication, you can use Remind. Remind is a really cool program that a lot of my own children's teachers use. And, basically, you enter in your cell phone number. And then you receive text reminders about important deadlines in the classroom.

A lot of things are also happening with voice recognition. You can use an app on Google Docs that allows the student to speak their thoughts. And then the document converts it into text. And Dragon is the same sort of thing that does that.

And then we have Rewordify. And this helps with reading levels. Because it allows the teacher to copy and paste text. And then the application changes the reading levels for you.

And then flipped learning. Remember flipped learning is where the students receive most of their content at home via a device. And then when they come in the classroom that's when the enrichment and learning activities are happening.

And Sofia is a really great way to use flipped learning. Because you can build a lesson on here that allows your students to preview the content before the class. And the also, it's always there. It allows them to revisit the content. And it allows them to learn at their own pace.

OK. So what differentiation model do you see yourself using when differentiating content? And do you already differentiate content in your classroom? How so?

So to review, today we talked about what ways content can be differentiated and what some examples of differentiated content are. To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section associated with this video.

This is where you'll find links targeted towards helping you discover more ways to apply this course material. Thank you for joining me and happy teaching.

Notes on “Differentiating Instruction: Content”


(00:00-00:16) Introduction

(00:17-01:05) DI Review

(01:06-02:02) Student Profiles

(02:03-03:46) Content Differentiation

(03:47-04:50) Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy Review

(04:51-07:16) More Information on Differentiating Content

(07:17-09:09) Technology and Differentiating Content

(09:10-09:30) Reflection

(09:31-09:55) Conclusion

Source: Content Pyramid by Katie Hou; Bloom’s Taxonomy by Xristina La,

Additional Resources

Using technology to differentiate by content

This is a wonderful resource for teachers; it includes videos from real classrooms that differentiate content using technology. Watch the five-part video series to see differentiation with technology in action.