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Differentiating Instruction: Content

Differentiating Instruction: Content

Author: Trisha Fyfe

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

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Welcome, I'm Trish Fyfe. And in today's studio video lesson, we will be covering the topic, Differentiating Instruction, Content. As we learn about this topic, we work towards several learning objectives.

Together we'll use the following questions to guide our learning. How can content be differentiated in your classroom? And what might this look like? Let's start by talking about differentiated instruction.

This important framework revolves around the idea that changes must be made in several areas to improve education for each and every student. These changes include changes to the content, or what students are learning, changes to the process of learning, or how the students are learning that content, changes to the products that our students are producing to show their learning, and changes to the learning environment itself.

Student profiles can be a fantastic tool for teachers to really get to know their students. We use these profiles to consider specific needs when we differentiate. We may be thinking about any of the changes that we just discussed as far as differentiating content, process, products, or the learning environment. A student's learning profile can be made up of many different things including but not limited to interests of the students, their learning style, their dominant multiple intelligences, their gender, culture, and any other factors that seem important for your class.

A pyramid is a great visual for thinking about the goals of differentiating content. On the bottom is basic content. This is the minimum that we want from our students. We want our students to walk away with this understanding. This would be according to your curriculum or your standards that you're using. You should consult your state or Common Core State Standards in competencies is for your curriculum.

In the middle of the pyramid is where we hope most of our students will fall. This is the level that we want most of our students to master as far as content. And on the very top is the learning that we might consider enrichment learning, that higher level content that only a fraction of your students will be ready for.

We can also look at what students already know. When we ask this question, students will fall into three groups-- students who have no exposure to the content, and for whom the content is new or there's no background knowledge, students who have some exposure and have experienced the concepts and ideas before, and those students who have already mastered the content. Before the teacher even assigns it, they know it.

This is where Bloom's taxonomy is important. We can use the different levels to differentiate. For example, students who are new to these ideas might be working in Remember or Understand. Students who have some exposure may be working within Apply or Analyze in Bloom's taxonomy. And students who already mastered the basic concepts maybe working within Evaluate and Create, where they're working with high order thinking skills.

Lessons that are differentiated are not watered down. We do not want to modify goals and standards that we as teachers are aiming for. Instead, we want to use different tools and paths for our students for mastery of these goals and standards.

Differentiating of content can include introducing students to things like independent studies, learning centers, open-ended activities, different book choices that are geared at different levels of learning, interest groups, learning contracts, and problem-based activities. For more information on differentiations and differentiated instruction, resources by Tomlinson and McTighe a great place to start to learn about or deepen your understanding of this concept.

When we differentiate content, we need to ask ourselves the following questions to help us guide our process as a teacher. What levels of knowledge and understanding do my students have at the beginning of this content? What are my students' readiness levels and interest on the topic?

What are their learning profiles like? How should I deliver the content to help each student meet the instructional goal for them? What formative assessments should I use to inform my teaching and report students' progress toward the instructional goal?

And what digital tools might help me differentiate the learning process for students? These are extremely important questions. So I encourage you to write these down or pause or take a screenshot of these questions.

When we're provided with opportunities to bring technology into our learning environments, we can use the following tools and resources to differentiate content. For formative assessments, we can use things like Google Forms, Socrative, and Schoology. These allow for tracking and immediate feedback.

When communicating, we can use such tools as Remind, which utilizes text for reminders to students and parents about important deadlines. We can use voice recognition that allows students to speak their thoughts and translate those thoughts into text. Sometimes it's important for us to look at different reading levels for different students. And Rewordify is a great tool for doing this. This tool adapt reading levels of a specific tax.

Flipped Learning is a great tool as well for teachers. And Sophia provides opportunities for teachers to generate material for students to view as homework prior to class time learning. The ability to watch, pause, and revisit the material allows for students to pace themselves accordingly.

Let's talk about what we learned today. We looked at the following questions. How can content be differentiated in your classroom? And what might this look like?

Today we looked at differentiating content. We looked at what differentiating of content looks like and how we can use Bloom's taxonomy to differentiate by allowing students to work at different levels within this model based on their needs. We looked at examples of differentiation and questions to ask yourself as you go through the process of differentiating content in your classroom.

Now that you are familiar with these concepts on differentiating content, let's reflect. What are the benefits to differentiating content in your classroom? Can you think of challenges in differentiating content in a diverse classroom?

Thanks for joining me today in discussing the lesson, Differentiating Instruction with a Focus on Content. I hope you found value in this video lesson and you're able to apply these ideas and techniques to your own teaching. For more information on how to apply what you've learned in this video, please view the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource.

Notes on “Differentiating Instruction: Content”


(00:00- 00:20) Introduction

(00:21- 00:52) What is Differentiation of Instruction?

(00:53- 01:30) Student Profiles and Differentiation  

(01:31- 02:15) How Can We Differentiate Content?

(02:16- 03:08) Addressing What Students Know

(03:09- 03:57) Examples of Differentiation of Content  

(03:58- 04:43) Differentiating Content: Questions to Ask

(04:44- 05:49) Technology and Differentiating Content

(05:50- 06:20) Recap

(06:21- 07:06) Reflection 

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.