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Strategies for Differentiating Instruction -- a Review

Differentiation is Essential for Inclusion

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Strategies for Differentiating Instruction -- a Review

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Prufrock Press

Differentiating Instruction is critical for the inclusive classroom that includes children from across the spectrum of abilities, from the learning disabled to the gifted. This book, Strategies for Differentiating Instruction by Julia L. Roberts and Tracy Inman (Prufrock Press, Inc.) offers a rich range of strategies, from classroom management to assessment, to help children across the range of abilities to flourish.

Differentiation is a Critical Part of Inclusion

Differentiating Instruction is critical for the inclusive classroom that includes children from across the spectrum of abilities, from the learning disabled to the gifted. This book, Strategies for Differentiating Instruction by Julia L. Roberts and Tracy Inman (Prufrock Press, Inc.) offers a rich range of strategies, from classroom management to assessment, to help children across the range to flourish.

Ironically, Dr. Roberts specialty is working with gifted children. In order to provide the gifted with a rich and challenging environment, she collects strategies that also create success for children with disabilities.

Chapters One Through Three Lay Out a Framework for Differentiation

Chapters 1 through 3 lay the ground work for creating a differentiated classroom. Dr. Roberts focuses on the educational underpinnings and purpose of differentiation in chapter one. In chapter two, she lays out three levels of success, Starting with good grades and moving to good grades on assignements that challenge, finally reaching learning with satisfaction—and getting on the pathway to lifelong learning. This is most likely the best way to explain the success of gifted, rather than students with disabilities—yet even children overcoming disabilities can find joy in learning and become avid learners given the right kind of challenges. Chapter 3 explores a differentiated classroom environment. A differentiated classroom respects diversity, maintains high expectations, generates openness and encourages students to move beyond the curriculum to explore areas of new interest.

Pre-assessment and Instructional Strategies

Differentiation succeeds best when the teacher understands where each of her students is when beginning a lesson or unit, and is able to create the experiences and support that students at different levels need. Roberts suggests several strategies, from a KWL chart to an interest and experience inventory, and lays them out in detail in chapter 4.

Chapters 5 through 7 offer differentiation strategies, using Blooms Taxonomy, Venn Diagrams and finally my favorite, Think-Tac-Toe. Roberts provides diagrams and examples to help the teacher use each of the strategies in class.

Lots of Resources Wrap Up This Volume

Chapter 8 discusses managing the differentiated classroom. She begins by offering three questions that help plan lessons and units that create differentiation:

  • The Planning Question: What do I want all students to know, understand and be able to do?
  • The Pre-assessment Question: Who already knows, understands and/or can use the content or demonstrate the skill?
  • Differentiation Question: What can I do for him, her, or them so they can make continuous progress and extend their learning?

This chapter also address classroom grouping, using tracking, readiness or ability grouping, cluster grouping, cooperative learning groups and flexible groups. The chapter also addresses managing time.

Finally, the book ends with a chapter on assessment, providing a variety of approaches for students to demonstrate mastery of the material. She addresses product assessment, using rubrics, scoring guides, Developing and Assessing Products Tools (DAP Tools.) This chapter offers extensive examples of DAP tools which assess students across three tiers. Roberts recommends using terms for the DAP tools that reflect state assessments, such as basic, proficient and outstanding (Pennsylvania’s levels for the PSSA, or Pennsylvania State School Assessment.)

Roberts and Inman close the book out with a huge appendix full of tools that can be reproduced and used in your classrooms.

This is an outstanding resource and an invaluable tool for teachers working together to create a truly responsive inclusive classroom. I recommend it for any teaching team that is serious about inclusion.

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