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Understanding by Design. And Differentiated Instructional Strategies. Essential Questions. The overarching concepts or principles. Reflect curriculum goals or standards. The key understanding you want the students to have after they’ve completed the curriculum.

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understanding by design

Understanding by Design

And Differentiated Instructional Strategies

essential questions
Essential Questions
  • The overarching concepts or principles.
  • Reflect curriculum goals or standards.
  • The key understanding you want the students to have after they’ve completed the curriculum.
  • Present your essential questions to students at the beginning of the year or your course.
  • Post the questions so you can refer back to them.
unit questions
Unit Questions
  • Provide specific content and facts about essential questions.
  • They add depth and specificity.
  • Unit questions provide a framework in which to differentiate activities.
four standard statements within the academic standards for history an overview
Political and Cultural Contributions of Individuals and Groups

Inhabitants (cultures, subcultures, groups)

Political Leaders (monarchs, governors, elected officials)

Military Leaders (generals, noted military figures)

Cultural and Commercial Leaders (entrepreneurs, corporate executives, artists, entertainers, writers)

How Continuity and Change Have Influenced History

Belief Systems and Religions (ideas, beliefs, values)

Commerce and Industry (jobs, trade, environmental change ,labor systems, entertainment)

Politics (political party systems, administration of government, rules, regulations and laws, political and judicial interpretation)

Transportation (methods of moving people and goods over time, transportation routes, circulation systems)

Social Organization (social structure, identification of social groups, families, groups and communities, education, school population, suffrage, civil rights)

Primary Documents, Material Artifacts and Historical Places

Documents, Writings and Oral Traditions (government

documents, letters and diaries, fiction and non-fiction works, newspapers and other media, folklore)

Artifacts, Architecture and Historic Places (historic sites and places, museums and museum collections, official and popular cultural symbols, material culture)

Conflict and Cooperation Among Social Groups and Organizations

Domestic Instability (political unrest, natural and man-made disasters, genocide)

Immigration and Migration (causes of population shifts,

xenophobia, intercultural activity)

Labor Relations (strikes and collective bargaining, working

conditions over time, labor/management identity)

Military Conflicts (causes, conduct and impact of military

conflicts, wars and rebellions)

Four Standard Statements within the Academic Standards for History: An Overview
mapping the curriculum
Mapping the Curriculum
  • A Curriculum Map is an outline of a unit built from both essential questions and unit questions.
  • Curriculum mapping identifies:
    • Content, skills, and products for a particular unit
    • Required curriculum standards.
    • Exit points for differentiation.

Curricular goals are the springboard from which differentiation ought to begin.


Teachers Can Differentiate




According to Students’





Adapted from The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners (Tomlinson, 1999).

comparing traditional and differentiated classrooms
Comparing Traditional and Differentiated Classrooms
  • Consideration of student differences
  • Use of assessment to plan instruction
  • Use of student interest and learning style
differentiation strategies
Differentiation Strategies
  • All strategies are aligned with instructional goals and objectives.
  • Specific strategy selection based on
    • Focus of instruction
    • Focus of differentiation
differentiation strategies continued
Differentiation Strategies (continued)

Group 1: Compacting

Group 2: Independent Study

Group 3: Interest Centers or Interest Groups

Group 4: Flexible Grouping

examples of differentiation strategies
Examples of Differentiation Strategies
  • Choice Boards
  • Tiered Activities
  • Learning Contracts

Diner Menu – Photosynthesis

  • Appetizer (Everyone Shares)
  • Write the chemical equation for photosynthesis.
  • Entrée (Select One)
  • Draw a picture that shows what happens during photosynthesis.
  • Write two paragraphs about what happens during photosynthesis.
  • Create a rap that explains what happens during photosynthesis.
  • Side Dishes (Select at Least Two)
  • Define respiration, in writing.
  • Compare photosynthesis to respiration using a Venn Diagram.
  • Write a journal entry from the point of view of a green plant.
  • With a partner, create and perform a skit that shows the differences between photosynthesis and respiration.
  • Dessert (Optional)
  • Create a test to assess the teacher’s knowledge of photosynthesis.


Book Report

  • Four strategies for providing student choice within tiered assignments:
    • Pathways Plans
    • Project Menus
    • Challenge Centers
    • Spin-offs
pathways plans
Pathways Plans
  • Pathways are individual planners on which you or your students check off or cross out the skills they’ve mastered and choose from a list of alternative activities.
  • To create pathways, list your unit’s skills on the left side of a sheet of paper. On the right side, list alternative activities that students can choose from when they loop out of skills instruction.
  • In developing pathways, be sure to tier the activities according to challenge level or by complexity.
  • Grades on pathways projects replace grades on skills work done by the other students.
project menus
Project Menus
  • A project menu is a numbered list of tiered assignments that you allow students to choose what they’d like to work on.
  • Include checklists with quality criteria so that students clearly understand your expectations and can maintain high standards.
challenge centers
Challenge Centers
  • Challenge center projects stress new concepts, new content, or the application of skills.
  • Challenge centers can be designed to focus on multiple intelligences.
  • Provide step-by-step procedures on work-cards.
  • Design evaluation checklists for projects.
  • Have students use a work log to record the work they accomplish each day in challenge centers.
  • Provide examples, samples, or models as necessary to explain assignments.
spin offs
  • Spin-offs are projects based on student interests. They may be done independently, with partners, or in small groups.
  • For each kind of spin-off, the teacher provides the general topic.
    • For teacher-directed spin-offs, you require that certain content or key ideas be included.
    • Student-directed spin-offs allow students to differentiate their own instruction by making independent decisions about what they’ll work on & how they’ll share their work.
    • Spin-offs with a required product, allows students to choose their specific topic and the content or key ideas they’ll include, while you assign the product that students will produce.

Learning Contract #1

Name _______________________

My question or topic is:

To find out about my question or topic…

I will read:

I will look at and listen to:

I will write:

I will draw:

I will need:

Here’s how I will share what I know:

I will finish by this date:


LearningContract #2

To demonstrate what I have learned about ____________________, I want to

_ Write a report

_ Put on a demonstration

_ Set up an experiment

_ Develop a computer presentation

_ Build a model

_Design a mural

_ Write a song

_ Make a movie

_ Create a graphic organizer or diagram

_ Other

This will be a good way to demonstrate understanding of this concept because


To do this project, I will need help with


My Action Plan is________________________________________________

The criteria/rubric which will be used to assess my final product is _________


My project will be completed by this date _____________________________

Student signature: ________________________________ Date ___/___/___

Teacher signature: ________________________________ Date ___/___/___

deciding when how to tier an assignment
Deciding When & How to Tier an Assignment
  • Five questions to ask yourself during planning
    • Are there points when some students need more time to work on content or a skill and other students are ready for more advanced work?
    • Is there an activity in which varied resources could be matched with student needs and readiness?
    • Is there an activity in which the same materials could be used to work on both basic & more advanced outcomes?
    • Is there an activity in which students could benefit from working on the same outcome but doing different kinds of work?
    • Is there an activity that could result in more than one way for students to show what they’ve learned?
warm ups and cool downs
Warm-ups and Cool-downs
  • This technique provides some time to work with each group of students at the beginning or end of the class period.
    • Examples:
      • Journaling
      • Free Reading
      • Content Webs
      • Word of the day
      • Sketchbooks
      • Notetaking on textual materials
      • Skill applications or challenges
      • Daily language activity
assessment in the differentiated classroom
Assessment in the Differentiated Classroom
  • Ongoing
  • Instruction-dependent
  • Student-dependent
  • Informative for continuedinstruction
tips for implementing differentiated instruction your classroom
Tips for Implementing Differentiated Instruction: Your Classroom
  • Start slowly.
  • Organize your classroom space.




Teacher Station 1

Teacher Station 2



tips for implementing differentiated instruction your classroom continued
Tips for Implementing Differentiated Instruction: Your Classroom (continued)
  • Start student files.
  • Start student portfolios.
  • Use a clipboard.
  • Use technology.
implementing differentiated instruction your district or school
Implementing Differentiated Instruction: Your District or School
  • Start with committed staff.
  • Look for existing resources/infrastructure.
  • Start with one or two strategies.
  • Try it and be willing to alter and extend.
implementing differentiated instruction additional considerations
Implementing Differentiated Instruction: Additional Considerations
  • Teacher support
  • Professional development
  • Adequate planning time
  • Assessment
    • Curriculum-based Measurement
      • www.studentprogress.org
  • National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC):
      • www.cast.org/ncac/
  • Access Center:
      • www.k8accesscenter.org