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Know WHAT We Teach. Know WHO We Teach. “Our best understanding of how people learn is that they begin with past knowledge, understanding, and skill and extend those to new levels of complexity or sophistication . . Image from: creative commons (public domain).

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Know WHAT We Teach

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“Our best understanding of how people learn is that they begin with past knowledge, understanding, and skill and extend those to new levels of complexity or sophistication.

Image from: creative commons (public domain)


Further, we learn best when the work we do is a little too hard for us.

Image from: Creative Commons


What that means is that we have a sense of what the task calls for and the gaps in our capacity to do what it asks of us.

Image from: Creative Commons


When these gaps are not present (in other words, when we can do a task effortlessly) we do not learn because we do not stretch what we already know.

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Similarly, when the gaps are too great, we cannot span them and do not learn.

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Learning takes place when we have to stretch a manageable amount and do so.

photo by LinaMenazzi on Flickr


Readiness-based differentiation attempts to design student work at varied levels of challenge so that each student has to stretch a manageable amount and is supported in doing so.”

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From: Differentiation in Practice: A Resource Gide for Differentiating Curriculum by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Carolyn Cunningham Eidson


Condensing learning into a shorter time period.


Four Steps to Successful Compacting

  • Identify the learning objectives that all students must learn.
  • Offer a pretest opportunity if appropriate for subject.
  • Plan and offer curriculum extensions.
  • Eliminate all drill, practice, and review for students who show mastery.
independent study
Independent Study
  • Students choose their topic and product from a list.
  • Contract is signed by student, parent, and teacher.
  • Students are responsible for completing a work log.
  • All work is done during class time.
flexible grouping
Flexible Grouping
  • A third grade math example

Obj: develop concept of area

Materials: TM 192-197; Math Masters 36 (10 copies)

Procedure: 1. Mental Math; Math Message

2. MAD Minute

3. review concept of area (SRB 136)

4. estimate area of classroom

5. group work

  • Anchor activities (choice board)
tiered assignments
Tiered Assignments
  • An example
  • Don’t try to reinvent the wheel
  • Get together and pool your thoughts and ideas
  • Talk to teachers above and below your grade level
  • NOT EVERYTHING needs to be tiered!
most difficult first
Most Difficult First
  • Choose the five most difficult problems.
  • Students may choose to work only those problems.
  • If they are able to complete them without missing more than one, they are done.
  • If they miss more than one, they need to complete the entire assignment.
bloom s taxonomy
Bloom’s Taxonomy

Why find it and dust it off?

think dots
Think Dots
  • Steps:
  • Create six learning tasks for the numbers on the die.
  • List the tasks in a 2x3 cell table which include dots relating to the sides of a die.
  • Students roll the die and complete the learning task from the corresponding dot
  • If the first roll is something the student doesn’t want to do, s/he can roll a second time.



Defining US: Lewis & Clark Expedition

things to consider
Things to consider

essential content

respectful, challenging work

give the opportunity to self-select tasks

for more information
For more information…
  • Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (PAGE)—
  • (just google) daretodifferentiate