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Differentiated Instruction. Rob Irwin . Purpose. Develop shared and practical understandings of differentiation as related to the effective teaching of Mathematics Tiering as a differentiation strategy Tiering Math Games & Trailblazers lessons. Processes/Payoff. Processes:

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  • Develop shared and practical understandings of differentiation as related to the effective teaching of Mathematics
  • Tiering as a differentiation strategy
  • Tiering Math Games & Trailblazers lessons
processes payoff
  • Processes:

Question Car Park; Think, Pair, Share; Paired/ Quad Brainstorm; Games Rotations; Discussion; Gallery Walk; Group Planning

  • Payoff: Leave the workshop with practical ideas for differentiating instruction through the strategy of tiering
protocols for working as a professional learning community
Protocols for working as a professional learning community
  • Adopt a sense of responsibility for the group as a community of learners
  • One person at a time talking so as to keep the meaning
  • Attend to and listen to others
  • Accept where others are at
  • Suspend judgement
  • Allow and give no putdowns
  • Common signal for gaining

everyone’s attention

question car park
Write down your questions and issues on the post-it notes provided throughout the sessions and “park” them in the “Question Car Park” charts on the walls of the room.

I will work at answering them at the beginning of the next two sessions.

“Question Car Park”
challenges of today s students
Challenges of today’s students
  • As a group, brainstorm (and jot down in your reflective journals) all the needs of students you have worked with in your classrooms this year or in the past.
challenges of today s students1
The diversity of students in your classroom:

“Learning styles (visual, spatial, auditory, tactile, kinaesthetic)


Strengths/ Weaknesses

Cognitive abilities


Attitudes/ Motivation/ Persistence/ Confidence


Socio-Economic and Family Factors

Learning Pace

Gender Influences

Cultural/Ethnic influences

Challenges of today’s students
challenges of today s students2
Challenges of Today’s Students

“Normal is only a setting on the washing machine”

Schmidt, M (2006). Losing Sight of the Shore: Differentiating Curriculum and Instruction.

a once upon a time story about a blonde student
A Once Upon A Time Story About A Blonde Student

Once upon a time there was a lovely, young student named Goldilocks. She was an adventurous sort, so one day she went walking through the forest in search of a teacher.

As Goldilocks rounded a bend in the path, she came into a bright clearing in the forest. She was very excited to find a teacher presenting a lesson that at first captured her attention. Goldilocks tried to stay engaged and learn, but she became frustrated as it was just too difficult.

the story continues
The story continues…..

She sighed, waved goodbye to the first teacher, and continued on her way.

Goldilocks walked a bit longer and ambled up a hill where she found herself in a wide, flower-filled pasture. There a second teacher sat, seemingly waiting just for her.

This teacher began her lesson, but Goldilocks soon became bored because it was just too easy. She waved goodbye to the second teacher, and once again went on her way.

the story continues again
The story continues…..again!
  • Trudging through the forest more slowly now and less joyfully, she came across a magnificent meadow that was not only amazingly colorful but fragrant as well. There stood another teacher. The teacher began the lesson, and Goldilocks was enthralled! This lesson wasn’t too hard! It wasn’t too easy! It was just right!
what is differentiation
Think, Pair, Share:

Individually, jot down your own thoughts as to what you think differentiation is.

Share with partner.

Share with group of 4.

What is Differentiation?
what is differentiation1
What is Differentiation?
  • At its most basic level, differentiating instruction means “shaking up” what goes on in the classrooms so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas and expressing what they learn…a differentiated classroom provides different avenues to acquiring content, to processing and making sense of ideas, and to developing products so that each student can learn effectively” (Carol Tomlinson, 1999, p. 1)
how is it implemented
How Is It Implemented?
  • Use diagnostic assessments to determine student readiness. These assessments can be formal or informal. Teachers can give pre-tests, question students about their background knowledge, or use KWL charts (charts that ask students to identify what they already Know, what they Want to know, and what they have Learned about a topic).
how is it implemented1
How is it implemented?
  • Determine student interest. This can be done by using interest inventories and/or including students in the planning process. Teachers can ask students to tell them what specific interests they have in a particular topic, and then teachers can try to incorporate these interests into their lessons.
how is it implemented2
How Is It Implemented?
  • Identify student learning styles and environmental preferences. Teachers can get information about student learning styles by asking students how they learn best and by observing student activities. Identifying environmental preferences includes determining whether students work best in large or small groups and what environmental factors might contribute to or inhibit student learning. For example, a student might need to be free from distraction. PLUSyou need a good understanding of M.C.
what does it look like for math
What Does it Look Like for Math?

Math instruction can be differentiated to allow students to work on skills appropriate to their readiness level and to explore mathematics applications through -

  • Math games are a very good and easy way to differentiate learning. Played correctly students can experience fun activities while playing different levels of a game.
  • Tiering is another way. Tier the group or individual activities after the mini lesson.

Differentiated Instruction

is the proactive acceptance of and planning for student differences, including their

readiness interests learning profiles

Teachers can respond to student differences by differentiating

content process products environment

while always keeping in mind the guiding principles of

respectful tasks ongoing assessment & adjustment flexible groups

what is reality now and where you want to be self assessment
Traditional Classroom Vs Differentiated Classroom

Using the handout, place an X on each continuum where you believe your teaching is now and a Y where you’d like to be.

Discuss with your group.

What is reality now and Where you want to be: Self-Assessment

as a

Differentiation Strategy:

What is it?

“Tiered activities are really quite essential. They are almost the meat and potatoes of differentiation.”(Tomlinson)
differentiating by readiness tiered lessons
Differentiating by Readiness/Tiered Lessons
  • Involves having students work on the same concept at different levels of complexity and with different levels of support or open-endedness.
  • Not more work or less work, just different work.

Planning Tiered Assignments

Concept to be Understood


Skill to be Mastered

Create on-level task first then adjust up and down.







“Adjusting the



When Tiering:

  • Adjust---
  • Level of Complexity
  • Amount of Structure
  • Materials
  • Time/Pace
  • Number of Steps
  • Form of Expression
  • Level of Dependence
the equalizer
The “Equalizer”

5. Smaller Leap

1. Foundational


Greater Leap

6. More Structured

More Open

2. Concrete


7. Clearly Defined Problems

Fuzzy Problems

3. Simple


8. Less Independence

Greater Independence

4. Fewer Facets


9. Slower


* Low Readability

*High Readability

using the equalizer a tool for planning differentiated lessons tomlinson 2000
Using “the Equalizer: A Tool for Planning Differentiated Lessons”(Tomlinson, 2000)
  • “Similar to using the equalizer buttons on a CD player/stereo, you can slide the buttons across several different continuums to get the best combination of sounds for a musical piece.
  • In a differentiated classroom, adjusting the buttons appropriately for various students’ needs equalizes their chances of being appropriately challenged by materials, activities, products in your classroom”

(Tomlinson, 2000).


What is Tiered Instruction?

  • By keeping the focus of the
  • activity the same, but
  • providing routes of access at
  • varying degrees of difficulty,
  • the teacher maximizes the
  • likelihood that:
  • each student comes away
  • with pivotal skills &
  • understandings
  • 2) each student is appropriately
  • challenged.

Teachers use tiered activities so that all students focus on

essential understandings and skills but at different levels of complexity, abstractness, and open-endedness.

use of state standards
Use of State Standards

Use the standards (current state standards or Common Core standards) to inform the tiering by seeing the sequence of development of the concept


Let’s look at how to tier a game

Importance of teachers knowing content & Standards

Let’s look at and then later play…



now consider this
Now consider this….

Tier 1: One group of students in the class are very unsure of the basic Count-On (count on 1,2,3,0) facts

Tier 2: One group of students in the class may need to practice doubles

Tier 3: One group of students in the class have automaticity with addition facts to 12, including Make Ten strategy


Tiered Games:

Let’s Experience It

flash activity cont
Flash Activity Cont.

Work with a partner

# 1 Sequence the games in order of


# 2 Find as many activities that you could

differentiate into 3 tiers

let s experience it
Let’s Experience It
  • You are going to participate in several games that have been tiered at three different levels.
  • Your group needs to play each tier of each game. Compare the three tiers. What is the big math idea?
  • Complete the template, match each tiered set of games to the Standards and the Equalizer
  • What are the implications for your own classroom?
tiered games
Tiered Games

Group Report

  • What did you notice?
differentiate the games using the equalizer it s your turn
Each group will find a Math game, planning template and butcher’s paper on their table.

As a group and using the ‘Equalizer’ and the Standards in your handout, adapt the game and plan for a variety of students’ needs- tier for three groups of children

Tape your group’s poster up for the gallery walk

Differentiate the Games using the Equalizer- It’s your turn!
gallery walk
One member from each group stays with the tiered games poster.

All groups rotate and the poster leader describes the tiering.

Ask questions

Get ideas

Complete template

Rotate on given signal

Gallery Walk
tiering the student activity portion of the workshop model lesson
Tiering the Student Activity Portion of the Workshop Model Lesson
your turn
Your Turn…

Using the template in your packet, choose some lessons from the program (eg. first weeks of school in September) and,

consulting the standards,

tier the student activity portion of each lesson

how do i begin to differentiate
How do I begin to differentiate?
  • Consider Low Prep/High Prep differentiation
  • See handout on “Hints to Begin”
rubric for differentiation developed by julie howie a u s s i e math consultant
Rubric for Differentiation(developed by Julie Howie A.U.S.S.I.E. Math Consultant)
  • Use for reflecting on your practice
things take time
Put up in a place where it’s easy to see,

The cryptic admonishment,


When you feel how depressingly slow you climb

It’s well to remember that


From Tomlinson, C.

Things Take Time
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