Differentiation Made Easy

The word differentiation has been a buzz word for a pretty long time.  It is thrown around like confetti. Unfortunately, it isn't nearly as fun or sparkly, and is often more work for the teacher.  Or, at least that seems to be the general perception.

So what IS differentiation?

How CAN we make it EASY in our classrooms?  Teaching is difficult enough.  How can I streamline any and every process possible?

Let's dive in.

Differentiation, simply put, is a way to reach all of your learners in your classroom.  It is adjusting your instruction and the delivery of the instruction to create the best learning experience for each child.

When differentiating it is important to learn and consider the different learning styles for each student.

You can differentiate in one of four ways:

1.) Content
2.) Process
3.) Product
4.) Learning Environment

Differentiating by content means differentiating what is actually being taught- the meat of the lesson. Students may all be working on the same standard, such as adding within 100.  However, some students may be ready for adding 2 digits with regrouping, while others are working on adding 2 digits without regrouping.

Differentiation by process is differentiating by how lesson is being taught- the actual "vehicle." Take into account learning styles for students when differentiating by process.  You can use interactive notebooks for visual and kinetic learners, and songs and chants for auditory learners.

Differentiating by product means the end result of the lesson- how students demonstrate mastery of the lesson. This can be students choosing a product for a project and menus can also be used. For example, students can choose to create a taped retelling, a write story, or a comic book to explain how Mary Musgrove helped James Oglethorpe.

Differentiating by learning environment is REALLY popular right now.  The entire flexible seating movement is a big experiment and exercise in differentiation by learning environment. This allows students to move around and choose the best place for them to learn.  It can also be as simple as allowing students to choose to work individually, in partners, or in small groups.

You may actually ALREADY be differentiating in your classroom right now. Whenever you are changing your instruction to meet the different needs of individuals and small groups in your classroom, you are differentiating. Here are some ways I differentiated in my own classroom.

Guided reading and small group reading instruction is basically one big opportunity to differentiate. As long as you are teaching to meet the individual needs of what THAT group needs to become better readers, you are differentiating.  

Don't forget the important of assessment to determine instructional levels for students to form groups. The power in small group instruction is teaching them exactly WHERE THEY ARE and then pushing them forward...not just teaching from the "closest level book from the basal and calling it a day."

Do you use book boxes?  Students are able to select texts based on difficulty and interest to read during workshop time.  This is differentiating!

Do you have leveled spelling lists in your classroom? I kept this system EASY.  I had three spelling groups.  Each group had a color folder  (you can see the green and red folders above!) with their specific list for the week inside. Students practiced their words during word work time during Daily 5. We used a variety of materials.  At the end of the week, we "tested' kids using Spelling City.

If you would like to differentiate spelling by individual,  Christina DeCarbo has a fantastic blog post about this! Click here to read it!

Allowing students to create open ended products can be an opportunity for differentiation.  In this task, I differentiated the task by the total amount represented in the picture.  My higher students could create pictures with blocks showing up to 999.  Other students could create within 500.  My most struggling students could do within 100. 

You can grab this activity from this pack:

I loved small math groups.  I felt they were a fantastic opportunity to get to know my students more as individuals and be able to pin point mathematical strengths and weaknesses.

I have several posts about guided math.  You can check them all out here!

My kids loved this task in October!  We created a "haunted house" to show fact families. The task was differentiated by the size of the numbers in the fact family. You can snag this FREEBIE here, even if it is a little "off season," you might want to save it away for later! LOL!

Are you looking for EASY ways to differentiate in your classroom? I have taught many different grouping of students.  Over the years I have taught gifted clusters, ESOL clusters, EIP clusters, and I co-taught in a special ed inclusion class for the last several years I taught. As a result I differentiated A WHOLE bunch.  

When I write and create products, I do so with my past experiences in the classroom.  So most of my products have pretty extensive amounts of differentiation.

I have monthly interactive math notebooks that are perfect for practice and spiral review.  The notebooks are written for 2nd grade and most tasks have several different levels.

For example, in the August pack I have writing the expanded form for 2 and 3 digit numbers.  I also have writing the expanded form when GIVEN the 2 or 3 digit number. 

If you are interested, you can save a great deal (and even get one month FREE) by purchasing the bundle.

I have written ELA centers to review reading, grammar, and phonics skills for second grade. To make creating the centers easier for teachers, I have made the months Sept- May have differentiation by the RECORDING SHEET.  All the task cards and activities are the same for students, it is simply the recording sheet and what students DO with the cards that differs.   This is a HUGE time saver for teachers while still meeting the individual needs of students.

You can save $10 by purchasing the bundle!!!

I have also written pages and pages and pages of differentiated math centers.  These are perfect for students to complete individual centers, in partners, or cent as small group activities for guided math groups.  If you are trying to figure out WHAT to do with groups- these are perfect!

The bundle (Volume 1) has centers for August, September, October, and November and is over 875 (!!!) pages long! You are saving $10 by purchasing the bundle.

One of my most recent endeavors has been to write leveled fluency passages for 2nd grade.  By using these pages all students can participate and also use the same passage (at different levels) to practice finding text evince.  Four poems are also include (but not differentiated) with word work practice.

If you are interested, you can save a great deal (and even get one month FREE) by purchasing the bundle.

How do you differentiate in your classroom?

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!




Staying Organized for Back to School

That first few weeks of school is crazy.  Especially in the primary grades.  When I taught 3rd and 4th grade the kids were just a bit more independent and that helped out tremendously.  Now the little ones? That is a different story.

It seemed like every planning and lunch period I was running around doing tons of little things. So, what can you do to minimize the crazy?

I have just a few tips to help you stay organized those first few crazy weeks.

Check Lists
I have blogged about my favorite little handy tool in this Bright Ideas post.  This idea is especially perfect in the beginning of the school year when tons of papers are being returned.  Simply staple  a mini checklist to the front of a file folder.  As students return the forms, check their names off and file the papers in the file folders (or envelope,as pictured).

You can either have one check list and file folder for each form, or you can use this form on ONE file folder and store all the forms inside.  Simple paper clip the same forms together to stay organized.

Click on the picture to download the Microsoft Word file.  The title is the font HelloLovebug. Click here to download it for FREE personal use.

Boom! Now all your back to school forms being returned from parents are organized!

Supply Madness
I despise organizing school supplies the first day.  I find that that is such a valuable time when kids are excited and nervous.  We need to capitalize on their enthusiasm and soothe their fears by address the most important things first, such as where the bathroom is, when is lunch and snack, and making friends rather than labeling composition books.

To make this easier, I simply label a large grocery sack with each child's name and put it under their seats.  All of their smaller supplies such as pencils, crayons, notebooks, etc get placed in the bag until we have time to organize them on day 2 or even 3.  Larger supplies, that will be community supplies, such as baggies, copier paper, and wipes, are placed in large, labeled  bins around my classroom.  I try to use the bins I will ACTUALLY store them in, so I can just put the bin in my cabinet, without having to remove the supplies and reorganizing them.

THE Clipboard
Do you have a clipboard?  I did.  I carried it EVERYWHERE.  Especially the first week. I kept all kinds of important things such as a class list, a list or procedures I needed to teach, my first day or week lesson plans, and my TO DO list on that clipboard.  That sucker was HUGE.  I found that by having it in one place, rather than on lots of little post its scattered throughout the room and my desk kept me more accountable.

I also used a very slim monthly calendar.  I liked to keep it on my clipboard the first few weeks because it seems like I was always adding dates and info to it.

Here are some of the other things I had on my clipboard:

FREE list of Procedures

First Day of School Lesson Plans

Transportation Home (in my Parent Forms packs on TpT).  I have different themes for the forms to match your classroom theme.  Don't see your theme?  Just ask!




Standards, Standards, and More Standards

Many schools require standards or student "I can" statements to be posted.  Instead of writing these out each week, sit down and create these in one sitting.  At one school , teachers are require to "unpack" the standard with students and then post it.  These teachers take tablets of chart paper and write each standard (one tablet for ELA and another for math) at the top of one sheet of chart paper.  When it is time to unpack the standard, they can tear of the chart paper, unpack the standard with students, and post it as needed.

Another option is these "I can" statements for students.  I made them for second grade.  I have both ELA and Math Available.  I printed and laminated them.  Then I hole punched them and put them on binder rings.  I hung them on  3M hooks and then I could just flip though them easily!

This is a close up of how I hung up the I can statements for math!


Just click on the pictures to see them!

Last Minute Read Alouds
Even when being totally organized and planned to the last minute, everything doesn't always work out. Usually, I ran OUT of time instead of having extra time.  However, I suggest having a bucket of books set aside for "just in case."

These can be cute books that are perfect for the beginning of the year, but ARE not in your lesson plans.  Keep them  OUT of the classroom library, so they are fun and fresh for students to enjoy when you have a few spare minutes!

Do you have any other handy tips to keep organized at the beginning of the school year?

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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The Next Step in Guided Reading (Chapter 7- Helping Struggling Readers)


The end is so close!!

This is the LAST chapter in our book study of The Next Step in Guided Reading. Since there was an uneven number of chapters, Erin and I split this chapter. She got the short end of the deal- her part of the chapter is longer! LOL!

Erin's post focuses on helping Emergent and Early Readers.  You can read her post here.

This post focuses on helping Transitional readers.

Dr. Richardson shared this quote from the amazing Dick Allington.  It summarizes all my thoughts about teaching pretty much in general, so I felt I had to share it.

Perfect right?

Dr. Richardson DID share some ideas how of how to support struggling readers that need help in a specific area of focus. I created a chart to share some of these ideas.

You can click on the picture to download the file FREE.

Another strategy she shared in this book was the Neurological Impress Method to help students  improve in fluency.  

I actually did this with my students.  We were lucky enough to have a teacher that had extra time in her day pull some of our kids.  It didn't take very long- only 15 minutes per child.  It can make a HUGE difference.  We actually used it as a strategy for students with a learning disability. I found this video online and thought it was a great explanation and model.

To wrap up this chapter, I want to share the intervention notes sheet Erin created!  It would be perfect for documenting and extra interventions.

Just click on the picture to grab it from her post!

If you are looking for MORE guided reading support, check out my Guide to Guided Reading pack.  To celebrate the need of this book study is will be 30% until July 28th, 2016.

If you are looking for more strategies to support struggling readers, please make sure to check out this post.

It has tips to help with reading comprehension AND a chance to sign up for a FREE newsletter FULL of tips for guided reading.

I hope this book study helped you wrap your brain around the beast that is guided reading!!

If you want to catch up, click below to see the posts about the past chapters.

Use this image to pin for later!


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