This post is to address Nancy’s blog recent blog entry (see Nancy’s link below). I wish I could share this book that I purchased at the recent TGAT conference with you, “Differentiation: Simplified, Realistic, and Effective – How to Challenge Advanced Potentials in Mixed-Ability Classrooms” by Bertie Kingore, PhD. I needed a clear and precise definition of what it means to have different things going on for the different learners in the classroom. Everyone talks “differentiation’ but no one tells you what it is. This book does it very clearly.
A determined teacher could use any number of Bertie’s suggestions for any age level with appropriate modifications. Not only did she outline and define 12 different methods of differentiation, she points out their strengths and lays out strategies to implement each in a simple way that is mostly handled/managed by the student. She gives you clear and concise forms and suggestions to manage your differentiated classroom. In addition to this book, I attended several other workshops about differentiation, one by Susan Winebrenner, another by a professor from UT Texas. All of them stressed that differentiation enables the learner and frees the instructor to truly assess the learner’s depth of understanding (not the topical learning.)
I’m eager to try some of what I see in this book. It was reassuring to find out that I had already tried some things during the four years that I taught. I did have some success and could immediately tell when something did not work. Now, I can go back and try the failures again using the information I’ve learned. Start small, work up.
I have this vision of a classroom with students taking full responsibility for their learning. They determine the level and quality of their work. Not many children know just how this can be done, however, a much older student already has a concept of their strengths, skills and interests. They need coaches, encouragers, resources and demonstration.
Think about it – are you always in the mood to paint with watercolors? or read a technically challenging book? or write an essay? or sew clothes? We should, as teachers, respect the fact that our students aren’t always in the mood for creating the product that we want. In some cases, we can allow them choice and still attain the goal of assessing their learning.
I’ll write more on this as I think it through for my particular situations. In the meantime, visit Bertie’s site at http://www.bertiekingore.com.