One Great Way to Differentiate Instruction

I’ve been on a differentiation of instruction kick lately and recently shared these two posts. When students own the learning and Differentiating Instruction is NOT Hard if We Tap into Student’s Passions! I just came across yet another great example of differentiating instruction from Deven Black in his post My One Great Lesson This Year. In his post he shares a smart technique that he used to differentiate instruction that I have never seen in practice before and it is just brilliant.

He set up the situation, and gave his 7th grade social studies students choices and freedom that allowed them to do independent work as they studied the British and Dutch colonies that eventually became the first thirteen American states. To begin the lesson he made a grid of nine possible tasks his student could do in the next two weeks. He assigned each task a separate spot in the classroom and asked students to stand in the spot of the task that most appealed to them.

Immediately he noticed that his group of six girls who always wanted to work together did not all choose the same task. Interesting, he thought. He looked around the room and noticed that three of the tasks did not have a single student interested in it. They all seemed like good tasks to Mr. Black, but it has been a long time since he’s been a 12-year-old. He wondered, “What would have happened had I assigned one of those unpopular choices as the assignment for everyone? Or if, thinking I was offering differentiation, I had given my class a choice of those three unpopulated tasks.” He shuddered at the thought, especially since he acknowledges he’s been guilty of both approaches more often than not.

Each group was about evenly divided between boys and girls and each had students from different levels of prior performance. The students had self-selected more heterogeneous groups than he believes he could have created. He told the students to get to work and they did. To learn what ultimately happened, take a look over on Deven’s blog and read My One Great Lesson This Year. Take a look at the thoughtful comments too.

A big thanks to Deven Black for sharing one great way to educate innovatively with others.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

Lisa Nielsen (opens in new tab) (@InnovativeEdu (opens in new tab)) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997. She is a prolific writer best known for her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator (opens in new tab). Nielsen is the author of several books (opens in new tab) and her writing has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab), and Tech & Learning.  

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.