Hi all! Before our regularly scheduled programming, here’s a little #TBT, Throw Back Thursday!
A few weeks ago, the fourth graders in our school raised chicks. They invited us up one day to spend some time with them and their new arrivals! It was so much fun and the firsties just LOVED it! I haven’t gotten a chance to post about it because it’s been busy
with testing, assemblies, meetings, more testing, field trips, activities, class work, more testing, agh!
But in the meantime, I wanted to post about something I am passionate about and something that is a huge part of my classroom. DIFFERENTIATION! Not only is it what I hold my Master’s degree in, but it’s what drives my classroom instruction.
I get asked a lot about how this really works in a classroom, specifically in a first grade classroom. Sometimes the idea of “differentiating” seems like too much “extra” work. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s a simple way I differentiate in my classroom to meet the needs of all the learners in my room.
During our phonics block, we’ve been focusing more on putting our knowledge into play rather than direct instruction (focused solely on learning a new sound or blend). At this point in the year, we are putting that knowledge into action, working on reading fluency and identifying blends or sight words as we read.
To meet the needs of all the learners in my room, students were each given a book titled “Police Officers”, which were informational texts about police.
There were 3 different levels of this book. So while every child in the room was reading the same information, some were more complex than others.
In the above two pictures, you can see how both pages are giving the students similar information. But in the top picture, there is more information, words, and vocabulary. In the bottom picture, it’s presented in a simpler form. However- the content is still the same! Both students are reading AND comprehending at their own levels.
So how does this work? To begin, I put students into groups around the room with the kids who were reading the same level book as themselves. They started by just reading their text. Next, they worked on highlighting words with letter sounds we’ve been working on, such as “ch”, “sh”, “ar”, “oi/oy”, etc. They also worked on highlighting all the sight words we’ve learned that are on our word wall.
That was all on day 1. The next day, the students began by rereading their text. By doing this, they are practicing fluency and their comprehension skills. Then, they went back into their groups. Working as sets of partners within their leveled teams, they had to complete a Tree Map (a type of Thinking Map that helps them summarize) to state the topic of the text and supporting details.
What’s great about this is- 1. Students have a partner to support them 2. Not only do they have a partner, but they also have the support of their team sitting around them and 3. Because everyone at their table has the same level book, they can help each other with finding supporting details.
You’ll find that the kids are naturally differentiating themselves at this point. The students with the hardest text are going to be making the most complicated and detailed Tree Maps, because they have more text to work with. The students with a simplified text are going to be making a Tree Map using the details from their books, at their own level. Again, THEY ARE ALL LEARNING AND WORKING WITH THE SAME INFORMATION! This is the genius and key to a differentiated room.
Was this more work for me as a teacher? No.
Was this just giving some kids “more work” and other kids “less work”? No.
Was this hard to plan? No.
This was meaningful and tailored to the individualized needs of my learners. The students all felt accomplished and proud of their work because it was at their level. All of them were successful and completed the mission- to summarize an informational text.
I hope you can see just how simple, easy, and engaging a lesson like this is! The kids work hard and learn so much when they are given materials that meet their unique needs.
It’s not pictured, but the next day students went back with those same partners and used their Tree Maps to turn their ideas into writing. They wrote paragraphs that summarized their texts. Think first graders can’t write detailed and supportive paragraphs? Think again! 🙂
Thanks so much for checking in on our adventure! Be sure to subscribe and keep coming back!