Saturday, December 13, 2014

My 10 Favorite Differentiation Strategies for the WL Classroom

When I first learned about differentiation, I thought that I would have to make three versions of all assignments.  I have since learned that differentiation is more than just tiered instruction; it is a responsive classroom.  Instruction can be differentiated by content, process, product, and environment, according to a student's readiness, learning styles, or interests.  Here are my ten favorite differentiation strategies for the world language classroom.  
  1. Give students choices for products on assignments.  Instead of requiring an essay for an assignment to practice writing, give students the choice of creating a brochure, PowerPoint presentation, timeline, etc.  Keep the content requirements the same but allow the demonstration of learning to vary.  Students will produce better work when they have choices for showing their learning.
  2. Expand product choices.  Instead of requiring a PowerPoint presentation, give students options that allow them to demonstrate their strengths in areas besides writing. For grading purposes, I generally recommend that the content be the same.  Ideas:
    1. Puppet show
    2. Video skit
    3. Original song
    4. Paper collage
    5. Advertisement
    6. Timeline
    7. Poem
    8. Flipbook
    9. Interview
    10. Super snazzy technology, like Powtoon or Glogster
  3. Small-group skits.  Do informal skits where students present to each other in small groups instead of in front of the class.  This sudent-centered activity will ease stress for a variety of learners and lead to better internalization of key skills.  
  4. Add self-reflection and goal setting to tasks.  Instead of grading student essay drafts, create a form that students fill in (with quantitative measures) to grade their own essays and set goals for the rewrite. Let's be honest - students often ignore the meticulous feedback we give them on essays.  Give students ownership over rewrites and the final drafts will be better (and you will do less work). 
  5. Use stations.  About to teach a unit on a country, like Belgium?  Give seven choices of stations and have students choose four, completing a task at those four stations.  Later students will share their learning in small groups.  Ideas:  Literature selection, comic book characters, a move clip, a song from the country, information about their food, etc. Check out this blog post about stations in the WL classroom.
  6. Provide homework choices.  Instead of doing the same workbook pages, let students choose from a variety of options that meet their learning styles and needs.  
  7. Exit slips.  To help plan instruction for the next class, give students a formative (non-graded) assessment at the end of the lesson to gauge their learning.  Modify groups, activities, and instruction based on student learning. Some examples here.
  8. Let students choose topics based on their interests.  When students are writing an essay to practice a particular grammar skill, such as writing in the past tense, let them choose the topic.  For example:  Write a children's book, describe the weekend of a dog, tell the story of how your favorite musical group started, etc.  Students will complete better work when they like the topic.  If you are really interested in this strategy, check out RAFTs, which give students choices over their role, audience, format, and topic.
  9. Group students by learning styles.  Let students choose how they want to practice chapter vocabulary.  Check out this great presentation for teaching vocabulary using multiple intelligences. 
  10. Choice boards.  Let students choose which activities to do for homework or classwork. On a grid of nine options, students choose three.  Here is a great page of choice board ideas
I have used all of these activities in the classroom and loved all of them.  I would be happy to receive your feedback!  I truly believe that it is our responsibility as educators to teach the individuals in front of us, and that adding these differentiation strategies to our tool kit will improve the performance of our students.