How do you make decisions about your own actions for students in a differentiated classroom? What is your criteria for intervention, and/or for letting learning happen? Week 2 EDET 637



Essential question: 

How do you make decisions about your own actions for students in a differentiated classroom? What is your criteria for intervention, and/or for letting learning happen?

I have been teaching over 20 years and I have been through enough training that the two chapters, in How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms by Carol Tomlinson, was a great reminder of all the different aspects of teaching that I do. I greet the students as they come in to the classroom and I make them feel at home. I try to keep it safe for the students to ask questions. I usually see growth in students through the school year and I have to continually work with others. The most resilient students are the boys that have really good days and really bad days. On their really bad days they usually have to come back to apologize and I address the issue with understanding and accept their apology. They usually have a better time for a longer time knowing they are still welcomed back in class. They also have a better idea of how safe they are in the classroom even though it has rules of respect for all.

I see myself as a facilitator of knowledge and my job is to guide the students through curriculum with an opportunity to be successful. I build scaffolding around them to ensure success as they pour in the effort to learn. I seat them in groups where they will discuss a problem as they work through it. In these groups is where I falter.  I have the groups set in stone (not really), but I rearrange the seating in a fashion where there is least disruption. These groups have their mixed by mostly successful in their own groups, they can usually be successful with their task with minimal help. I have two groups that are very dependent on teacher aide guidance. They would not succeed without continual prompting.

I teach at the front of the class and direct them through their assignment. In McCarthy article he suggests Khan academy for math videos, I do use these and other Youtube videos. I post the videos in Google Classroom so they students can view them if they missed a class. If the students are still floundering I stay at the front of the class and teach them to look for patterns in what we are doing.   They know I will help them to fly on their own. McCarthy also mentioned Think-Pair-Share and I haven’t used this one in awhile and I need to incorporate it again. The students are more mature and should do better at sharing their thoughts with their peers.

Another DI that the article Methods of Differentiation in the classroom brought up is assessments. I don’t do as well as I would like is to frequently assess the students. I do check their work and success on a daily basis, but I don’t give assessments weekly like I would want to, I will work on changing this.

“When teachers differentiate instruction, they move away from seeing themselves as keepers and dispensers of knowledge and move toward seeing themselves as organizers of learning opportunities.” I love this measuring tool that Tomlinson stated in her book. I have moved into the “organizer of learning opportunities”.   This has taken me years to develop through educational classes. I also identify with seeing myself as a coach and giving the responsibility of learning to the students.

When we DI in the classroom we have to be able to use any situation, such as, teach to the whole class, work in groups, or individual work and still know our students as individuals. If a student is struggling with a concept we should know they are. When we have a conversation with a student we are deciphering what the student is struggling with and evaluating their understanding of the concept. Students’ think they are just asking a question, but the teacher is assessing their understanding of the task in front of them. We listen to the vocabulary and the confidence of their disposition to evaluate their understanding while looking for any error in their thinking as we answer their question. Sometimes we answer too much and the knowledgeable student will stop us, because they understood the rest of the concept. They just wanted clarification of what they were proving to their group or it satisfied their insecurity of continuing their work. DI in the classroom is a necessity for all students to be successful. A teacher must know where all the students are at and try to meet their learning language. This is not an easy task.

My criteria for intervention, and/or for letting learning happen in my classroom is stated and posted at the beginning of the year. I continue to hang new encouraging poster that prompt the behavior I would like to promote in my classroom.   My theme in my classroom in to be positive, such as, it is a no meanness zone, reach for the stars, goals of success, dancing polar bears due to success in math, etc. When students are learning I give them room to try before I help. I point out the success they have and will give prompts where they are struggling; I will sit with them until I see the anxiety go away. I award their achievement through praise. I do my best to stay positive and use kindness, and by no means am I perfect at this, but I do surprise myself many times when this sweet voice comes out, I wonder where that came from, this is not how I feel. I do believe in my students, I believe they can do the tasks. I have requested two student-aides in one of my classes to ensure success for those who need more attention. During the class time I stay in charge of the class; I don’t allow students to slack off, let alone be disruptive. I do my best to stay fair and listen to distraught students. I take their story to the principal if it merits it.   Students know that their assignments must be completed or I’ll return it with only partial credit.  I also expect them to grade the assignment first so they can see how they are performing. I also grade it and if it differs greatly I bring it to their attention. When they are grading their papers and they disagree with my answer key they have me do my work again to see who is right. They are happy when it is my error and that they challenged me on the problem and were correct. This is quite an achievement in their eyes, which makes me proud they are thinking through the mathematical rules and challenging with thought.

This is challenging to use DI in the classroom, but with the diversity we have to use DI to help our students to succeed at learning. This is our purpose and DI becomes just a way of life for todays teachers.


Kelly, M. 10 ways teachers can communicate expectations to students. About education. Retrieved January 2016 from

McCarthy, J. (2014) 3 Ways to plan for diverse learners: what teachers do.  eduTOPIa. Retrieved January 2016 from

Methods of differentiation in the classroom. BBC Active. Retrieved January 2016 from

Tomlinson, C. (2001) How to differentiate Instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. ebrary.

Reflection Wk 1 EDET 637

I love the articles on Differentiation; especially what it is not. The articles really help to put it in the right respective. It help me to see I need to put more time into planning so the students have a larger variety to experience with the standards they are learning. More time must be in planning and researching different way to offer mathematical concepts.

I emphasized that the students are all different and are in different learning positions. As teachers we need to teach using different techniques that will speak to a variety of students. To be fair we have to know where our students are and try to reach them.

I loved playing with the infographic. I could lose a lot of time playing with this. I have ideas of how to use this. I immediately shared this feature with other teachers and some were aware of the program, but didn’t like the program that they were using. For the life of me I couldn’t get it into my blog, everywhere else, but in my blog.

Differentiation infographic

What is differentiated instruction?

It is quite known that all students are different and in the same token they learn differently. Smith, author of Differentiating instruction with technology in the middle school classroom, points out the differences as emotional, physical and intellectual developments. Teachers need to be aware of the differences and be able to guide the students through difficulties that impact the students’ lives in a way that interferes with their education.

As teachers we need to focus on the standards and guide all students to success in implementing their knowledge of the standards. This is where differentiated instruction comes in and teachers need to take a standard and teach it in such a way that all students are given the opportunity to learn, understand and apply the standard in different ways. The ultimate goal is that all students will have substantial growth in learning the standard being taught.

In Tomlinson’s book, How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms, she makes it clear that “. . . the teacher assumes that different learners have differing needs. Therefore, the teacher proactively plans a variety of ways to “get at” and express learning”. The key word is “proactively” plans. In order to differentiate in the classroom in a manner of effectiveness a teacher must proactively plan to differentiate in their lessons expecting to adjust their lessons. With differentiated instruction, the progress of students’ learning is also a responsibility of the student. Differentiated instructions is a team effort of the teacher and the student.

As Tomlinson insinuates in her book, teachers need to guide students into thinking on their own, take the responsibility for learning and learn to feed the intrinsic pride for accomplishing the goal. This will prepare students for better opportunities in their lifetime.

There are at least four different elements teachers can use based on students readiness, interest, or learning profile; namely Content, Process, Products, Learning environment. (Tomlinson, 2000) The Content can consist of different reading levels, vocabulary, reading buddies, etc. The Process can vary by tiering, centers, agenda created by the teacher, manipulatives, depth of a topic, etc. The Products can consist of how they want to express what they have learned, rubrics, allowing an option for groups, create their own product assignment, etc. The Learning environment can be a quiet place, materials that reflect home settings, guidelines for independent work, routines, allowing students to move around to learn, etc.

A variety of teaching strategies are used throughout a lesson. Tomlinson suggest oscillating teaching whole class, student work and small group work. This gives students an opportunity to discuss and review the concepts. As the teacher paves the pathway of learning in a variety of ways the students must choose to walk the path put before them. It takes teamwork from the teacher and the student in order to accomplish the task at hand.


Smith, G., Thorne, S. (2009) Differentiating instruction with technology in the middle school. Eugene, Or. USA. Proquest. Ebrary. 29-39.

Tomlinson, C. (2001) How to differentiated instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA USA. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD).


Tomlinson, C. (2000). What is differentiated instruction? Reading Rockets. Retrieved from

Weselby, C. (2014) What is differentiated instruction? Concordia Online Education. Retrieved from


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