Lesson planning and formative assessment remind me of planning a day trip. When I prepare for a trip, I like to have a plan or a route for where I'll go, where I'll park once I'm there, and what I'll do. Sometimes I need to make adjustments along the way, such as taking an alternative route when the street has construction work or is too congested. Other times, when I get there, the parking lot might be full, or I might find a more cost effective lot to park in.
Lesson plans and formative assessment are similar because I start with a plan, but once I'm there, I realize that adjusting my plan to fit the circumstances and student needs are in our best interests.
The formative assessments provide me with feedback on which route to take, what speed to progress at, and what pit stops I should make next.
I've done my formative assessment. Now what?
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I know the direction I want to travel in, however the pathways I choose are most often based on readiness.
If I am able to fill those gaps by building background knowledge or providing enrichment, then that's what I do.
If I need to work with small groups because of vast differences in readiness, then I differentiate the content (such as curriculum compacting, tiering lessons, learning contracts, i-Searches, or webquests).
If I want more flexibility to switch from small group, to whole group, from facilitator's role to a director's role, then I often choose differentiation based on product (such as choice boards, Tic-Tac-Toe boards, RAFT, or options based on interest, learning style, or readiness).
If it's a huge concept that needs to go in deep, I'll look to PBL, which addresses differentiation on multiple levels.
No matter what, I always differentiate the process by helping them connect meaning, ideas, concepts, and information in various ways. I try to address their learning styles throughout the process, even during my "traditional" type of lessons with direct instruction.
Ways to differentiate process and raise rigor
Differentiating the process takes the least amount of time and effort on my part. Differentiating the process helps students with various learning styles and strengths to make connections and meaning for them. It boosts rigor because making these connections go beyond filling in the bubble or completing a worksheet.
Some examples are:
- Questioning techniques
- KWL (and variations of this)
- Graphic organizers
- Question-Answer Relationships (QAR)
Having norms and procedures in place to create a positive and constructive learning environment is a necessity for differentiation. Remembering that the purpose of assessment is to provide feedback to improve, and to help us know the best route to take for learning.
- How does differentiating raise rigor?
- What are your favorite ways to differentiate the process?
- What are some other instructional practices that makes a huge impact, with little teacher prep?