Differentiation in Virtual and Socially Distanced Classrooms

We’re back! Unfortunately, we know that as hard as you are working, the way the education system is set up right now is not the best fit for many of our students. Now, more than ever, intentional differentiation is needed – and of course it’s at a time when your plates are already super full!

I want to add this image out of our monthly support membership, Clarity, to bring a little clarity to the concept of differentiation.

So let’s be really specific in how we can differentiate quickly and effectively for students today.

Let’s start with the context. For many students, their little worlds have been rocked, and this has created a completely different context for them to view content from…use this!

Virtually – ask students what to tell you what their day-to-day looks like (I would suggest you have them turn this or discuss it with you privately). Use their answers to guide the context in which you present the content. Have them show you items at home that connect to a character you are reading about, or a historical figure they are learning about, or a word problem in math.

For example: Lewis and Clark were explorers who went on a expedition to explore the Missouri River and the Lousiana purchase. Lewis learned botany, zoology and celestial navigation and medicine. Why do you think he chose to learn these things? What would you want to learn now if you were sent to explore new lands in 2020. What would you bring? (Lewis also brought a dog!) Show me through the screen what you bring from your house!

Here’s a math example: We are learning about parallel, perpendicular and linear lines. I’m going to call out a type of line, and you either draw something in your house or go get it (if you can) that matches the type of line.

“Perpendicular” – Students draw window panes, show the lines on a book, cross 2 pencils at a 90 degree angle, ect.

The students who are socially distancing in class have also been at home for a very long time, and these examples may be very fresh on their minds as well. Allow students to use common associations – like movies that have recently come out, video games, and recent news stories (depending on the age of the students). Don’t be afraid to get in their world.

Now let’s talk about the process. This is so important, and I think this is slipping some. For most students, they are probably going to tell you that virtual learning is not their ideal way to learn. Virtual learning tends to lean more toward individual input and output (students watch a video or listen to direct teach and then complete an individual assignment). We know this isn’t best practice. we know that students need interaction with each other and with the content. To go through the productive struggle without everything being graded (even if they get to retake it). To learn through different modalities – hands on, visual, auditory…Don’t forget!

If you are virtual, we offer a resource, 60 Activities for Thinking and Learning at Home, that can help you get your creative brain going with activities that students can do at home. We are opening this back up for free downloads for a limited time! We also have started a YouTube Channel with short videos simply giving tips and strategies! Check it out! …. Your brain only has so much bandwith…take advantage of free resources!

Just remember, the more the students can do in their own learning, the more they will learn. Have them repeat hand motions, act a concept out, play a game, watch videos, create videos, discuss with each other, listen to music…the possibilities are endless, but don’t forget to give options!

Lastly, let’s look at the product. Everything doesn’t have to be for a grade, even virtually! Allow students to have options in how they show their learning. Here are some easy options:

  1. Create a FlipGrid video (or any video) to explain learning.
  2. Create a quiz over a text read or video watched to give to a partner.
  3. Answer multiple choice questions on a platform like Quizzes or Kahoot.
  4. Write a letter to a historical figure agreeing or disagreeing with a position.
  5. Grade a “quiz” that you took as the teacher in math and explain any problems you got wrong.
  6. Write an alternate ending to a story changing either the setting or conflict and explain how it affected the plot.

Find a few strategies for differentiation and stick with them! There are so many ideas! Don’t get overwhelmed!

Want more helpful hints in planning? I’d love to work with you EACH month in planning, but the deadline if fast approaching! Click here for more on Clarity, our monthly support in planning system!

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See you there!

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