Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Monday, March 9, 2015

#Differentiation Through Text Selection

Teachers in one elementary school that I observed had an issue related to differentiation of content. About 75% of their students scored above grade level on state testing, and a large percentage of those students were in gifted classes. They were concerned that many of their students were not being challenged. The fifth-grade teachers typically chose one novel for all of the students to read each month. One teacher explained, “I’m not sure we’re really meeting anyone’s needs. The books are fun, but they are too hard for a few students, and I think they are probably too easy for a good portion of my students.”

The teachers wanted to read a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead of choosing one book, we found four biographies at varying levels of readability. The students were then organized in groups based on their abil- ity to read and discuss the novels. Each teacher met with one of the four groups to facilitate discussions and ensure understanding. Then, the students returned to their original classrooms and all of the teachers led whole-group discussions about Martin Luther King, Jr. A key element of this process was that each of the books contained some information that the other groups had not read. During the class discussion, the teachers asked ques- tions to elicit specific information from each group.

One of the benefits was that even students in the lowest reading group had information to contribute to the discussion, reinforcing everyone’s im- portance to the group. Students who could read at a higher level were challenged to do so. Finally, students were placed into new groups with others who had read different books so that they could create a final project about Martin Luther King, Jr. 

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