Saturday, February 23, 2013

Differentiation Strategies

Silent Ball with a "Dan Massimino Twist"

This is a strategy that ALL of my students beg for on a weekly basis.  It consists of the game of Silent ball with a content or vocabulary emphasis. This is a great review game/activity and a was to increase understanding in content areas. This strategy also is flexible with differentiation for students because teachers are able to pick questions based on their knowledge of where each learner is. The teacher will be able to scaffold levels of questions and build understanding. 

Teacher introduces and explains the rules of silent ball: 
• Teacher is the only referee regarding bad passes and missed 
• Talking or making sounds is an out
• Missed catch or bad pass is an out
• A “good” throw does not include “fast balls” (model good throws for students)
• Students that are out must remain quiet at their desks and not interfere 
with the game in any way

1. No one can talk or make a sound; that is the object of the game 
2. Students may stand in a circle or in any 
arrangement to facilitate tossing the ball to each other around the 
3. Make a good throw to a classmate; explain that students cannot throw 
back to the person who threw to them or the person next door to them
4. If student misses the ball or makes a bad pass, student is out.
5. When the student gets out, the teacher must ask him/her a question based on classroom content or vocabulary. - I list ALL vocabulary for all content areas on one whiteboard in my room so students are able to look at the board and constantly be reminded of the words we have learned so far. 
6. The student then must sit at his/her desk until the next round
5. Play until all students are seated; last two are the champs!

~Twist on the Game taught to Miss Koch by Dan Massimino


"You already know how effective games can be in the classroom. Games are popular with students because they break up the normal routine and give everyone a chance to have some fun. You will generally find that they all pay attention when you've got a little healthy competition going on... If you teach a content-based subject, such as English, Science, or Social Studies, playing this kind of baseball may be a fine way to review and even teach your material as well as produce real enthusiasm in your students."

  1. Draw a diagram of a baseball diamond on the board and mark out a baseball diamond around the room. 
  2. The teacher, as the pitcher, ask the first student a question about your subject.
  3. A player is also out if he or she answers incorrectly.
  4. On the other hand, if the answer is correct, that player goes to first base and you make a mark on your baseball diamond on the board. 
  5. Then ask the second player a question, and if the answer is right, he or she goes to first base and pushes the first player to second base. Each question advances the players around the diamond by one base until the bases are loaded. 
  6. If the next student answers correctly, then he or she pushes everyone else around the bases until the player on third base comes home and then that team has one run. You continue playing until that team has three outs, at which time the other team is up to bat.
"You will see that the whole class concentrates on the questions as they are asked and genuine suspense develops as each player tries to answer and get on base. If you play this game regularly you will find that your students begin studying more so as to know the answers"
by David Slutz (


Students today need a diverse range of experiences and by using PowerPoint can help increase that diversity. This is a strategy to enhance student learning through engaging trivia games. This game requires teacher preparation beforehand but is well worth the work for student review and enjoyment. 

  1. Divide the class into two groups or teams
  2. One person from the team to go first will pick a category from the game board and the amount of the question. 
  3. Students can collaborate to come up with an answer, or have students work individually and write their answers on whiteboards. 
  4. Write the points earned under each team name as they answer correctly. Add points for correct responses or subtract points for incorrect responses. 

Take a Stand

"Take a Stand enables the teacher to quickly assess students' comprehension of a lesson and the EL's to practice their listening skills." Teachers will begin by making a statement to students in regards to current events, a story or novel, or an issue. After quiet time is given to students, a cue will be given to "Take a Stand" asking students to stand if they agree with the statement and stay seated if they disagree.  Students must be prepared to give a rationale for agreeing or disagreeing with the statement. 

This strategy can be used individually or in groups/teams. The team discusses the statement made by the teacher, comes to a decision and then decides to stand or stay seated by agreeing or disagreeing. As a group, a rationale must be made. 

(99 Ideas and Activities for Teaching English Learners with The SIOP Model, page 116)

Literature Circles

"This lesson provides a basic introduction to literature circles, a collaborative and student-centered reading strategy. Students begin by selecting a book together then are introduced to the four jobs in the Literature Circles: Discussion Director, Literary Luminary, Vocabulary Enricher, and Checker. The teacher and student volunteers model the task for each of the four roles, and then students practice the strategies. The process demonstrates the different roles and allows students to practice the techniques before they are responsible for completing the tasks on their own. After this introduction, students are ready to use the strategy independently, rotating the roles through four-person groups as they read the books they have chosen. The lesson can then be followed with a more extensive literature circle project."

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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down is a strategy that can be used several different ways in the classroom. It can be used much like Take a Stand where you are agreeing or disagreeing on a subject matter and give a justification on the issue. It can also be used as a type of formative assessment. I ask my students to be honest in all responses given. I tell my students to give me a thumbs up if they understand what I have taught and could teach it to someone else, thumbs sideways if they think they sort of have it but could use some further practice, and thumbs down if they need some one-on-one teacher assistance. It gives me immediate feedback about particular students who need redirection or reteaching and who has it down. 

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Cootie Catchers

"Lately I have really gotten excited about using cootie catchers (fortune tellers) in my classroom. I had actually thought that I had come up with the idea of using them in the classroom, but no, they're all over the place!" -Tabitha from Flapjack Educational Resources

Possible uses for this activity:
  • spelling words
  • vocabulary words
  • foreign language vocabulary and expressions
  • math problems
  • science or social studies content
  • language vocabulary- parts of speech
  • prefixes and suffixes
The possibilities are endless really! 


Menus/Student Projects that Allow Freedom of Choice

Giving students the power of choice and the power to create is an extremely beneficial tool in the hands of the teacher. Menus or student projects that allow for freedom of choice can also be called Layered Curriculum. Teachers can design a multitude of projects and layers that the projects may fall under. Students can then choose which layer they would like to work under and what project to create. Some students may choose to work under a difficult layer and complete a large project, while other students may choose to work under an easier level but must complete several of the projects to meet expectations. 

The below explanation is a project I created for my students' final for cells. I was absolutely blown away by their work and their means to create. I had some students design posters, one made a video that set up analogies for parts around her home and how it related to organelles in the cell, and one designed a car using a computer and labeled all the parts of the car to match the organelle. Projects were displayed in the hallway for all to see and students and staff ranted and raved over their fabulous work! 5th grade students felt quite accomplished! 

CELLS FINAL PROJECT-designed by Miss Koch
You will be making a model, movie, float, cake, catalog, brochure, menu, or map that shows what the cell is, but in a different light. Be CREATIVE! It does not have to be an actual cell. For example, if you make a Starship, the nucleus would be the bridge of the ship because that is what runs the entire ship.  The object of this activity is to make a connection like that for you to remember.

MUST DO’S! What you need to include in your cell project:
1.     Illustrations by YOU not the computer, this is to be all hand done not computer generated
2.     A description of each part of the cell as it is represented in your project (make me want to eat the ribs or go ride that ride in the amusement park or buy that item in your catalog) and an explanation of why you made it that so I can see how you made the connection.
3.     Parts of the cell you must use: Nucleus, Ribosome, Lysosome, Endoplasmic Reticulum,  Cytoplasm, Golgi Apparatus, (Chloroplast), Mitochondria, Nucleolus, Cell  Wall, Vacuole, Cell membrane (You use only 10 of the 12 parts listed)

Be creative with this assignment! It is the creativity that will help you remember parts of the cell and their functions! 

This "Frankenstein" was created by one of my students for this assignment. All of his body parts set up an analogy for a part of the cell and how the organelle functioned like that body part. Overall, I was so incredibly impressed with my students' ability to think and create some amazing pieces of work for this assignment. 


rubric is an explicit set of criteria used for assessing a particular type of work or performance. A rubric usually also includes levels of potential achievement for each criterion, and sometimes also includes work or performance samples that typify each of those levels.  Levels of achievement are often given numerical scores.  A summary score for the work being assessed may be produced by adding the scores for each criterion. The rubric may also include space for the judge to describe the reasons for each judgment or to make suggestions for the author. (

This is the rubric that I created to grade my students on the Cell Final Project explained above. It is an extremely simple rubric, but it guided students toward higher achievement because they knew my expectations for the project and also knew how they could score well. 

Points Worth
Total Points (50 pts total)
Each part of the cell is used
10 pts possible

Description of part
10 pts possible

Explanation of part
10 pts possible

10 pts possible

Creativity, neatness, and originality
10 pts possible
Total Points Scored

Final Score

45-50 points = 4 points (Exceeding standards: Creativity, neatness and originality is above and beyond! Student amazed me!)
40-44 points = 3 points (At grade level/proficient: Student did a nice job and completed all sections of assignment to a satisfactory level)
30-39 points= 2 points (Below grade level/Basic: Student did not complete all sections of assignment to a satisfactory level)
20-29 points= 1 point and redo project (Below Basic: Student did not complete required parts of assignment and needs to redo project for a better grade.)
0-19 points= 0 points and redo project (Incomplete: Student did not complete required parts of assignment and needs to redo project for a better grade.)

I also created this rubric for a presentation my students are going to give based off of a persuasive writing piece. This is a self evaluation for students and a peer evaluation to grade their group members. 

Creating Posters, Projects, Murals, and Mobiles

Kids love working big and they also love showing their creativity off! This strategy allows students to share information and show what they have learned on large paper. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of a subject by summarizing, illustrating, and writing captions to explain their topic. Be prepared to be amazed by the quality of their work and knowledge! 

(Strategies that Work- Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement, Harvey & Goudvis, page 216)
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