the perceived obstacles, differentiation at the high
school level is not difficult. Many of us have the mental
model that differentiation belongs at the elementary
level, with learning stations filled with colorful blocks
and tiny chairs. But, break out of that mental perception
and see how to differentiate your high school classroom,
despite the logistical issues, complex curricula and
One: Define your learning objectives and then OFFER
ASSIGNMENT CHOICES for each one. Many of us have been
teaching for so long that we haven’t really stopped
to think about individual learning objectives in a teaching
unit. We know the topics we’re covering and the way
in which we design our lessons and student projects,
but have forgotten what the individual learning objectives
are. So begin by listing those and then come up with
at least two different assignment choices that might
lead to that learning.
Two: Offer LECTURES as OPTIONAL. Get rid of the notion
of whole-class lectures. These do not fit the learning
style of many of our students, set us up for attention
and control battles and eat away at valuable class time.
So offer your short lecture as an option and either
put it in the middle of the class period, or record
it and upload it for students to watch and listen at
a computer station or on their tablets during class
or at home.
Three: Provide WRITTEN STUDENT LESSON PLANS for student-centered
classrooms. Classrooms should be run so that students
come in and get started on their learning immediately.
A student-started classroom is preferred over a teacher-started
one. I always suggest to teachers that if you are going
to lecture, put it in the middle of the class period,
rather than the beginning. Students come in, get their
assignment plans out and get to work without any instructions
from the teacher.
Four: Provide a VARIETY OF LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS. Seated
areas, reading areas, standing desk areas, lab areas,
small group work areas - these are all possibilities
for the room. Take your cues here from a kindergarten
room, but blow it up to fit adolescents. The physical
environment should make it clear that this is a student-centered
Five: Play the role of ACTIVE FACILITATOR and COACH.
You, as the teacher are the facilitator in this room
and should be on the move constantly. Check with students
as to their learning, their plan and their progress.
Avoid the temptation to sit at a desk while students
work. Keep structure and deadlines tight. Make sure
that something is due each day. Students need a schedule
for completing the unit in the assigned time.
Further: Convert to a complete
Layered Curriculum(R) classroom by adding Accountability
and more complex learning tied to grading.
Your High School Classroom: Overcoming the obstacles.