Differentiated Instruction and Critical Thinking

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Writing Tips

  • Writers need fivethings to write well:
  • Ask students to write a lot – every day is not too much. We don’t learn to swim by staring at the water. From 1998 NAEP Study: There’s a strong correlation between the amount of writing students did and how well they scored on reading assessments. (p. 145, Gallagher)
  • If students are anxious about their writing, have them write under a pseudonym known only to you.

Writing Tips

  • Start small. Have the first writings be only a few sentences or lines.
  • The best thinking for most writers comes after 15 to 20 minutes of writing.
  • “If a student knows that her writing will be evaluated with heavy emphasis on mechanics and spelling, she will: use only words she’s sure she can spell, keep sentences simple to avoid making mistakes, avoid any unusual punctuation situations, stick to ordinary structures, all of which adds up to no risk, no stretching, little growth, and even less excitement or discovery.”
  • -- Author and Writing Teacher, Marjorie Frank
  • ·       

Writing Tips

  • “What you can say, you can write.”
  • -- Marjorie Frank
  • Writing is teaching the reader, and teaching is a very effective way to learn.
  • We can write our way into a basic understanding of anything.
  • Writing is primarily a thinking process, not putting marks on paper process.
  • Immerse students in models. They will outgrow them.

Writing Tips

  • Writing makes us vulnerable. Treat students’ writing with elevated sensitivity.
  • Tell students to write a paper that begs to be read aloud.
  • Every sentence must further the message or it should be tossed.
  • Avoid turning students into parrots.

Writing Concisely

  • Avoid Redundancies and Saying the Same thing in different ways: 
  • more additions, absolutely certain/essential/necessary, advance forward, 2:00 a.m. in the morning, baby puppy/kitten, blended together, brief moment, deliberate lie, foreign imports, necessary requirement, old antique, orbiting satellite, preliminary draft, proceed ahead, raise up, refer back, repeat over, tiny particle, true facts, unexpected surprise, violent explosion, visible to the eye, while at the same time.
  • Cut to the Chase:
  • “A small number of people” – “three people”
  • “His whole speech bothered me.” – “His speech bothered me.”
  • -- William Brohaugh’s book, Write Tight, 1993, Writer’s Digest Books


  • Students edit, not the teachers.
  • Shorten text and edit daily.
  • Assess students’ editing and revising.
  • If helpful, edit in waves.
  • Emphasize the power of editing and revision:
    • “Great books are never written; they are always re-written.” -- Michael Crichton

Some Great “Silver Bullets” from Janet Allen:

  • Some Great “Silver Bullets” from Janet Allen:
  • Vocabulary development is directly proportional to time spent reading.
  • Three avenues to effective vocabulary instruction: integration, repetition, and meaningful use. (Nagy et al., 1988)
  • Teach no more than 8 to 10 new words outside of reading per week.
  • Don’t ask students to write sentences with the vocabulary terms until they’ve studied them in depth.

Use words over and over in natural flow of conversation – model, model, model – normalize their use. Have students practice saying the words – even choral recitation – just to visualize themselves saying it.

  • Use words over and over in natural flow of conversation – model, model, model – normalize their use. Have students practice saying the words – even choral recitation – just to visualize themselves saying it.
  • Definition approach is ineffective by itself. (Baumann and Kameenui, 1991)
  • Relying solely on context clues is often ineffective, but knowing the definition with context clues can be very effective. (Baumann and Kameenui, 1991)

Help with Paraphrasing

  • Build students’ vocabulary and verbal dexterity. Post word banks. Use vocabulary immersion.
  • Provide repeated experiences with varied sentence combinations and word play.
  • Use repeated think-alouds of a paraphraser at work from both teacher and students.
  • Provide ample opportunities to assess paraphrasings of original text or experience.
  • Allow students to copy models -- They’ll outgrow them.
  • Take a page from the active listening lessons -- “So what you’re saying is…”
  • Provide repeated experiences with encapsulation such as creating newspaper headlines.
  • Play renaming and clue games such as Password, Taboo, and $25,000 Pyramid.

Great Vocabulary Acquisition Ideas

  • Shape spellings
  • Restaurant Menu
  • Wanted Dead or Alive Posters
  • Taboo Cards
  • Vocabulary Rummy Cards
  • Competitive Conversation using vocabulary
  • Word Walls
  • Only 8-10 words per week!

The Frayer Model [Frayer, Frederick, Klausmeier, 1969]

  • Essential Characteristics
  • Non- Essential Characteristics
  • Examples
  • Non-examples
  • < Topic >

Taboo Cards

  • Photosynthesis
  • Light
  • Green
  • Water
  • Sun
  • Chlorophyll
  • Plant
  • Produce

One-Word Summaries

  • “The new government regulations for the meat-packing industry in the 1920’s could be seen as an opportunity…,”
  • “Picasso’s work is actually an argument for….,”
  • “NASA’s battle with Rockwell industries over the warnings about frozen temperatures and the O-rings on the space shuttle were trench warfare….”
  • Basic Idea: Argue for or against the word as a good description for the topic.

Exclusion Brainstorming

  • The student identifies the word/concept that does not belong with the others, then either orally or in writing explains his reasoning:
  • Mixtures – plural, separable, dissolves, no formula
  • Compounds – chemically combined, new properties, has formula, no composition
  • Solutions – heterogeneous mixture, dissolved particles, saturated and unsaturated, heat increases
  • Suspensions – clear, no dissolving, settles upon standing, larger than molecules


  • 3 – Identify three characteristics of Renaissance art
  • that differed from art of the Middle Ages
  • 2 – List two important scientific debates that occurred
  • during the Renaissance
  • 1 – Provide one good reason why “rebirth” is an
  • appropriate term to describe the Renaissance
  • 3 – List three applications for slope, y-intercept
  • knowledge in the professional world
  • 2 – Identify two skills students must have in order to
  • determine slope and y-intercept from a set of points
  • on a plane
  • 1 – If (x1, y1) are the coordinates of a point W in a
  • plane, and (x2, y2) are the coordinates of a different
  • point Y, then the slope of line WY is what?

Word Morphology: Teach Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes!

  • Mal – badly, poor
  • Meta – beyond, after, change
  • Mis – incorrect, bad
  • Mono – one
  • Multi – many
  • Neo – new
  • Non – not
  • Ob, of, op, oc – toward, against
  • Oct – eight
  • Paleo – ancient
  • Para – beside, almost
  •   Penta – five
  •   Per – throughout, completely
  •   Peri – around
  •   Poly – many
  •   Post – after
  •   Pre – before
  •   Pseudo – false

Concept Ladder (J.W. Gillet, C. Temple, 1986, as described in Inside Words, Janet Allen)

  • Concept:
  • Causes of:
  • Effects of:
  • Language associated with:
  • Words that mean the same as:
  • Historical examples:
  • Contemporary examples:
  • Evidence of:
  • Literature connections made:

“Word Link”

  • Each student gets a word.
  • In partners, students share the link(s) between their individual words.
  • Partner team joins another partner team, forming a “word cluster.”
  • All four students identify the links among their words and share those links with the class.
  • -- Yopp, Ruth Helen. “Word Links: A Strategy for Developing Word Knowledge,” Voices in the Middle, Vol. 15, Number 1, September 2007, National Council Teachers of English

  • In-Out Game: Students determine the classification a teacher’s statements exemplify, then they confirm their hypothesis by offering elements “in the club” and elements “out of the club.” They don’t identify the club, just the items in and out of it. If the students’ suggestions fit the pattern, the teacher invites them to be a part of the club. The game continues until everyone is a member.
  • Example: She is in the club but the class is not. They are in the club, but the penguins are not. You are in the club, but the donuts are not. Give me something in and out of the club.” A student guesses correctly that the club is for personal pronouns, so she says, “We are in the club, but moon rocks are not.” To make it a bit more complex, announce the club’s elements and non-elements in unusual ways that must also be exemplified by the students, such as making all the items in and out of the club alliterative or related in some way. This can be as obvious or as complex as you want it to be.

Extreme Vocabulary (Making Words Their Own: Building Foundations for Powerful Vocabulary, 2008)

  • Distribute word pairs of opposites.
  • In partners, students place these words at opposite ends of a continuum drawn on paper (or hung as tent cards on rope), and in between the extremes, they place words that fall along the continuum of meaning. For example -- extremes of temperature: Freezing --- Cold --- Tepid --- Warm --- Hot --- Boiling
  • Once students ge the idea, try something more complex, such as inconsolable and carefree. Where would despondent fit? How about concerned, content, worried, and satisfied? As students discuss the proper positioning of the words and physically move the tent cards back and forth, students draw on visual cues and cement the definitions in their minds. If finding the specific words to go between the two extremes is difficult at first, provide suggestions that students study then place in the sequence.
  • Ask students to explain their rationale for their choices and positions. Classmates critique their decisions. Does “inconsolable---despondent--–worried--–concerned--–content--–satisfied--–carefree” work sequentially? Why or why not?


  • Groups of students line up according to criteria. Each student holds an index card identifying what he or she is portraying.
  • Students discuss everyone’s position with one another -- posing questions, disagreeing, and explaining rationales.


  • Students can line-up according to:
  • chronology, sequences in math problems, components of an essay, equations, sentences, verb tense, scientific process/cycle, patterns: alternating, category/example, increasing/decreasing degree, chromatic scale, sequence of events, cause/effect, components of a larger topic, opposites, synonyms

Human Continuum

  • A
  • D

Human Continuum

  • Use a human continuum. Place a long strip of masking tape across the middle of the floor, with an "Agree" or “Yes” taped at one end, and "Disagree" or “No” at the other end. Put a notch in the middle for those unwilling to commit to either side. Read statements about the day’s concepts aloud while students literally stand where they believe along the continuum. Be pushy – ask students to defend their positions.

“Haunker Hawser”

  • Supplies: 100-foot rope, two pairs of gloves, two crates or two, round wood boards:

Ropes Course Games

Ropes Course Games

  • Electric Fence (Getting over triangle fence without touching)
  • Spider Web (Pass bodies through “webbing” withot ringing the attached bells)
  • Group Balance (2’X2’ platform on which everyone stands and sings a short song)
  • Nitro-glycerin Relocation (previous slide)
  • Trust Falls (circle style or from a chair)


  • Mindware: www.mindwareonline.com (1-800-999-0398)
  • Fluegelman, Andrew, Editor. The New Games Book, Headlands Press Book, Doubeday and Company, New York, 1976
  • Henton, Mary (1996) Adventure in the Classroom. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt
  • Lundberg, Elaine M.; Thurston, Cheryl Miller. (1997) If They’re Laughing… Fort Collins, Colorado: Cottonwood Press, Inc.
  • Rohnke, K. (1984). Silver Bullets. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt.
  • Rohnke, K. & Butler, S. (1995). QuickSilver. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt
  • Rohnke, K. (1991). The Bottomless Bag Again. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt
  • Rohnke, K. (1991). Bottomless Baggie. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt
  • Rohnke, K. (1989). Cowstail and Cobras II. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt
  • Begin with NMSA publications on the unique nature of the young adolescent mind!
  • David Sousa – How the Brain Learns, How the Special Needs Brain Learns, How Brain Learns to Read, How the Gifted Brain Learns, How the Brain Learns Math, How the Brain Influences Behavior, How the Brain Learns in t he Differentiated Classroom (with Carol Ann Tomlinson, 2010)
  • Pat Wolfe – Brain Matters
  • Eric Jensen – Different Brains, Different Learners, and others
  • Marilee Sprenger – How to Teach So Students Remember
  • Barbara Strauch – The Primal Teen
  • John Medina – Brain Rules
  • Robin Fogarty – anything by her
  • Great Resources on Cognitive Science:

Great Resources to Further your Thinking and Repertoire

  • Armstrong, Thomas. Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. 2nd Edition, ASCD, 1994, 2000
  • Beers, Kylene. (2003) When Kids Can’t Read What Teachers
  • Can Do, Heineman
  • Beers, Kylene and Samuels, Barabara G. (1998) Into Focus:
  • Understanding and Creating Middle School Readers. Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc.
  • Benjamin, Amy. Differentiating Instruction: A Guide for Middle and High School Teachers, Eye on Education, 2002
  • Burke, Kay. What to Do With the Kid Who…: Developing
  • Cooperation, Self-Discipline, and Responsibility in the
  • Classroom, Skylight Professional Development, 2001
  • Forsten, Char; Grant, Jim; Hollas, Betty. Differentiated Instruction: Different Strategies for Different Learners, Crystal Springs Books, 2001
  • Forsten, Char: Grant, Jim; Hollas, Betty. Differentiating Textbooks: Strategies to Improve Student Comprehension and Motivation, Crystal Springs Books
  • Frender, Gloria. Learning to Learn: Strengthening Study Skills and Brain Power, Incentive Publications, Inc., 1990

Great Resources to Further your Thinking and Repertoire

  • Glynn, Carol. Learning on their Feet: A Sourcebook for
  • Kinesthetic Learning Across the Curriculum, Discover
  • Writing Press, 2001
  • Heacox, Diane, Ed.D. Making Differentiation a Habit, Free Spirit Publishing, 2009
  • Heacox, Diane, Ed.D. Differentiated Instruction in the Regular Classroom, Grades 3 – 12, Free Spirit Publishing, 2000
  • Hyerle, David. A Field Guide to Visual Tools, ASCD, 2000
  • Jensen, Eric. Different Brains, Different Learners (The
  • Brain Store, 800-325-4769, www.thebrainstore.com)
  • Lavoie, Richard. How Difficult Can This Be? The F.A.T.
  • City Workshop, WETA Video, P.O. box 2626, Washington, D.C.,
  • 20013-2631 (703) 998-3293. The video costs $49.95. Also
  • available at www.Ldonline.
  • Levine, Mel. All Kinds of Minds
  • Levine, Mel. The Myth of Laziness
  • Marzano, Robert J. A Different Kind of Classroom: Teaching with Dimensions of Learning, ASCD, 1992.
  • Marzano, Robert J.; Pickering, Debra J.; Pollock, Jane E. Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, ASCD, 2001

Northey, Sheryn. Handbook for Differentiated Instruction, Eye on Education, 2005

  • Northey, Sheryn. Handbook for Differentiated Instruction, Eye on Education, 2005
  • Purkey, William W.; Novak, John M. Inviting School Success: A Self-Concept Approach to Teaching and Learning, Wadsworth Publishing, 1984
  • Rogers, Spence; Ludington, Jim; Graham, Shari. Motivation & Learning: Practical Teaching Tips for Block Schedules, Brain-Based Learning, Multiple Intelligences, Improved Student Motivation, Increased Achievement, Peak Learning Systems, Evergreen, CO. 1998, To order, call: 303-679-9780
  • Rutherford, Paula. Instruction for All Students, Just ASK Publications, Inc (703) 535-5432, 1998
  • Sousa, David. How the Special Needs Brain Learns, Corwin Press, 2001
  • Sprenger, Marilee. How to Teach So Students Remember, ASCD, 2005
  • Sternberg, Robert J.; Grigorenko, Elena L. Teaching for Successful Intelligence: To Increase Student Learning and Achievement, Skylight Training and Publishing, 2001
  • Strong, Richard W.; Silver, Harvey F.; Perini, Matthew J.; Tuculescu, Gregory M. Reading for Academic Success: Powerful Strategies for Struggling, Average, and Advanced Readers, Grades 7-12, Corwin Press, 2002

Tomlinson, Carol Ann --

  • Tomlinson, Carol Ann --
  • Fulfilling the Promise of the Differentiated Classroom, ASCD, 2003
  • How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms, ASCD, 1995
  • The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, ASCD, 1999
  • At Work in the Differentiated Classroom (VIDEO), ASCD, 2001
  • Differentiation in Practice: A Resource Guide for Differentiating Curriculum, Grades 5-9. ASCD, 2003 (There’s one for K-5 and 9-12 as well)
  • Integrating, with Jay McTighe, 2006, ASCD (This combines UBD and DI)
  • Tovani, Cris. I Read It, But I Don’t Get It. Stenhouse Publishers, 2001
  • Wolfe, Patricia. Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice, ASCD, 2001
  • Wormeli, Rick. Metaphors & Analogies: Power Tools for Teaching any Subject, Stenhouse Publishers, 2009.AQ
  • Wormeli, Rick. Differentiation: From Planning to Practice, Grades 6-12, Stenhouse Publishers, 2007
  • Wormeli, Rick. Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessment and Grading in the Differeniated Classroom, Stenhouse 2006
  • Wormeli, Rick. Summarization in Any Subject, ASCD, 2005
  • Wormeli, Rick. Day One and Beyond, Stenhouse Publishers, 2003
  • Wormeli, Rick. Meet Me in the Middle, Stenhouse Publishers, 2001

Where do we go from today?

  • 3 X 3 X 3!
  • -- 3 Strategies/Principles/Aspects that will be in your thinking in the next three to four weeks
  • -- 3 Topics/Skills you want to pursue in more depth
  • -- 3 Steps you will take to pursue those three topics

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