I remember my early assumptions about differentiated instruction. I remember thinking, like many do, that differentiation would require the careful design of three separate approaches for each day’s learning. I remember worrying about how I would ever accomplish such a thing. I worried that my kids would fall through the cracks.

I remember not wanting to try. I’m sure my former building principal remembers this well, too.

One of the greatest discoveries that I made about differentiation during those early years was that it didn’t have to involve multiplying one lesson by three. I remember realizing that differentiation could involve taking a whole and dividing it into its necessary parts. How did I define what was necessary? I got to know my kids.

I remember looking at a list of discussion questions that I often posed to students after reading. I remember breaking that large list into three smaller pieces. I gave each group of students the questions that they were best able to respond to. I stopped asking the questions from the front of the room. I let them talk in smaller groups, and then we came together to find discover what we knew. It was a small but important shift in my understanding. I remember realizing the value of that.

Differentiation doesn’t have to look like hours of prep work. Maybe it’s not about creating more. Maybe it’s about revisioning what we’ve already created. Maybe that’s true of most best practices.


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