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If you have anything to do with a classroom or education, you have probably heard the term “differentiation” over and over and over again. We have a good idea of what it is, but with the diversity of learners in our classrooms, the challenges to implementing differentiation seems insurmountable. Every resource has a different idea of how best to utilize differentiation in a classroom. One method that I use in my high school science class (covering special education through advanced placement) are choiceboards.
In this blog post, I am going to cover some types that I have found work well in my classrooms that can be easily adapted for use in any classroom. These are simply things I use to help me differentiate, but they’re not the only way. They’re a great way to incorporate graphic organizers while allowing student choice and teacher structure.
We’re all familiar with the game Tic-Tac-Toe. How on Earth does it apply to differentiation? It’s easy! You create 9 assignments in a tic-tac-toe board and students choose 3 to complete. However, they must complete 3 in a row for tic-tac-toe so you can make sure that a variety of assignments are completed.
There are so many different activities you can use. Some ideas for student choice activities can be:
Now, some of these activities seem very basic. This is where the teacher in you comes into play! You don’t want the student to simply to regurgitate information – you want them to demonstrate some level of understanding. I try to arrange them in such a way that each tic-tac-toe has a variety of mastery levels and a variety of different activities.
Here is a model that I ask my chemistry students to create:
As you can see, they are creating a model but in order to create that model, they have to be able to create and explain different chemical reactions. An art teacher could use this method to show mixing colors to create new colors. A math teacher could use it to show addition.
Here are 2 options I ask my physics/physical science students to choose from:
They have to be familiar enough with the laws to apply them to their own life and explain the relationship to the sport.
Need students to learn vocabulary?
The assignment choices do not have to require lots of photocopies or a ton of instructions. I’ve had students create memes to explain concepts and vocabulary words and act out scientific principles. Sometimes I leave the middle as a “free space” where students can bounce an idea off of me to try to use for mastery. You can re-use the same option multiple times in the tic-tac-toe board if it’s one thing you really need to force the students to complete. You can have all 9 boxes be different. It’s also easy to have the board on one side and a rubric on the other side so that everything fits and students know what will be expected.
Here is a sample chemistry choice board:
Another method of differentiation is using menu boards. It’s not as popular of an option as the tic-tac-toe, but is still useful. I use menu boards frequently in my high school science class but again, this can be adapted for any level or course.
My version of the menu boards is a restaurant menu. There can be appetizers, side dishes, entrees, and desserts. It’s also a lot of fun (for me, at least) when I have the time to format them to look like an actual menu.
I will often list the “easier” or low DOK (depth of knowledge) assignments under the appetizer option and ask them to choose one to complete. The more involved or “meatier” options are listed under the entrée section and they are to choose one (and the entrée is worth the most points). There can be side dishes listed if you choose (when I use side dishes, I have them choose two to complete). Finally, there is a list of desserts to choose from (or just one dessert that everybody does).
Here is a sample I use for my environmental science class:
So those are two ways to incorporate student voice and choice and differentiation into your classroom. There are SO many other ways, so don’t limit yourself to just these. Good luck and be sure to enter the giveaway below! You must be a current KDP AES chapter member to enter and you will be asked to provide an email address where you can be reached to claim your prize. Prizes not claimed in 3 days will go to the next person on the list.
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3/14/2019 05:28:27 pm
I love the tic tac toe board idea. Some kids are just more motivated by games.
3/19/2019 07:06:06 am
My child's teacher actually uses the menu as a way for assigning the homework. My kids us in pre-k and I had never tought if using it for my middle school students. I am going to try to come up with some ideas for my next unit with my 6th grade math class before spring break is over to see the effect ot has on my students.
3/21/2019 07:02:22 am
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3/19/2019 07:17:22 am
I love the Tic Tac Toe! I’m always looking for good ways to differentiate! Can’t wait to try these methods out in student teaching this fall.
5/9/2019 06:39:25 pm
Alexandra, I'm happy to hear that you found something you like! There's so many different ways to differentiate and you just have to find what works for you. Good luck in student teaching and welcome to the profession!!
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