Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sample Post #1: The differentiated classroom.

Annotation provided by Sam Gladwell.

Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

This summary pertains to a chapter entitled “Instructional Strategies That Support Differentiation.” A variety of strategies including agendas, complex instruction, and orbital studies are discussed in this chapter, but this annotation is focused specifically upon the sub-section that discusses learning stations. In this section Tomlinson defines what learning stations are and gives a brief overview of how stations are utilized in the classroom with a particular emphasis on flexible grouping and student choice. Next, Tomlinson provides an illustrative vignette of how one fourth grade teacher used learning stations for mathematics instruction. Finally, Tomlinson concludes the subsection with a breakdown of how learning stations address the questions of “Differentiate What,” “Differentiate How,” and “Differentiate Why” that are included with each instructional strategy described in the chapter.

The strength of this excerpt comes from the description of the basic structure of learning stations being coupled with the vignette detailing how it might look in the classroom to provide a clear picture of the strategy. In fact, this section was so well-written and approachable that I have already implemented learning stations (using a format almost identical to the one mentioned in the chapter) in my classroom and will be basing my action research on this strategy next year. This reading cemented for me the fact that Tomlinson will be a tremendously valuable resource for information related to differentiation throughout the course of my research. I look forward to reading more of her works in the coming months.

Relevant Quotes/Concepts:
~ “Stations are different spots in the classroom where students work on various tasks simultaneously” (62).

~ “…stations allow different students to work with different tasks. They invite flexible grouping because not all students need to go to all stations all the time. Not all students need to spend the same amount of time in each station, either. Further, even when all students do go to every station, assignments at each station can vary from day to day based on who will rotate there” (62).

~ “Stations also lend themselves to a good balance of teacher choice and student choice. On some days, the teacher decides who will go to a particular station, what work they will do when they get there, and the working conditions that must prevail while they are there. On other days, students can make these decisions. On still other days, the teacher may set some of the parameters, but the student can choose the rest” (62).

“All students go to all stations in the course of a week or 10 days. Not all students spend the same amount of time at each station in a given two-week period, and not all students rotate through the stations in the same order. Sometimes students work at a station with students of similar readiness; sometimes they work with students of differing readiness” (64).

“Essential understandings and skills about math operations are more accessible to students when presented at their readiness levels. Motivation is high because of the variety of approaches to learning math, varied materials and product options, and the opportunity to work with a variety of students. Further, both teaching and learning are more efficient through the targeted use of stations than would be the case in either whole-class instruction or by having all students remain the same amount of time at each station to complete the same work in each station” (65).

Text Sources:
Tomlinson, C. A. (1995). How to differentiate instruction in mixed ability classrooms.. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Tomlinson, C. A. (1997). Differentiating instruction: Facilitator’s guide. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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