Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Advanced learners need ...

Our last strategy in this series deals with what to do for advanced learners who already know the skill, already have the understanding, or are able to grasp the concept quicker than others. Here's what Tomlinson says should be done:
Activities and products that are quite complex, open-ended, abstract, and multifaceted, drawing on advanced reading materials; or
A brisk pace of work, or perhaps a slower pace to allow for greater depth of exploration of a topic.

It's easy to see how organizing lessons with these things in mind will build on the strengths of these students and allow them to go deeper, increasing their learning and maintaining their enthusiasm. Compare that response to the reaction one has when facing a page full of exercises created for practice of a skill that has already been mastered.

After reading through all these strategies and feeling a little overwhelmed by the complexity of the teacher load for differentiating lessons, I was encouraged by this timely reminder for balance.
However, you need not differentiate all elements in all possible ways. Effective differentiated classrooms include many times in which whole-class, nondifferentiated fare is the order of the day. Modify a curricular element only when (1) you see a student need and (2) you are convinced that modification increases the likelihood that the learner will understand important ideas and use important skills more thorougly as a result.

What a relief! Teachers must pick and choose those activities where differentiation will meet the identified needs listed above.

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