Mindset Chapter 3, What is a Differentiated, Responsive Classroom?

Mindsets in the Classroom Chapter 3
Differentiated Responsive classroom,  how to have a classroom that is responsive to the different needs of your students,

Chapter 3 begins with a wonderful quote from a first grade student--- "My brain is getting smarter and smarter each day." I think this is what being a teacher is all about, knowing our students are positive and confident that their learning is growing day by day.

In this chapter, Mary Cay Ricci, discusses the importance of having a differentiated, responsive classroom. In this type of classroom teachers use front-end differentiation in order to be responsive to the needs of the students in the classroom. I'll go over a few of the highlights, but you really need to read the chapter yourself to see how this would have a positive impact on your teaching.

"Differentiation:  the way a teacher responds to a student's needs so that each student is challenged at the appropriate level. "Mary Cay Ricci



Steps to having a differentiated, responsive classroom.
1.  Preview and Preasess:  You should find out what students already know about the content before instructional planning begins. That's why this is called front-end differentiation.  Most differentiation comes after instruction and ends up being a catch-up time.  With a good preassessment you can be prepared to meet the needs of all your students from day one.  One interesting idea presented in this chapter is letting students preview the content before the preassessment.  Mary Cay Ricci thinks you'll get a truer picture of what students know if they are allowed a short preview of the content.

2.  Curriculum Compacting:  After the preassessment you'll know what skills your students have mastered and what they still need to learn.  So it makes sense to adjust your unit and take out lessons that aren't needed by your students.  Thus the title- Curriculum Compacting.  This makes so much sense!  Don't spend time teaching skills that your students have already mastered.

3.  Flexible Grouping:  Small grouping should be taking place in all subject areas, not just reading. Every classroom has a large range of students.  Working with small groups gives students the opportunity to be challenged at an appropriate level.  One of the major drawbacks of small groups is classroom management.

4.  Management:  Small groups can be managed if the teacher sets clear expectations.  Anchor activities are ongoing activities the students work on independently and are key to managing students while the teacher works with small groups.

5.  Acceleration and Enrichment:  Both of these are equally important. Enrichment is going deeper and acceleration is going forward.  Having enrichment and accelerated activities gives every student the chance to learn every day.

6.  Formative Assessment:  Checking for understanding.  This is essential in a differentiated, responsive classroom.  Formative assessments should be used routinely across all content areas.  It can also be a reflective tool for the teacher, Do the students get it? What do I need to teach next?  How will I group my students for reteaching, enrichment and acceleration?   I've put together a few quick and easy formative assessments you can use in your classroom. Click on the picture to download the file.
Quick Formative Assessments--Mindsets for the Classroom

7.  Summative Assessment:  Assessing understanding and mastery of the content at the end of the unit.  The assessment must match the learning that has taken place.  Grades should be based on how well the student demonstrates mastery of the content that was presented to them.

This chapter also includes a Teacher Checklist for Planning Differentiated, Responsive Instruction.  It will make your instructional planning so much easier!  

 Mindsets in the Classroom, Chapter 3 summary

Thank you for taking the time to read this discussion about Chapter 3 of Mindsets in the Classroom.  You can download my summary by clicking on the picture.    (it's also included in the Formative Assessment Freebie download seen above.)

We'd love to hear what you think about Chapter 3.  You can download this blank PowerPoint frame, write about it on your blog and then link up with us. At the end of the books study we'll be choosing one of the link-up blog writers to receive a special gift card! 


 Mindsets for the Classroom blank frame-   Hello Sunshine Blog










29 comments :

  1. I love the idea of front end differentiation. It is so much better for our students! I can't wait to figure out how to do this next year so that way I can make my student better for each learner!

    Mrs. 3rd Grade 

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    1. I agree, front end differentiation makes so much more sense. I don't know why we haven't been doing it all along.

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  2. This was an awesome chapter, and I loved reading your thoughts Debbie -
    thank you!
    xo Pamela

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  3. Thanks, Pam. The chapter has so much information. It's one you could go back to again and again and still learn something new every time.

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  4. Awesome post Debbie!! Love the speech bubble :)

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  5. Differentiation is so important for student success. What ideas did you find useful for your own classroom?

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    1. I tend to group my students based off of a skill instead of ability. So when one walks into my room, one group may be with 2 students working on reading fluency and then the next time those two students may be working in different groups on different skills. I also group by how a student learns best. I may be working on one common theme, but have 3 different ways to get there. Letting those students choose how they want to get to that common goal.

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    2. The ELA Department is going to give teachers a option this year on how to use a Reading Street story for 2-3 weeks and how this text can support differentiation on a greater level. Can't wait to share :)

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  6. Chapter 3: I found this chapter particularly interesting. I use differentiation in my classroom all day, everyday. It comes naturally for me seeing as I have k-5 all in one classroom. I do want to learn more about anchor activities. I do have some students that finish early, or get through a lesson faster than anticipated. Having an anchor activity might be a great solution for that "free time."

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  7. I really like the idea of curriculum compacting and going deeper with a skill. I kind of did this with reading groups towards the middle of the year. I realized that the way the curriculum was laid out, to be honest, was boring my higher students. I decided to start book studies with them and they loved it!! Reflecting back I would love to use easier books with my other groups and do a few book studies with them. I think they would like the change and have a lot more fun with it. I would like to try and do more activities that go deeper. For example, when I went to visit Sunny View one of the teachers I observed was doing a very indepth lesson about Monarch butterflies with her above level group. It looked like so much fun and the kids were really enjoying learning about the butterflies and their migration.

    I understand the importance of differentiation and how crucial it is to meet our students where they are. I did keep my reading groups pretty flexible and my math grouping was ever changing based on how students did during a lesson/quick check, and I understand the ideas behind acceleration and enrichment; but I am having a very hard time wraping my mind around how that all works with 20+ first graders. Having them all at different places and levels seems very hard to manage. It feels very overwhelming.

    I guess I can say that I am very glad I am going to the training. I really want to see how this is managed and how it flows.

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    1. Carla,
      Wait till you see the new revamped IQs from Reading Street. I think first grade is going to find these projects much more useable!!

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  8. With all the attention we have given to differentiated instruction the past few years, I found Chapter 3 particularly interesting and useful. I enjoyed the discussion on flexible grouping and management of groups. I moved toward using more flexible grouping this past year as I monitored student progress and made group adjustments to meet the needs of individual students. The author emphasized how establishing clear expectations is important for the management of groups. Especially for kindergarten students, I find it necessary to model and explain all procedures and activities thoroughly before expecting my students to accomplish tasks!

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    1. I also loved the differentiation Checklist for Planning on the last page! All inclusive list of what needs to be done for each unit for each kiddo.

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  9. I just came from a training and teachers are going to be so excited to see how differentiation can be utilized by using all the different pieces of text only from Reading Street. The mini IQ are being revamped and this is a great opportunity to expand on Carla Henry's idea about a science topic like Monarch Butterflies

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  10. The very first line of this chapter is so powerful! "The mindset of a teacher contributes greatly to his or her responsiveness to the needs of students. If an educator views a child through a deficit lens, then that child will not be given opportunities to grow unless she is in a responsive classroom."

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    1. This is extremely true. We as human being adults and children alike are all responsive to our environments. Children are so fragile and impressionable that this view can greatly impacts them and imprint them for the rest of their lives.

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  11. I will be spending more time listening to my students as they are learning. I also want to do more conferencing with them to give them immediate feedback.

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  12. I really like the idea about the anchor activities. I can see these being of great use during science and social studies, novel studies and poetry. The checklist at the end of the chapter will be really helpful in planning out differentiated instruction.

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  13. After reading this chapter, I would really like to try more previewing and pre assessing for the benefit of being able to do more curriculum compacting. I think it will make learning more interesting and a lot more meaningful for all students. Last year there were times that I would be teaching about a science topic and after a few days, I would come to realize that the students knew more than what the curriculum was covering. On the flip side, there were times that I would be planning to quickly cover a grammar skill and realize that the students needed more practice than what I was planning. Utilizing previewing and pre assessments will help me to better differentiate and plan anchor activities to be meaningful to students as well.

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  14. Being a responsive teacher is something that I strive to be and do, especially in the area of differentiation. I completely agree with the statement, "it is not possible to plan and facilitate an effective, differentiated, responsive classroom if an educator does not really possess the belief that intelligence can develop." I love that the author says, "differentiation is the way a teacher responds to a student's needs." Like we have all been taught many many times, all students have different needs, no need is the same...most of the time. Often times, due to time, we skip the preview and preassess steps. We often go straight into the lesson, not knowing if our students already know the topic, or will struggle with a topic. We need to make ourselves more aware of the topics being taught so we are utilizing our time more efficiently. Previewing and creating pre-assessments is not cheating. Its building background knowledge and identifying what the students already bring to the table.

    This chapter brings a lot to the table. Including the flexible grouping. I really enjoy using this type of grouping in my classroom. The author states, "spending days on end revisiting and enriching mastered material is new ways does not provide appropriate challenge and is not RESPECTFUL of the student's prior knowledge. How about that? Often, we review, review, review and its not really fair to the students if they already know something and we are "enriching" their minds, when really this material is already stored in their background knowledge and we aren't really enriching them. I love that the author used the term, not respectful. Something I am going to try to do more often in my math instruction is small group instruction and have many flexible groups as well as individual conferences with them. I do not want to bore my students, nor be disrespectful of their background knowledge. I want learn as much as possible, if this means having multiple learning groups and having three or four different math lessons to pace them and meet them at their level, then that's what I will do.

    Management is a big one too. STUDENTS MUST KNOW WHAT THEY SHOULD DO AT ALL TIMES. Before releasing your students you should always refresh their memory on what your expectations are for them during small group instruction, computer time, if they finish early. I really liked what the author had to say in this section. "Anchors can also serve as an opportunity to enrich learning by going deeper into the subject area." These anchor activities are not busy work and can be completed without the teacher. LOVE IT!! I'm glad I can ease my mind knowing its not "busy work."

    While implementing flexible groups I would also like to keep in mind acceleration and enrichment. I need to be more mindful about whether or not my students are ready to move forward or not. Sometimes students are bored because they have mastered the skill, I need to stop holding them back and accelerate their learning.

    Often times we try to make our formative assessment challenging, or just too much. In this chapter the author says it best, "keep it simple." For instance: use questions for students to respond to orally, use questions for students to respond to in writing," (more bang for your buck) "use exit cards, use a 3-2-1, and listen to and observe students." Simple as that and you have a formative assessment. This chapter is jam packed full of great information and I can't wait to tweak my instruction to hit a lot of this in my classroom.

    Check out pages 53 and 54!! I like those templates too! :)

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  15. It's wonderful not to just pre-assess our students but also do that few minutes of preview beforehand. That little bit of refresher time might just make something click in a students mind and then (after the pre-assessment) we can truly see who has mastered the basics of a skill and needs to move deeper or simply move on to another skill.
    I also really love to have those flexible groups in my classroom! I incorporated these so much in my math class and it worked wonders! I'd allow my students the chance to choose their level of understanding and we'd base our groups of their level. We'd do an informal assessment at the end of a lesson (thumbs up-I've got it, Thumb sideways-I'm on the right track but I need some help, thumbs down-I'm completely lost). Some of what I'd consider my high kids fell into the lost group sometimes and vice versa some of the students who struggled with math would fall into the higher group. It really helped to show my kids that it was ok not to understand something immediately, that it was great to ask for help, and that we are all learners who cycle through these different levels at different times.
    The most vital of the wonderful differentiation skills mentioned, however, is Management. Clear guidelines must be laid out. Clear expectations on what to do in different situations must be communicated and must be consistent. When students know what to expect and what is expected of them they feel more at ease and I feel that frees up more of their energy to learn these fantastic things we're teaching them.

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  16. I have often been given a heads up on children that are coming to us at the first of the year. Throughout the years advice is often passed along from teacher to teacher about the children and placement cards reveal info about behavior, etc. We are all human and often we will find one child that has been defiant for another teacher be a blessing. Clear eyes, positive attitude, and the belief that all can change and be successful can change the learning and environment. Preassessment, preview and differentiation is so essential in helping us plan for that particular student and successful grouping. Of course I so believe that the grouping can change and needs to be flexible to facilitate successful learning. Love the concept on curriculum compacting. Delving deep, broader, or beyond can enhance the ability for the student to meet their goals and reach standards.

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  17. The idea of using pre assessments with each topic to help group students and the use of a preview are great resources. I loved the idea of the focus activities for early finishesers to extend the learning. Using the preassessment to help see where the students are rather than waiting until formative assessments and it being too late to really nail a skill.

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  18. In order to truly differentiate it is critical to for the teacher to know his or her students' knowledge of the skill. While I have always been a huge preponent of pre and post test for each unit of instruction--I never appreciated the subtle nuances that could increase pre-test reliability--preview the content! I would have never thought about it but the example just make perfect since!!! It is all about accessing background knowledge!

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  19. Reading the responses of my peers differtiarion and respect of student needs is highly important to our school. We constantly work together trying to offer all we can for children. Yet, I find we often are sitting At tables with our hands tied due to a district or state administration demand or perspective, lack of planning time, parent's lack of understanding, etc.... If we are to best utilize the growth mindset how are we going to stay positive and motivated and deal with those walls when they come. Ex. Pg. 49's discussion of homework : makes sense, yet how do parents and admin outside of school react to the online open grade book. If that is not an issue because a check off is ok ..... Then my main question is when "grade" is based on summative assessment at end of unit/ topic how is the one grade per week per subject as a minimum met. How do we convince parents and admin that less grades is more significant when the grades are actually for student learning. Back to the age old quality versus quantity. If this could be accomplished then some time for planning and implenting may be acquired where stacks of papers to be graded once stood.
    I also liked the figures at end of chapter as well as the items within the blog.

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  20. PD's I attended yesterday gave some great examples on differentiating for all levels with the same task. I feel pre-assessing is so important. You have a greater opportunity to catch problems strugglers may have from the start and opportunities to challenge your kiddos who are ready for more challenges. Also I think it's important when using an activity in a center, is that it looks very similar, but it's not obvious to the student it's different -is key.

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  21. Just adding more work is not differentiation. Preassessments are key. **Loved the section, Preview the Content. Allowing the students to "preview" the content before being assessed. Has anyone ever asked you, if you've read a certain book, or seen a specific movie? You're unsure until you hear a few details...something rings a bell, and you can recall the entire plot!! I should have always done this, prior to assessments...just makes sense.

    Curriculum Compacting: elimination content that students have previously learned. I want to work hard on this, as well.

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  22. I can't wait to try flexible grouping in math for the first time this year. I spent 3 hours in a coffee shop poring over this chapter. For those who have done flexible grouping/centers before, what are some examples of the different "stations" the groups are put in? What do you have them do? By the way, I teach first grade. :)

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