Notes from Differentiation in Middle & High School by Doubet and Hockett

There are lots of books on differentiation, but I rarely uncover enough that really offer strategies that a teacher could try that week. The Doubet and Hockett text proves to be an exception. Here are my ramblings from what I’ve read (note: these are not all encompassing, but rather a snip it of reflections.). I’m going to abbreviate Differentiated Instruction by just writing DI.

First, I appreciate a reminder on what the difference is. DI really takes a great deal of time. It isn’t a quick worksheet or permanent work groups. The groups are flexible and student learning is carefully examined. Here’s a picture I grabbed from page 3.


What I like about this book is the sections talk about concepts that must be in place long before the lesson.

Chapter 1 is on “Building a Healthy Classroom Community.” Students need to fit in and be known. They also need to feel a sense of safety. All of this can be achieved by offering a compassionate, community-centered classroom.

For those of you completing the edTPA, this is a huge factor. Creating a community of learners is so important. We all remember Rita Pierson’s Ted Talk, right? Kids won’t learn from people they don’t like. It doesn’t mean you have to be their friend. Just provide respect and genuine interest.

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Chapter 1 of this book focuses on ways to creative a community-centered, compassionate classroom. Here are snip-its of strategies as suggested:;

  1. Provide a prompt on the Smartboard. Have students state their name and their answer to the prompt. Return with a question. Perhaps the question can tie to the reading for the day.
  2. Ask students to create a pie chart of at least five of their interests. Follow up with discussions on similarities and differences.

Note that there is a section on developing mindset that I particularly like. The text does a great job suggesting ways to redefine fair so students understand that fair doesn’t mean that everyone gets the same thing. Teaching mindset is so important for those moments when students want to quit or do not understand why they are being pushed so hard.

Chapter 2 is called “Articulating Learning Goals.” Oh my gosh, this sounds like the “Central Focus.” The concepts we teach give students ways to organize new learning for future applications. Concepts are the root to the trees, the basement to the house, and the chassis to the car. :-)

Chapter 6 screamed formative assessment. The idea of checking for understanding is so important, but so easily overlooked by new teachers. I think it’s important to note something the book mentions — formative assessment is for individual student assessment, not the whole class. One huge red light moment for me was when reading the statement that quizzes should not be included in the gradebook. Formative assessment is just checking for understanding — it should NOT be reported in the gradebook. For many teachers, this is mindblowing and radically different from practice even 8 years ago. When I was teaching in the K-12 world, I only skipped the gradebook because I ran out of time to actually grade them. It wasn’t until I hit Higher Education that I figured it out.

Chapter 8 offers suggestions for summative moments where the “training wheels come off.” In other words, where students will demonstrate what they know or what they can do. The first suggestion is to create RAFT experiences. I used the RAFT activity during ACT III for Julius Caesar, if I remember right. For example, students could pick Brutus and write a diary entry torn over what was going to happen. Now a’days I would include a layer of social media and have Cassius launching a series of hostile tweets. :-)



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