Friday, August 25, 2017

Differentiation in the TPRS/CI classroom


Differentiation:  "Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products, or the learning environment, the use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to instruction."

I chose this definition, not because I love Reading Rockets, but because I have a lot of respect for the author of this article- Carol Ann Tomlinson- who has written a great deal about differentiation in the classroom. 

Barometer student (aka Pacesetter): the student in your classroom who is often the slowest processor and needs the most supports (visual, gestural, etc.) to fully comprehend everything.  They also need more think time and comprehension checks.  Note: TPRS/CI teachers use this term differently than behavior specialists.  

Every class, regardless of level, has a wide range of students.  That includes (but is not limited to): processing speed, previous exposure to L2, emotional status, gender, executive functioning, motor skills, basic needs being met (or not), attitude about learning, attitude about self, motivation, literacy skills, critical thinking skills, etc.  

photo taken from
In one class, that may look like: native speaker, student who came from immersion school, student whose grandparent only speaks L2 (and lives with them), an extremely good test taker, student with strong oral skills and low reading ability, one with strong reading ability but slow processing speed, one with sensory integration issues, and a student diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.  And that is only 6 of them.  In my already tracked "honors" class.  

My job is to teach all of them, right?  TPRS/CI is about creating equity in the foreign language classroom and helping each kid succeed.  Right?  (At least it is for me.)  

So, here are some strategies that I use to differentiate for all students.  However, most of these strategies are for faster processors and native speakers because your TPRS/CI skills are supporting your barometer students already.  

My goal is that my barometer student(s) comprehend everything and my other students stay engaged and are pushed. 

 I want to add that this is HARD.  It takes constant practice (on top of juggling all those other TPRS skills!).  This is work that I have been engaging in for years, with a lot of reading, workshops, thinking, trying, failing, trying again.  I am not an expert, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve.    

(I am going to assume that basic TPRS skills are being developed or are in place, because those are the skills that you need to reach your barometer student(s).  These skills include pause and point, going slow, staying in-bounds, translating low-frequency or new vocabulary, comprehension checks.)

Class Jobs that require output for fast processors

(I would like to credit the people whose ideas these are adapted from (or taken from) but I honestly don't remember the specifics.  Probably Bryce Hedstrom, Alina Filipescu, and Ben Slavic, but also probably others.) 
Faster processors during stories can be challenging. Give them a job that will challenge them and help you. 
Story Writer: This student writes the narrative in L2 as best they can.  Great for heritage learners as you can later drill down on the kind of input that they need based on what they write.  You can also use their narrative for when you sit down and write out the story- invaluable for when you have multiple classes all doing different stories!   You could also have a student do this in L1.
Quiz writer: This student writes 5-10 true/false questions in L2 (or L1) based on the story.  You can use this quiz later, at the end of class, to check for overall story comprehension.  

Hint:I print out the directions for each job and stick them at the front of two notebooks, used only for either story writing or quiz writing.  Here are the directions for quiz writer, and here are directions for story writer.  

Daily Records Keeper: This student keeps track of paperwork when a student is absent.  They also note the activities, homework if assigned, any low-frequency vocabulary, etc. that comes up.  I could not function without this job.  Requires no output in L2.  For more about this job, read this. 

Class jobs that require staying focused on the input

Question word sign holder:  They hold up the question word signs (one per kid) when you say them.  Alina Filipescu calls this her 3-D classroom as it moves the pausing and pointing that you do from a wall to the center of the student.  I usually only assign who and what.  This is also a great job for kids who benefit from having an active job that helps them stay focused.

Rejoinder sign holder: This is a great job for a fast processor because they demonstrate their understanding of the story based on when they hold up the sign.  However, I don't only give this job to fast processors.  It just depends on the kid.

What about jobs for the slower processors? Don't they get jobs too?
Yes.  Of course.  But this is a post about differentiating for fast processors and native speakers. 

Teacher Strategies for Differentiation

One place where Bloom's might be valuable!
Questioning: All students should be able to answer yes/no, either/or, and "what does ___ mean?/what did I just say?" questions.  Right?  Good.  But "who/what/where/when" questions are a little bit harder, even with question signs and supports.  You probably should be asking all kids those question word questions too, but they are more challenging. 

"How" and "Why" questions are the hardest, and a great way to ask more challenging questions of your faster processors and/or native speakers.  Yep, they do require output, but you know your kids.  It might even be junky (incorrect) output, but you can rephrase it, and it helps hold them accountable.

UPDATE: Here is Bryce Hedstrom's very in-depth take on differentiation with questioning.  I think he deserves the credit for my basic ideas!  

Partners and Groups:
This is tough.  In a TPRS/CI classroom, I rarely do partner and/or group work, unless the activity is completely input based.  And it is something that I am sure they can do on their own.  And it is completely scaffolded. get the idea.

However, here are some strategies that I have used successfully. 
1) Homogenous groupings with embedded readings.  Groups or pairs of faster processors start with harder versions of the embedded readings, and progress further.  Groups of slower processors start with the easiest versions of embedded readings, and progress at their own pace.  

2) Heterogenous groupings for input based group games.  (Whole class activities like Word Chunk, scrambled eggs, running dictation, Jeopardy, Unfair Game, etc. are different in that the teacher is still controlling the input.)   I don't love games in the classroom.  They take forever to make and require a lot of work to make them truly input based (or secret input based), and a lot of teacher management to justify their use in class. (In my opinion.) 

 However, if you have a good input based game, faster processors and/or fluent readers can help provide the input by reading out loud.  That is not to say that the others don't read.  I just don't use homogenous groupings when I want things (sentences, not paragraphs!)  to be read out loud.  

What do I mean by input based group games?  Here are examples:  
First, Second (I haven't played it but plan on it)
Go Fish with TEXT on the scenes (so students read the text and get the input!)
Memory- I made this one for the last chapter of Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro.  In each "deck", there is a question, an answer, and a visual of that answer.  (See images)

Using Profiency/Standards based grading- I can't even start to discuss why this is a good practice for differentiation. It is too big of a topic and I am not an expert. And this blog post is getting really long.

There are a lot of resources available on this topic; assessing knowledge and competency is, for me, the core of differentiation.  Carol Ann Tomlinson, Robert Marzano, and TPRS teachers/trainers such as Lance Piantaggini (MagisterP) and Scott Benedict (TeachforJune) have a lot of information.  Books such as Grade Smarter, not Harder, Fair is not Equal are good resources as well. Here is a good great  intro written by Scott Benedict over at TeachforJune.

There are many more differentiation strategies. These are just a few that I turn to daily to try to meet every student's needs.  I didn't even go into alternate assignments or novel-based independent studies.  For more on that, check out Martina's blog post on multi-level classes.

Updated: I just stumbled across this incredible post by Kristy Placido.  Read it!  You can thank me later!  

 Updated again:  I am presenting on Differentiation in the CI classroom at Comprehensible Online 2020.
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