Week 2: How do you make decisions about your own actions for students in a differentiated classroom? What is your criteria for intervention, and/or for letting learning happen?

How do you answer these questions in a concise way?  Provide a concept map!



The first question’s answer is provided in the three nodes: Roles of Teacher Metaphors (Tomlinson, 2001), Proactive Communication (Wright, 2012), and Best Practices – 4 Goals (Wright, 2014).  Tomlinson provides great descriptions of our roles, and it really resonated with me because of my familiarity with music education, and athletic coaching.  Our actions speak volumes for reaching students in a differentiated classroom.  Each element has merit, value and contributes to the overall goal of reaching every student individually, and as a whole group.  The 4 Best Practices should guide us in all our actions and leads us to accomplishing differentiated instruction.  Some of these are specific to math instruction, but can be modified to suit other content areas.

The second question is provided by the three nodes: RTI – Algebra (Wright, 2012), Best Practices – 4 Goals (Wright, 2012), and Effective Research-Based Intervention Programs (Hanover Research, 2014).  Intervention strategies for high school mathematics students is limited.  I used to think RTI was an elementary specific strategy, but it can be modified to accommodate high school math students.  The caveat is that in order to be successful in intervention strategies for upper level math, lower level intervention needs to have occurred.  This is one of the main reasons it has been difficult to use RTI in high school mathematics.  Holes in learning from elementary/middle grades follow students throughout their educational career!  If initial mathematics RTI began in high school, I don’t think students can be as successful as if it started in middle school, but preferably students needing RTI should begin in elementary school.  Research is still being done to come up with best practices in math RTI so strategies and methods are being developed to help students.

I believe that Intervention Programs such as the ones listed in the concept map are viable and provide teachers tools to fill in the holes that have occurred in early math education.  Technology has improved to the point of allowing teachers to focus on individual attention, but allow students the necessary practice, assessment, skill building, and immediate feedback needed to improve math achievement.  Math teachers, in essence, have become facilitators of learning, not the main focal point that is stereotypical of traditional math education.

The BBC Active article provided great ways to differentiate in the classroom, and the ones that resonated with me were providing differing tasks for differing level of students, and providing ongoing assessments. (2010).  In my experience so far with using an online resource for differentiation, one key aspect of having students use this is to provide students “ongoing assessment”.  Every time they answer a practice question incorrectly, they are provided with an explanation of their error, and students are expected to answer a similar question until they are successful.  In my opinion, this type of “practice” should be considered “assessment” because of the immediate feedback provided.  This is one element that is important in the whole differentiation process.


Hanover Research. (2014). Best Practices in Math Interventions. [PDF] Retrieved from https://www.mbaea.org/documents/filelibrary/numeracy/Best_Practices_in_Math_Intervention_53D80FEED7650.pdf

Tomlinson, Carol (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms, 2nd Edition. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. [PDF]

Unknown Author. (2010). Methods of Differentiation in the Classroom.  BBC Active. Retrieved from http://www.bbcactive.com/BBCActiveIdeasandResources/MethodsofDifferentiationintheClassroom.aspx

Wright, Jim. (2012). RTI: Best Practices in Secondary Math Interventions (7-12). Intervention Central. Retrieved from http://www.jimwrightonline.com/mixed_files/WI_ED_2012/wright_RTI_Math_Secondary_2_Oct_2012_WI_Ed_Resources_LLC_PPT.pdf



7 thoughts on “Week 2: How do you make decisions about your own actions for students in a differentiated classroom? What is your criteria for intervention, and/or for letting learning happen?

  1. Your concept map was great. I like how specific it is for what you are doing in the school. I also liked the different teacher metaphors. The easiest one for me to relate to was the coach metaphor. Wanting the best for students, but knowing that we can do do it for them can be a struggle sometimes. When do you find time to have students use the different intervention programs. Is it substituted for other classwork or do they have to do both?


    • I have to admit that my concept map was a hypothetical reality of intervention and learning. I struggle with implementing RTI at the high school grades. In fact, I commented on Jim’s blog that if a high school implemented a study hall period, it may work like it does with elementary grades with their flexible schedule, self-contained class. Will need to do more research and convince administration to change the status quo.


  2. Although not the focus of your entire post, I think your comment about addressing student “holes” resonated with me the most (and sends me on a bit of a rabbit chase). As an Instructional Designer in a higher ed nursing program, I watch as our faculty try to implement new strategies that research has shown to be effective to student learning and I see their frustration when students push back. Take, for example, the flipped classroom model. In a subject as content and synthesis heavy as nursing, having students move some content acquisition out of the classroom gives them more time for hands-on learning with their peers (and instructor guidance/correction). The students, however, push back because they are used to a model wherein they are told by instructors what they need to know for the test in lectures that are prescribed throughout the course.

    How does this relate to differentiation and “holes”? If viewed through the concept of alignment, quite a bit. Imagine if, within individual school districts, teachers were given the time and support to move beyond the alignment required in the standards, making aligned decisions, from the Kindergarten to senior levels, about how students receive content instruction. Imagine if a district was fully behind the differentiation process and supported its teachers in implementation throughout their time in the formative education process. How powerful and effective could a classroom be if communities of learners had been cultivated long before we see students at the high school level? How self-aware would our students be of their abilities, accomplishments, etc.?

    I think any teacher who implements differentiation in their classroom is to be both supported and commended; it’s hard work, even if they do it for the love of their craft and to the benefit of their students. And perhaps I dream big, but imagine the power of teaching students to advocate for themselves and their education from the earliest moments of the process. Imagine developing a process where “holes,” by merit of the program’s alignment, become non-existent. Imagine students who develop their beliefs about their ability and the learning process in an environment that does everything it can to support their learning and develop a culture of their success. That’s a world I want to live in!


    • I agree with you. We live in a system that has flaws, and there is a immovable stigma about the educational process, status quo as I like to state it. If change needs to take place, it should begin at the lower grades. I don’t want to “throw shade” at anyone, but there are elementary teachers that HATE math, and it affects their students. I don’t think they mean to show any bias or consciously express their dislike for math, but there have been studies to support this stigma. By high school, or for you, by post secondary school, we have inherited a group of students that have a specific expectation of school, and it is difficult to change! Thank you for being honest and straight forward.


      • I sometimes wonder, if we were able to work more collaboratively with teachers whose students will feed into our courses, if we couldn’t collectively create a love for our content both within our peers and our students. Even though I love history, if I worked with a teacher who was doing something else in the subject that I hadn’t considered, it excited me and renewed my fervor to better my craft. I do agree that change needs to start early, but we can all implement better practice along the way (I don’t think you’re implying that, I think educators just sometimes forget it). Oddly enough, I think sometimes the preconceived notions are worse in post-secondary because our students are more set in their ways, more aware of their likes/dislikes, and have less time to spare for things that they perceive to be non-relevant, uninteresting, etc. That said, each age group comes with its own unique…quirks. 😉


  3. Gaps or “holes” as you call them. Always assessing and on the lookout for them. When you find a hole, you fill it. You use every tool available. I’m often surprised by what works sometimes. Many has been the time, another student will help someone struggling and I’ll hear them explain something and say verbatim what I have said, and the struggling student’s response – “oh, I get it now.” #forehead slap. Whatever works!!


  4. RTI has been the big question for our middle/high school. The question has been what does it look like at our school and how do we put it in our everyday schedules. It seems like most of us had in our heads that this was separate from everyday in the classroom. The beginning of this school year someone posed the question of why can’t we have RTI in the class. At our school, luckily, math and English was allotted more time than the last school years so I took this extra time and set it aside for my students to work on the skills of their own level. Mainly I have focused on the students who have missing skills versus the students who can be pushed farther than their peers. Next week I will add in an extra problem that if a student finishes earlier than the others, they can try it. No points wrong but just an extra cool boost if they get it correct. I will have to keep on looking at each technology that you suggest when it comes to DI in the math classroom. Honestly, I have a love/hate relationship with math on computers because of internet, responsibility of students, sometimes inflexibility, and other rural specific problems.


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