Week 3: How do we prepare parents for differentiation in the classroom?


Photo Credit: Lawrence, Julia

I believe in being transparent, and that is especially true with parents.  They are entitled to know what their child(ren) experience in school.  Tomlinson states “Successful partnering between teacher and parents is based on proactive communication.” (2001)  For a teacher that fully utilizes differentiated instruction, it is important for parents to know first of all what that means.  For those schools that have open houses at the beginning of the school year, this is a good time to discuss differentiation, and to invite them to the classroom to see first hand how it looks during the school year.  Caltha Crowe, 3rd grade teacher, has what is called “Wonderful Wednesdays” where parents participate in classroom activities so she can know the parents and have a better understanding of their kids. (2004).  This is a great routine.  I am a true believer of routines and I would schedule something similar like “Fantastic Fridays”, or “Manic Mondays”.  Those days can be used to profile how differentiation works, and parents need not sign up, just show up during specific time frames during that day.

Ann-Marie Foucault has written a good summary of what differentiated instruction is, what it is not, and what a parent’s role is in her article in Reading Rockets.  One role that stood out to me was “Understanding that teachers can not (and should not) differentiate all assignments and materials every day.” (2008)  As a teacher, I don’t even think it’s possible to provide differentiation everyday, although I think it would be more feasible if technology was utilized.  There are strategies that can be consistently used to provide some element of differentiation, like allowing students to work on either core problems, or challenging problems based on student skill level ability (math).  I currently use this method and I think students tend to be more engaged in completing assignments if they feel they are successful, yet can challenge themselves by trying more difficult problems.

Edutopia provides a great parent’s guide to 21st century learning.  It describes how parents can get involved in their child’s education.  It provides 10 tips, and the one that I feel would get kids and parents fully engaged in is “Build on Your Kids’ Interest in Gaming.” (2012)  A website that is dedicated to this area is Massively@jokaydia, it “is designed to provide a playful learning environment for kids aged 4 – 16yrs and their parents. Our aim is to support the development of creative skills and digital literacy in a safe, engaging environment. We encourage parents to join their children in playing and learning within our community.” (2017)  As teachers differentiate in the classroom, parents can get involved with their child by actively participating in such websites to further their child’s interest in gaming, thus providing a parent an avenue to assist teachers in differentiation.  Other websites can offer learning experiences like coding, or using free downloadable software to develop and create games in a 3D, 2D, or virtual reality environment.  The possibilities are truly endless.


A Parent’s Guide to 21st Century Learning. (2012). Edutopia. [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/guides/edutopia-parents-guide-21st-century-learning.pdf

Crowe, Caltha. (2004). Wonderful Wednesdays. Responsive Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/wonderful-wednesdays/

Foucault, Ann-Marie. (2008). Differentiation Tips for Parents. Reading Rockets. Retrieved from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/differentiation-tips-parents

Lawrence, Julia. (2013). Bring Your Parent to School Day. Education News. Retrieved from http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/take-your-parent-to-school-day-bill-signed-into-law-in-il/

Massively @ jokaydia. (2017). Information for Parents and Teachers. Retrieved from http://massively.jokaydia.com/information-for-parents-and-teachers/

Tomlinson, Carol A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

5 thoughts on “Week 3: How do we prepare parents for differentiation in the classroom?

  1. Thank you Gerald for your post this week. I am not a gamer, unless it’s a game board and even then something like Monopoly. You mentioned Massively@jokadia as your preferred classroom, student, and parent game. It describes itself as a minecraft game. I experienced Minecraft as part of the Emerging Technology course a year ago, and wonder what you like better between Massively and Minecraft +/-education. What would you say to someone like me if I was one of your parents to get me to consider gaming. 🙂 Kendra


    • One of the most interesting and popular topics in education and business is the idea of gamification. Games motivate people of all ages and does not discriminate gender. If you can incorporate gaming in your class, it would increase motivation and have benefits beyond winning. Gamers have that mindset that it’s okay to fail because they will accomplish their goal eventually! Too many students think it’s bad to fail, but unless you fail, you can never get better! There are many advocates of gaming in education, but one that I feel a connection with is Alice Keeler. She was a former high school math teacher, and currently has a website that contains great information about gaming, and other tech strategies for teachers and students. You can not go wrong investing in gaming in class!


  2. Gerald, I am also interested in what technology can offer when it comes to differentiated instruction. It seems that technology can provide ways to help students learn in different ways such as deeper thinking or manipulating variables to see an output in functions such as interest, acceleration, and growth/decay. One of my coworkers taught his middle schoolers how to write simple code so that they can understand functions in a deeper sense. This is a form of DI that brought math concepts to the students interests. How exciting for students to be able to use technology in their learning.


    • I think if we teach coding in Algebra class, students would get a greater understanding of what variables are and how they can be used in a real world situations. Unfortunately, not everyone will need how to code in a career path, but it will make sense of x’s, y’s, functions, and how it all relates to visual mathematics. That’s why I think, even in Algebra, it’s important to allow students to use graphing technology (calculators, or apps on smartphones), and most texts don’t require this tool in their content. It’s just “extensions”. And why is it okay to use it in Algebra 2, and higher content?! Calculus can’t be taught without it on the AP exam! I don’t understand…


  3. I also read the article about Wonderful Wednesdays. One of the things that I think is important from that article is to not start a program like it until at least a few weeks into the school year. I could definitely see some parents getting the wrong impression if they went into the classroom and students didn’t know what they where doing. The interactive gaming sounds like it could be a great way to get parents involved especially if they are already tech savvy. It would be really awesome if students went home and taught there parents how to use the program.


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