Three teachers: Mr. Appleton, Mrs. Baker, and Ms. Cassell, each have different teaching styles that vary greatly on the spectrum of differentiated classrooms. Beginning with Mr. Appleton, his classroom is not very differentiated at all, his students do the same thing every day, filling out worksheets, answering questions, memorizing facts. He may think his lectures are spiffy and his students are learning, but in reality they are disengaged and are only extrinsically motivated to memorize facts for the test. This is not how the classroom should be. Mrs. Baker is a little more differentiated, but still not quite there yet. She has graphic organizers, allows learning to happen via how Ancient Romans were dressed and what they ate, and she also offers the choice of doing 10 projects. Although this may sound good, she lacks a clear vision of the meaning of the subject with a lack of essential questions. Ms Cassell is a superstar, she has a very differentiated classroom with essential questions, she plans activities that are meaningful, engaging, and powerful, and she also has a classroom where students can walk in the shoes of people in history which is hugely significant.
There is a misconception of what differentiation actually is, is it just throwing in a YouTube video into your PowerPoint or having students work in groups sometimes? Differentiation actually goes deeper than that. Just doing graphic organizers every day instead of normal notes is just as dangerous. In Ms. Cassell’s class she had different ways for students to take notes. Differentiated teachers must ask a range of questions. Data and class instruction must come from a variety of resources. It is very important that curriculum and content standards are still respected and the class is not just fun. “Activities are more about being happy than about making meaning.” Teachers need to entertain but more importantly, educate their students. That cannot be lost as well, or else differentiation will ultimately fail.