A Journey Through Technology

Week 10: How does my unit plan integrate best practices and theory of differentiated instruction?

on April 1, 2016

As I worked on my unit, I tried to think of the different resources we have looked at so far in this class and use them as a guide to help me differentiate my unit. One of the first readings we looked at was from Carol Ann Tomlinson’s How to Differentiate in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. A quote that I think applies to my unit as a whole is, “At its most basic level, differentiating instruction means “shaking up” what goes on in the classroom so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn.” (Tomlinson, 2001, p.1) In my unit, students are provided with multiple ways of taking in information about the behavior of gases because they will brainstorm with a partner about what they already know, and then choose a pair of variables to test in the lab. After students have finished exploring their variables, we will regroup and discuss the results. This will lead to teacher-directed instruction on kinetic molecular theory and gas laws. This sequence provides students with three to four different ways of learning about gas behavior.

Another important aspect of differentiation is the use of pre-assessment to determine student readiness and also provide an avenue for student grouping. Teachers “must determine how much their students already know – and what they do not know-about that content.” (“A Teacher’s Guide…”, 2014) I will be starting my unit with a pre-test, which will simply be a test I would normally use as a post-test for the unit on gases. I will use the results of this pre-test to group students for the brainstorm and lab activities that follow the pre-test.

There are multiple opportunities for formative feedback throughout my unit, in the form of students using individual whiteboards, PollEverywhere, and also a short quiz. The whiteboards and PollEverywhere allow for students to receive immediate feedback from me on how they are doing, and also allows me to see how well students are understanding. According to Frey (n.d., p.5), formative assessment is used in differentiation to identify students that might need additional instruction. So, in addition to students getting feedback, I will be able to see if any re-teaching will be necessary.

Students will also have an opportunity to reflect on their learning through the use of self-assessments. I originally planned on giving students a self-assessment at the end of each class period, but realized that may not be practical, so instead I will try and have students complete them at least once per week. “When students are able to reflect on their own learning, discovering what they know and understand as well as what they do not, it allows them to take control of their own learning and help themselves succeed.” (Rasmussen, n.d., p.2) These self-assessments will give students an opportunity to rate themselves, using a 5-point Likert scale, on how well they are understanding the material, as well as how they think they are behaving in class. I will use these as another form of formative assessment to adjust the unit as needed to ensure students are really understanding what we are doing.

The performance assessment for my unit will have students observe a series of events, and then explain them in terms of the kinetic molecular theory and gas laws involved. I will use a five point rubric to grade the responses. At this point, the rubric is something I have created, but I hope in the future to have students help me develop a rubric that can be used for a variety of performance assessments throughout the year. I am also going to have students work with a partner to write a test question for each gas law we learned about in class, and then the post-test for this unit will be a compilation of student-created questions and the key will be the students’ solutions.  “In a differentiated classroom, it’s necessary for learners to be active in making and evaluating decisions.” (Tomlinson, 2001, p.5) This gets students involved in the planning process and provides them with a sense of ownership in the classroom.

The final piece for this unit will be having students complete an assessment of the unit. This will include changes they would make for next year, and offer them a chance to give any other feedback they would like about the unit.


A Teacher’s Guide to Differentiating Instruction. (2014). Retrieved January 26, 2016, from http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Teacher_s_Guide/

Frey, N. (n.d.). Differentiating Instruction in Responsive Middle and High School Classrooms. Retrieved January 12, 2016, from http://education.ky.gov/educational/diff/Documents/Frey.pdf

Rasmussen, J.B. (n.d.). Formative Assessment Strategies. Retrieved March 21, 2016 from: http://www.sonoranschools.org/Downloads/formative-assessment-strategies.docx.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

5 responses to “Week 10: How does my unit plan integrate best practices and theory of differentiated instruction?

  1. aletakmay says:

    The way you built in choices “by taking in information about the behavior of gases” looks like a great plan mainly because the students are working together, then regrouping to discuss results. Students listen to, watch and talk to each other at different levels of understanding.

    I looked up Poll Everywhere apps . Are you using the mobile app through student phones; or your phone as a clicker with a PowerPoint? Since this is new to me, I went to: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/poll-everywhere/id893375312?mt=8
    Thank you for sharing about this app and how you use it for formative assessment!


    • Sarah K says:

      Thanks so much for your comments! With PollEverywhere I have my students use their phones as clickers and answer questions using PowerPoint. It works well most of the time, but not all of my students have cell phones so there is that to consider. It’s very user friendly and easy to setup, and the most time consuming part is inputting all of the questions you want to ask.


  2. katemullin17 says:

    This unit looks great (and like it would be super fun to do from a student perspective)! I like how you will use your pre-assessment information to create groups for brainstorming and lab work. I know that you are giving the students a choice of labs, but will you try to guide them to choose a variable relationship they are less familiar with, rather than choosing one that might be interesting but of which they already understand the relationship? I often have students choose the path of least resistance. I really like how you will regroup and have everyone share their findings, then do the teacher-led instruction. This preloading of concept awareness in the form of hands-on lab work can lead to much better understanding when you present the information in lecture form!


    • Sarah K says:

      Thanks so much for your comments! I like your idea of guiding them towards the relationship they know less about. I will definitely encourage them to do that! I hope the lab work will help them make better sense of the concepts when we discuss them as a class. I’ve tried it before, but I think the key is to provide enough scaffolding to help them when they need it, but not helping too much. I always want to help more than they actually need it.


  3. Ms. Ramirez says:

    Hi Sarah: I know this is late after you’ve already done your reflection but I want to start out by saying thank you for sharing your unit! I learned so much just by reading your analysis before I even got into your unit and reading the comments. I like the idea of poll everywhere, you can do something similar using google forms if your school is set up on the google system, my district has one to one technology which makes this process easy, but if you didn’t, poll everywhere from their cellphone or tablet might be the way to go. I also really like your self assessment work at the end of each week. I am wondering have you used that before? Do students take it seriously? I am working with seniors and I am considering using it in my class. The first day of the project happened today and even with the first check in due tomorrow they were not as productive as I would have liked. Im considering giving something similar to reflect on the work they’ve done and how well they did it. Thank you for the great ideas and while science is my weak point I think it sounds good and if you have never done DI with your class before I think more scaffolding is better and then you can ease up as you go.


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