So That All May Learn: Differentiating Instruction in the Primary Social Studies Classroom, pp. 5 of 7

Table 1: Examples of Tiered Tasks by Readiness Level

Readiness Level

Tiered Task

Not so ready - students who are still struggling a little with concepts of environment and culture

Gather information about how climate affects the types of shelter and dress of people living in temperate places.

Quite ready - students who show some understanding of environment and culture 

Explain how occupations of people are affected by the topography of the region they live in (e.g., people who live near seas and lakes tend to be fishermen or traders).

Very ready - students who have good understanding of environment and culture

Compare and contrast types of housing of people who live near forests with those living in deserts and explain how these are influenced by the environment.

When planning tiered assignments, we can adjust a number of variables such as:

  • the amount of structure provided;
  • degree of complexity;
  • degree of abstractness;
  • amount of time;
  • number of steps needed;
  • level of dependence or independence.

Carol Ann Tomlinson’s “Equalizer” (See Figure 2) is a useful planning tool for teachers. 

Product – this is the visible, demonstrable result of learning. It is usually something tangible and reflects what students have understood or learned to do. Like content and process, products can be differentiated to cater to students’ interest, learning profiles and readiness. Teachers can draw from Bloom’s taxonomy or Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences to offer choices of products that match or stretch students’ thinking preferences or readiness levels. For example, following the completion of the tiered assignments in the lesson on the influence of environment on culture, students can be tasked to demonstrate their understanding by drawing a chart, composing a song, creating and acting out a skit or making a model. Products can also be varied to provide the appropriate challenge to suit student readiness. Differentiated products to suit readiness are often related to the differentiated process in the tiered assignment. For example, in the lesson on the influence of environment on culture, the product for the ‘Very ready’ group of students could be a Venn diagram and the products for the ‘Not so ready’ and ‘Quite ready’ groups could simply be the teacher-designed worksheets to aid the completion of the tasks.  

What we need to remember in differentiating products is to offer choices to students but at the same time, ensure that these choices stretch student thinking and competencies. There must be sufficient challenge –enough to enable them to grow but not too much that they become discouraged.

In summary, when differentiating instruction, we need to consider student interest, learning profile and readiness levels and then modify content, process or product to meet student needs. Figure 3 provides an overview to help us consider the different elements when crafting differentiated curriculum.

Some essential points to remember when differentiating instruction
Assessment is key

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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