LE 3: Differentiation & Motivation

Reading Specialist Summer 2014

What we'd like to learn more about

  • the impact of rewards on intrinsic motivation
  • students' abilities to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses
  • the impact of internal and external factors on motivation
  • how to create learning experiences that are relevant, interesting, and engaging? How can you get students involved in keeping their learning relevant for themselves?
  • I want to look into classroom arrangements in more detail
  • While fear of ridicule, disappointment and failure are motivational, how do we help students break away from that those driving emotions?
  • the earlier a child is motivated in their educational career, the more likely they will be at being academically successful
  • how other teachers differentiate their programs: instruction, activities, assessments in their classrooms.
  • teachers can differentiate a task based on four factors (content, process, product and learning environment)
  • Does differentiation actually lead to greater motivation in our students? As students gain some control over the choice of activities, materials used, topics discussed, assessment activities, will they become more motivated in the classroom?

A few Ideas you shared. . .

This past year, I attended a workshop about DI (I wish I could remember what it was called, because I would recommended it as great PD). One of the best ideas I took away from the workshop (and their were many) was to include a little chart on your lesson/unit/whatever plans. As you're planning lessons/tasks, check off each of the learning styles. In a differentiated class you should be able to mark off each of the learning styles for at least one of the tasks. (Taye)

Ways in Which We Already Differentiate

Instructional Approaches

In my classroom I use a variety of instructional approaches (i.e. whole class, small group, partners, individual) and I try to incorporate a variety of modalities (meet the needs of different learning styles - visual, tactile, auditory etc.). Through the use of the Daily 5, I can offer a wide variety of choice. What I feel I need to be better at is providing choice for students in terms of assessments. Allowing them to choose how they will showcase their learning. (Wendy)

I use the CAFÉ and Daily 5 model for reading instruction. After watching this webcast I find that this program lends itself well to daily differentiation of reading instruction. While most of the class is engaged in activities of their choice: reading to self, reading to a friend, word work, writing, listening to reading, the teacher is free to work with a small group of students on a particular skill or strategy that assessment has indicated they are in need of instruction in. These activities are still enriching activities where all students are practicing higher-level skills in reading and writing. During a different “round” the teacher is also free to have student-teacher conferences where the teacher can listen to a student read and discuss the reading with the student based on the following criteria: comprehension, accuracy, fluency and vocabulary. The student becomes familiar with this process and as time goes on begins to engage in accountable talk with the teacher with what is working well for them and what possible next steps could be. I find that this program does work very well to address the needs of both the most at-risk students as well as the high performing ones because students are taught how to choose a ‘good-fit’ book and this skill is continuously reviewed with them so that they are choosing books at with which they are successful but still have enough of a challenge that they can practice their reading strategies. (Lauren)

Flexible use of Strategies

We spend quite a bit of time focusing on strategies and modelling strategies that students can use before during, and after reading, as well as what they can do to make meaning of unfamiliar French vocabulary. For example, some of the strategies we use are: looking at the pictures, looking for words that look or sound like English, looking for words that they've learned the meaning of before, skipping a word, re-reading a sentence to make meaning of the word in context, looking for little words in big words, using a French/English dictionary, and referring to anchor charts, posters, textbooks, language boards, and binder notes. (Michelle)

Flexible routines: during my language block, I use literacy centers to target a variety of needs of my students (centers offer students choices of activities to complete). (Clare)

Accommodations (Heather)

Extra time, preferential seating, technology, one-on-one or peer help, etc.


Using formal and informal diagnostic assessments, including interest, reading or learning style inventories, to determine students’ individual starting points and to inform my planning. (Lindsay)

Reading Interest Inventories – at the beginning of the year and with each new term I conduct reading interest surveys and learning style with my students. As they progress over the year, their reading abilities and interests always change. I use this data to help drive my instruction, differentiate their reading responses, get an idea of how they are feeling about their reading, and most importantly allow them to express their understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. This also helps me to zero in and use texts that will motivate and catch their interest during shared, guided, read aloud, and independent reading times. (Sherry)

Regular observation and assessment to provide needed instruction (Jill)

I also (hopefully) teach to my students individual needs and assess these needs on an on-going level through not only formal assessments such as running records, PM Benchmarks and DRA assessments, but also through reading conferences. (Lillian)

Choice (Belinda)

Students have choice of reading material at a reading level appropriate to them. Students have choice of how they want to respond to a text during independent reading.

Technology (Sara)

Using technology during reading activities (e.g. SMART Board, Kurzweil, Raz-Kids)

Inquiry-Based Learning (Kristina)

This year our staff was encouraged to give inquiry based learning a try. I’ve found it lends itself well to differentiating instruction and assessment. With a clear idea of the curriculum expectations I need to address in my learning tasks, I serve them up to the class in a way that allows them to demonstrate their understanding in a manner that is meaningful to them. At the start of the year this involves explicit instruction on different ways to acquire and present information, as well as a lot of instruction on how to ask good questions to attain information. When I intend to assess learning, students help create learning goals and success criteria and are free to meet those using the different forms we’ve learned in class (e.g, a book, a diagram, a play, an oral presentation etc.). I’ve found differentiated instruction involves a lot of observation, re-direction and conferencing. I know I’m still struggling to wrap my mind around inquiry based learning, but while doing this I’ve become a lot better at differentiating my instruction and assessment.

Differentiation in Kindergarten (Taye)

I feel like kindergarten is intrinsically differentiated. Children are allowed (a lot) of choice and are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning (be it through skills development (including how to do their own zippers and laces, reading and writing skills, fine and gross motor development, or social and emotional development). With respect to how I provide differentiation in reading, I work with flexible reading groups for explicit instruction of reading skills (phonetic/phonemic awareness, sight-words development, fluency, comprehension, etc…). Reading (of favourite books, weekly poems, and messages) is always an option (which is also very popular) during activity time. This allows students an opportunity to work together to develop their reading/writing skills (they LOVE to play teacher). Also, I work with students on an individual basis to help them add words to their drawings. While I know this is not explicit to reading instruction, I feel it goes hand-in-hand because while the students are learning to sound out words or find them on the word wall they are further developing their phonetic/phonemic skills and their abilities to recognize high-frequency words.

areas that influence motivation

A juicy motivational idea shared by Michelle. . .

There's all kinds of ideas online. The grade 6 teacher at my school does a neat one every year where students take their shoes off and take a look at where they're made. Most shoes are made in China, so the students take a look at the working conditions of people (children) in China and how shoes and clothing are made, and why a lot of things are made in China (cheap, child labour). It's a great social justice topic and it's quite engaging for the students.

Shared Differentiation Resources

Shared Motivation Resources

a few other shared resources. . .

The Sisters discuss the CAFE system
Reading (Happy Song)