One of the hardest things to do is differentiate. We hear the word all the time. What does it actually mean?

Differentiation refers to a wide variety of teaching techniques and lesson adaptations that educators use to instruct a diverse group of students, with diverse learning needs, in the same course, classroom, or learning environment. Differentiation is commonly used in “heterogeneous grouping”—an educational strategy in which students of different abilities, learning needs, and levels of academic achievement are grouped together. In heterogeneously grouped classrooms, for example, teachers vary instructional strategies and use more flexibly designed lessons to engage student interests and address distinct learning needs—all of which may vary from student to student. The basic idea is that the primary educational objectives—making sure all students master essential knowledge, concepts, and skills—remain the same for every student, but teachers may use different instructional methods to help students meet those expectations. source

Physical education is made for differentiation. We can set up different skills challenges for different levels. (which I allow them to choose) We can also set up different games for those who want are self-proclaimed experts, intermediate players, or beginners. We can mix students up and give the experts a low reward for completing the task and the beginners a high reward for completing the tasks.

Another way we can differentiate is to have various QR codes linked to videos demonstrating various levels of skills. They can choose to scan the beginner, intermediate or expert levels. I am sure I am leaving a ton more ways to differentiate instruction in the physical education environment.

@joeyfeith uses the experts as coaches to help the others. This is an effective way of engaging the students who are our “high flyers”. I believe this is also a higher level of DOK, Blooms, and Solo taxonomy.

We can also use different ways to assess our ss on the mastery of the skill. Some students can create videos, others demonstrate in a game while others teach their classmates. A lot of leeway hinges on the verb in the standard.

This week I had two high-level students that were completely disengaged in the foot dribbling skill and activity. They upset me because they were continuously off task during the entire class. Whenever I get upset I have to remind myself that these are students and that they aren’t off task to personally make me mad. If that sounds stupid you probably haven’t been a teacher before. Students do things against the “rules” or accepted norms all the time. The first reaction of some teachers (myself included) is to feel like they are being disrespected.

I kept the students after class and had a discussion with them. I asked if I had ever treated them disrespectfully, talked down to them, or did anything they found to be rude. They responded no. This validated to me that my personality or teaching style was the problem in this instance. I asked them what they problem was. They stated they didn’t enjoy the skill practice or the drill activity we had done in class. This is usually where I give my, “If you don’t like math or Spanish activity are you expected to participate” spiel but I tried a different tact. I asked them both to create a game or activity they would enjoy playing. They were to create a google doc and share it with me before next class.

I was somewhat pleased with this scenario until I read @sporticus blog today. It made me think. What if I introduced the skill and went right into more small sided games? Do I need the longer skill practice? I usually tell the class they can’t play the game until they master the skill but is that the right order? Can we master the skill while playing the game? At the very least if everything else is a wash is playing the game more enjoyable than just the skill practice?

My idea is not to swing the pendulum all the way to the right and say here is the skill let’s play the game. @btcostello has warned me about changing too hard in the other direction. What if I introduced the skill, did a super quick skill practice, then went right into the game? The rules to the game are always changed to emphasize the skill anyway. The games are small sided and everyone is active.

What are your thoughts? Do students need to master the skills before you play the games?

q1. How do you differentiate in your class? #slowchatpe

q2. What is your response when ss are off task in class? #slowchatpe

q3. Do you ever use student coaches in your class? #slowchatpe

q4. Do ss need to master skills before we play games? #slowchatpe

q5. Who is a differentiation expert we should know about in ur #pln?


One thought on “Differentiation

  1. Pingback: The PE Playbook – January 2016 Edition – drowningintheshallow

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