SDE Differentiated Instruction Conference!

Hello and happy July!

We are writing to you from the SDE 2016 Differentiated Instruction Conference in Las Vegas, where we are learning as much as we can about differentiated instruction! 

When we are not wondering about how the temperature can be 115 degrees or why there is a fake sky inside, we have found numerous takeaways we can't wait to bring back to the classroom. Below are a few different reminders and insights we would like to share with you! They cover a range of tips from the vast world of differentiation.

1. We (still) love Pop-up Debates !

We do these in our classroom and we loved hearing about how others do debates in their rooms/schools. We are re-committed to using these as a way to talk through news articles, get content moving, and especially excited to keep using debates before our Persuasive Essay unit. We were reminded to use templates to give students practice for how to paraphrase an argument, and then agree & add on, disagree, or complicate.


"_____ you're basically saying _________.. "

AND THEN add on one of the options below:

Disagree with reasons

  • "The primary problem with that is _________"

  • "The reason that your statement can’t stand is__________"

  • "I don’t agree because _________"


  • Well crafted question that makes the other person go back and unravel what they/you just said

  • "But I can also see _____ being true.."

  • "Do you think you might be missing ________?"

  • "Isn’t it more complicated than that, though? I mean, what about________?"

Agree & Add on

  • "I agree with what you are saying and I want to add on________"

  • "You're on point and here's another reason why_______"

(example template inspired by They Say, I Say)

We were also just reminded how teaching students how to disagree and argue is such an important life skill!

"The goal is not victory but a good decision, one in which all arguers are at risk of needing to alter their views , one in which a participant takes seriously and fairly the views different from his or her own." -Richard Fulkerson, Teaching the Argument in Writing (1996)

2. ABC Brainstorm! 

We love this idea of an Alphabet Brainstorm to get everyone involved and connecting to prior knowledge. For example, if the topic is MUSIC, students would brainstorm alone/in pairs/in groups and try to fill in the entire alphabet. We are going to do this to assess background knowledge of a topic! This is a fun tool we are going to keep playing with in terms of grouping students, as well so we can make groups based off of their answers and interests (and not just on 'level').

3. Change your verbs!  

Changing verbs alters the complexity of the prompt, and can push students to think outside the box. We especially like "Defend.." (going back to debate practice) as a challenging one we will try out. We also like "Rank.." as a quick check in prompt to see what they are understanding in an easily accessible, quick bullet point way. We are going to try some of these out more often this upcoming school year!

We love these reminders of ways to change the game and individualize the task for each student!

5. There are so many different ways of being smart!


We really appreciated the reminder about assessing for multiple intelligences (thanks, Howard Gardner via Danielle Hickerson!) and the importance of knowing yourself as a learner. This school year, we will work extra hard to make sure we are teaching to all different learning styles and giving EVERYONE a chance to excel.

What insights have you come across this summer in terms of differentiated instruction? What are some of your favorite tools? Tips? Activities?

We'd love to hear from you!