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Differentiated Curriculum:
A Successful Experience


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What is differentiated curriculum?
Differentiated curriculum is one that is individualized to meet the diverse needs of all of the students in one class. As gifted children expert Susan Weinbrenner says, "Equality means giving everyone equal opportunities to learn, not teaching everyone in exactly the same way." If implemented appropriately, differentiation does not have to mean more work for the teacher. In fact, it will allow a teacher to spend his or her time more efficiently with a greater number of students.

Compacting the curriculum
Compacting the curriculum occurs when students are allowed to "buy back" time for what they already know so they can "spend" time another way (Renzulli & Reis, 1991). It is a way that allows students to earn self-directed time to work independently on special interest projects. First, look at your curriculum in a particular content area. Determine what criteria students need to meet in order to convince you they know the material. Then compact the curriculum:

Give the unit test at the beginning of the unit. Students who achieve 85% or better agree to follow a learning contract outlining an independent study during the time the rest of the class is working toward mastery in a certain area. It is understood that the independent contract students will need to do a lot of problem solving without the one-on-one help of the teacher during this particular time. This is not to say that the teacher ignores those students. They need to be checked on from time to time, just like the rest of the students in the class.

For instance, if you usually give spelling tests on Friday, give a practice test on the prior Monday. Students who score 85% or higher can work on projects of their choice or on alternate word-building activities such as creating a spelling game, playing Scrabble, or making a crossword puzzle.

If your goal is for students to write a coherent paragraph, tell them and show them specifically what you are looking for. Give a quick assessment that will allow students to prove they can write a coherent paragraph with at least 85% mastery. Those who can write at this level should be encouraged to pursue individual projects such as creative writing or journaling, or the activities may not have anything to do with writing, depending on students' needs and teacher's comfort zone.

In math, grade level standards may require students to add and subtract fractions. After an introduction to basic concepts and some practice, a quick, informal assessment should show who has internalized the mechanics as well as developed an understanding of fractions. Those scoring 85% or better can pursue projects, problems, or games involving fractions or some other area of interest while the rest of the students continue to familiarize themselves with the beginning components of numbers less than one. The same compacting applies to reading, social studies, and science.



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Highlights

Galactic Hot Dogs Reading Marathon
Join the Galactic Hot Dogs Reading Marathon! Read each episode as it's re-released with newly revealed facts, behind-the-scenes illustrations, and the inside scoop. Make it official by pledging on the blog to read each chapter with Cosmoe. Your students will love following the exploits of these space travelers, and you'll love the educational elements that can easily be paired to the stories.

Handwashing Awareness
Kids are especially susceptible to contracting and spreading viruses during the winter months. Prevention starts with proper handwashing. Show students how to keep germs away.

March Calendar of Events
March is full events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum. Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event, including: National School Breakfast Week (3/2-6), World Orphan Week (3/4-11), Boston Massacre (3/5/1770), Daylight Saving Time Begins (3/8), International Women's Day (3/8), Teen Tech Week (3/8-14), Pi Day (3/14), St. Patrick's Day (3/17), Spring Begins (3/20), Make Your Own Holiday Day (3/26), and World Theatre Day (3/27). Plus, celebrate Deaf History Month (3/15-4/15), Music In Our Schools Month, Women's History Month, and Youth Art Month!

Poptropica Teaching Guides
Poptropica is one of the Internet's most popular sites for kids—and now it's available as an app for the iPad! It's not just a place to play games; each of the islands featured on the site provides a learning opportunity. Check out our teaching guides to four of Poptropica's islands: 24 Carrot Island, Time Tangled Island, Mystery Train Island, and Mythology Island.

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Women's History Month
March is Women's History Month. Talk to your students about the accomplishments women have made—as well as the adversity they have faced.


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