HOW TO differentiate

HOW TO differentiate

CONFUSED with all of this......??



1. Our Inquiry Learning units are written by teachers and educators, for teachers, and are intended to have the hard work already done for you in the planning process.

Each unit is also open to individual tweakings and adjustments by you to accommodate your students’ needs. Differentiation is the key: more personalised learning through what we at ThinkShop call the 3 C's:

  1. Complexity (e.g. Deep Understandings, Essential Questions);

  2. Challenge (e.g. using Bloom's Taxonomy to personalise learning; using Philosophy techniques; encouraging Questioning..)

  3. Choice (giving students CHOICE in both depth and complexity is a vital component in differentiating).

A SYNTHESIS of TRIED AND TESTED strategies and theories!

You'll be amazed and delighted at the simplicity we've created for you!

Our inquiry units are based on the idea of differentiated inquiry learning through CONCEPTS. By using a concept to focus a lens on a topic, we open the doors to a wealth of thinking and exploring for our students. By combining tried-and-tested theories such as Understanding By Design (Wiggins& McTighe, 2005), Inquiry Learning, Renzulli’s School-wide Enrichment model, CPS (Osborn-Parnes problem-solving model for Creative Problem-solving), and also using thinking models and strategies such as Bloom’s, Sternberg’s Triarchic theory, multiple intelligences, learning styles, and more - we hope we bring you a workable and enjoyable DIFFERENTIATED framework for your teaching.


BINARY OPPOSITES play a major role in concept-based inquiry (Egan, 1990). A binary opposite means two objects or ideas that together form a whole - like a binary system in space, where two stars revolve around each other as one system. Binary opposites are theoretical opposites in philosophical language, and are more than simply ‘opposites’ - they come laden with our own cultural values. To a young child then, ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ are simply opposites - two different examples of things we can feel. But to an adult, ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ convey a wealth of ideas and concepts- from negativity to positivity, from interest to disinterest, from topical to outmoded…
Interestingly, one binary opposite usually has dominance over the other. So one is usually viewed by a culture as the ‘positive’ or desirable one, and the other is the less desirable. For teachers, you can easily tell if you are teaching simply a topic: if you can’t come up with various sets of binary opposites, then it’s not a concept! Struggling to find binary opposites for “Our Town”? Ah - that’s because underpinning that topic, are the concepts and binary opposites such as:
• the environment (binary opposites such as pollution: biodegradable; natural: made by humans.)
• interactions (binary opposites such as predator: prey, provider: receiver; supporter: supported; constructive: destructive…)


Individualising/differentiating the Programme

Individualising the programme does NOT imply one-to-one teaching. It refers to all the experiences needed to meet a child’s needs, and uses a variety of grouping patterns and classroom management skills.
Individualisation can be described as ways of organising learning experiences from students’ assessed achievements and interests, so that these determine the programme (i.e. rate, the content, the schedule, the experiences and depth of exploration) available to all students. Varying degrees of individualisation are possible.

Barbara Clark (1997) suggests three levels of individualisation:

Level 1 The teacher assesses each student’s needs, resulting in an individualised level and pace of instruction.
Level 2  The instruction becomes more personalised when in addition to individualised level and pace, the student becomes involved in the selection of goals.
Level 3  Once levels 1 and 2 have been achieved, the student can begin to incorporate self-directed or independent study skills, as well as the responsibility to self-select learning activities and materials.
Level 4 Total individualisation allows teacher and student to co-operatively assess and select goals, learning materials, activities, and instructional techniques. This also allows the student to self-pace, self-level, and self-evaluate, using the teacher as a consultant and resource.

Attitudes and values play a major role in education, and particularly in individualising programmes for gifted students. The New Zealand Curriculum Framework (1993) states:
“Attitudes to learning strongly influence the process, quality and outcomes of both learning and assessment. Teachers’ expectations, the support of parents and community, and students’ motivation are all significant factors....Values are mostly learned through students’ experience of the total environment, rather than through direct instruction.... These values include honesty, reliability, respect for others, respect for the law, tolerance (rangimarie), fairness, caring or compassion (aroha), non-sexism, and non-racism.”

Guidelines for intelligence and learning

Optimum learning occurs when the environment allows the student to learn by following these guidelines, suggested by Bellanca (1997):

- Set a safe emotional climate
- Create a rich learning environment
- Teach the mind tools and the mind skills of life
- Develop the mindfulness of the learner
- Challenge through the experience of doing
- Target multiple dimensions of intelligence
- Transfer learning through reflectionBy combining several outstanding models and strategies, we hope to both lighten the teacher’s load and to help you to offer worthwhile learning experiences to your students.

Do feel free to distribute copies of this; but do acknowledge the source please!

We hope you and your students enjoy!

Jean Edwards
Janice Gulbransen
Teressa Hosie

OUR Inquiry units and Online Thinkies Units:

All the 'hard bits' done
- ready for you to personalise for your class!

Using the highly-praised "Inquiry Learning with Concepts" model, this offers you a wealth of meaningful activities to lift your students' learning and to build on students' interests and individual understandings. As H Lynne Erickson says (2007), "Using topics and facts as a support rather than as a final destination, will truly lift academic and teaching standards."

  • examines the role which that particular concept plays in our world, examining the issue from a range of binary or opposing viewpoints- a list of pairs is supplied for you in each book

  • Provides you with Big Understandings as  Learning Intentions or learning goals (see each title below for specfics)

  • Gives you Essential Questions for deep thinking and transfer, such as "How do different types of advertising affect us differently?" and "What happens to the money that is paid for advertising?"

  • PLUS a choice of creative thinking activities suited to different learning styles (analytical, creative, kinaesthetic)

  • PLUS several different assessment tools.

All the hard work done for you - provides you with the planning framework, a recommended video link or book as an introductory hook, a set of photocopiable cards to promote sharing of Prior Knowledge...assessments.. even a list of suggested resources! Differentiate by offering your students Choice, Challenge and Complexity - it's all here!

Each title:

What more could you ask for?? Get cracking with these now- get your students deeply involved in Inquiry learning, and save yourself heaps of time planning- all the hard work's been done for you!


" I've used “Rights and Responsibilities”, “Probability” and “Freedom” with Year 3, 4 and 6 GATE groups.
I also appreciated the internet links especially the Ted talks. I found some more of ‘my own’ too!

All the units had really good Thinking/Talking/Exploring Cards, Essential Questions and Creativity Extenders - all of which I used.

Because I used them with my GATE groups and so had four 90 minute sessions I probably used them slightly differently to a class teacher but the concepts, in particular Freedom which I did with my Y6 group this term, provided some excellent discussions and challenges.

Because I’m the only one taking these groups (from Year 2 to 6) finding 5 different, stimulating topics every term for these children is quite a challenge, so I’ve appreciated having resources like yours to help trigger my thoughts and provide extension for these children.

Many thanks for all the effort which you have put into creating them and sharing them with us. "

Kind regards,
Alison Laxon, Victoria Avenue School