Differentiated Lesson Ideas for All MS Subjects

Differentiated Lessons for Every Learner: Standards-Based Activities and Extensions for Middle School
By Dina Brulles, Karen L. Brown, and Susan Winebrenner
(Prufrock Press, 2016 – Learn more)

jennifer wirtzReviewed by Jennifer Wirtz

In our quest to identify and determine what makes students process and engage in content, we all look for easy-to-use resources that aid in differentiating instruction to suit the needs of our demographically vast classrooms.

Upon reading Differentiated Lessons for Every Learner, I think the authors have done a nice job identifying innovative ideas and lessons that we can use to engage and challenge our classroom readers.

differentiated lessons wirtzDifferentiated Lessons for Every Learner puts a tremendous amount of effort into identifying ways to help students think deeply. At the heart of the text is the desire of the authors to assist educators in the tasks of embedding a self-reflective learning process in the classroom, while providing students with continual opportunities to individualize their learning.

Student choice for all learners

Student choice has long been used for gifted and/or motivated students, but it has recently become best practice to incorporate student choice into all classrooms regardless of skill, ability, and motivation levels. Content-area teachers are also now tasked with the challenge of incorporating literacy skills into all classes.

This text gives content-area teachers opportunities to fully recognize, and implement, the rigorous ELA standards – with regard to both skills and content – so they better prepare their own students for the depth and complexity expected of them in writing and responding to literature/information.

Extension activities support mixed-ability classrooms

One thing that I appreciated in the lessons identified in this text is that the extension activities are intended for use in mixed-ability classrooms, so that all students, regardless of level, can be successful. The use of these extension activities provides the teacher with innovative instructional opportunities that can assist in individualizing the instruction within the classroom, so that the student receives relevant instruction.

The text explains how to move from modeling through direct instruction, to independent routine practices, then to study guided by the individual student themselves. This will be extremely helpful to me when utilizing them in a classroom where some students have shown standard mastery, while others are struggling.

Extension activities also can assist with providing real-world application of the standards to those who are gaining understanding, while those struggling with concepts can be re-taught.

All content areas included

Overall, this text offers a tremendous amount of support for all of the content-areas, including electives. Each chapter focuses on one content area, and each lesson offers a minimum of eight activities/extensions that go along with an identified topic and set of standards.

I especially like that ELA lessons have broad application possibilities. For example, Lesson 2.12 is titled Shakespeare’s Characters, and it lists eight extension activities. All of the activities could apply to any of Shakespeare’s works. This is enticing to teachers who are using a variety of texts to challenge all levels of student readers. With this type of flexibility, the possibilities are endless.

I would recommend this text to anyone interested in finding quality resources within any given content area and topic. The resources/extensions discussed in the text are relevant to a variety of learners, educators, and others who seek out middle-school applicable lessons.

Jennifer Wirtz has been a 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher at Gemini Junior High School in Niles, Illinois for over a decade. She received a B.A. and a B.S. from Loyola University Chicago and a Masters in Education from DePaul University. Currently she is also finishing up a three year stint as a Design Teacher in the Project READI research program at the University of Illinois-Chicago. She is married to a math teacher and has two young children.


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1 Response

  1. Courtney Lord says:

    I’ve been looking for a summer read on differentiation – you sold me on this one!

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