Tiered Learning Experiences— From the book Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom, here is a glimpse at tiered lesson planning. Don’t let the title of the book fool you– this style of lesson planning can be beneficial to use with all kids, especially in mixed-ability classroom settings. When first reading about tiered learning experiences, my mind automatically made the connection to choice or menu boards. This is differentiation! Though they are similar in a way, tiered lesson planning looks a little different. Here’s a quick comparison:
Menu Boards, Tic-Tac-Toe, & Choice Boards
- Choice in process & product.
- All students participate, though not in the same way.
- Similar level of difficulty of tasks.
- Teacher directed differentiation.
- All students engage with same content then experience it slightly differently.
- Tiered levels of difficulty.
Tiered lessons provide all students with whole-group instruction and activities on the topic to build background knowledge. Where they become unique is after that instruction students are provided with different tasks to allow them an opportunity to work with the content. These tasks are tiered by difficulty (versus by learning modality) — entry-level activities, advanced activities, and most challenging activities. Once students have completed learning tasks at the appropriate level for them, the teacher brings the whole group back to process and wrap up the lesson. Here’s a quick, “for instance” example–
|EL/Topic/Skill: Food Webs|
|Whole Group Inst./Activities: YouTube video, re-tell activity, read text w/ strategy|
|Tier 1 Activity:||Tier 2 Activity:||Tier 3 Activity:|
|Identify food chain vs. food web through card sort activity||Construct food web when provided info about ecosystem||Evaluate the effect of species removal from web through “what if…” scenario|
|Whole Group Inst./Activities: game-based review, exit ticket|
Notice the activities are all centered around the same topic or essential goals while they move up the Taxonomy of Thinking. This allows students to engage with the content at an appropriate level for them. Utilize pre-test data, quick-checks, formative assessment data, or even allow choice at times to know which students should participate in which activities. Think about titling the activities with content-area words, “readiness” levels, or even use colored paper and distribute to students as “red group”, “green group”, etc.
One idea I really like about this type of planning is that the teacher always has another activity at the ready for those early finishers. If a student working with the tier 1 activity finishes they can then move on to the tier 2. Students that have completed tier 2 can then move on to the tier 3. Students that complete the tier 3 activity can be moved on to a pre-prepared extension activity that is more in-depth or complex, if needed. This also allows students the opportunity to interact with the content at those more challenging levels when they are ready.
Going to give it a go? Post the date and class periods to the Pineapple Chart to welcome other teachers in to check it out!