May 21, 2003
I teach 8th graders who are at-risk of not graduating from high school. The best method that I have found to allow for differentiation is to use the students as experts. When we are doing individual work, during homeroom, during down time, or whenever I can find, I pull students aside and walk them through the steps of working problems or whatever we will be working with that day. Then, as we break up into groups, the students lead their own groups through the work. Very rarely do students just let their groups copy their papers, and the students who teach receive a boost of confidence. I do not select the best students, but try to choose based on gut instinct. At the end of the week, I ask for students to talk about which folks have done the best job in teaching. Sometimes, I list the concepts we have learned and ask who the class felt would be a good concept expert. This year, I even had the opportunity to film two of my exceptional needs students as they completed whole group instruction at the overhead on a very difficult science concept. The water-testing expert who had trained them remarked that they were two of the brightest eighth graders he had ever worked with. It is a great boost to these students and many of them have remarked that they would like to become teachers.