Tiered Instruction: Beginning the Process
State and national standards expect that all students master grade-level skills and understanding. Some learners who already know those skills and concepts may be tread-milling instead of learning. Tiered instruction invites educators to rethink traditional educational practices that view students as having similar backgrounds and readiness levels. There are two essential components that make this possible:
- Tiered instruction blends assessment and instruction. Before initiating each segment of learning, the teacher completes a pre-assessment to determine what students know and then plans content materials and learning experiences that promote continued learning for each student. As teachers consider students' assessed readiness levels, it becomes obvious that everyone is not at the same place in their learning and that different tasks are needed to optimize every student's classroom experience.
- Tiered instruction aligns complexity to the readiness levels and learning needs of students.The teacher plans different kinds and degrees of instructional support and structure, depending upon each student's needs. Tiered instruction allows all students to focus on essential concepts and skills yet still be challenged at the different levels on which they are individually capable of working.
Framingham recognizes that readiness, interest and learning styles of students differ and tiered instructional units enable students to study materials at their instructional level. For this reason, tiered thematic units in English have been created under the supervision of the Gifted and Talented department in collaboration with twenty-seven ELA teachers representing the three middle schools. To prepare for this project, teachers engaged in a three-day professional development training during which time they participated in the instruction on the "how to" of differentiation using tiered English thematic units;
-identification of a thematic unit based on the the following pieces of literature: Blizzard; Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie; The Giver, and; To Kill A Mockingbird. Materials and activities used in their thematic units include levels of reading material and cognitively tiered activities.
Basic knowledge, understanding. The student builds on his/her current level of core information.
Application or manipulation of the information learned in the foundation layer. Problem solving or other higher level thinking tasks can be placed here.
Critical thinking and analysis. This layer requires the highest and most complex thought.
- selection of a pre-assessment tools that will guide instruction and drive the review of existing materials that will be used to tier instruction; training on data analysis of pre-assessment tools for implementation of flexible grouping practices; and
- instruction in 6 + 1 Trait® Writing.
Consideration of Multiple Intelligence Theory in the variety of activities selected in order to maximize student productivity.