5 Ways to Differentiate in the Classroom



This post is brought to you by Study.com.

Whether you're a special education or general education teacher, differentiation has come to be expected in just about every classroom. According to Study.com, with differentiated instruction "teachers proactively create options to accommodate a diverse range of learners while keeping the whole class on track". Here a few ways I differentiate in an inclusion setting:

1. Small group instruction. While simply assisting struggling students isn't truly differentiation, building in leveled instruction for all students is. For example, when co-teaching in a general education math class, my co-teacher and I taught the mini-lesson to the whole class, and then provided leveled instruction to three different groups afterward. I differentiated for the below-level students by re-teaching the lesson and working on basic skills as needed. My co-teacher would work with the on-level students to address any misconceptions and provide additional guided practice. Above-level students would work on a leveled computer program. The next day, a different group would work on the computer program and the above-level group would have a chance to work on enrichment activities or more challenging problems. We adjusted these groups based on assessment.

2. Independent work. Sometimes differentiating independent work can be as simple as changing the length requirement. The standard requirement for a writing assignment might be one paragraph, but you can quietly let some students know that they will be writing three sentences and other students know that you will be expecting two paragraphs. At times, you may need to provide a different practice sheet or assignment altogether.

3. Visual cues. Providing visual cues is a great way to differentiate for students that are below-level or are simply visual learners. You can do this by making sure anchor charts are visible to them, or by providing personal references for those students, like an alphabet sound cue guide that provides a picture reminder of what sound each letter makes (apple/a, b/bat, etc.)

4. Different products of learning. For cumulative projects, allow students to choose how they display their knowledge. For example, if students are learning about life cycles in science, they could display their knowledge through an essay, a poster, a video, or a presentation. A student who struggles to write an essay may be more accurately able to display her knowledge through one of the other options. You can also do this using the "tic tac toe" method, where you provide a grid of options and students choose three they feel prepared to tackle.

5. Flexible environment. Students have different sensory and physical needs in addition to academic needs. Even if you aren't ready to go full on flexible seating, you can still provide a flexible environment that differentiates to student needs. For example, students who are uncomfortable sitting on the rug can be allowed to bring over a chair during a mini lesson. Wiggle seat cushions can work wonders for fidgety students.You can even provide a cool down corner for students who get overwhelmed.

If you're interested in learning more about differentiated instruction, Study.com has an entire course on this topic called Using Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom. And as a little giveaway to our readers, if you like their resources you can use the promo code StudyComTeacherDiffPromo to get 20% off the first three months of their teacher plan!

October Teacher Care Crate Unboxing



Find out exactly what comes in the October Teacher Care Crate in my unboxing video, and read below for more details on each item.

Autumn Bucket List: Designed by Jillian Starr of the The Starr Spangled Planner, this 5 x 7 bucket list is full of ways to take care of yourself and enjoy the season. {Retail Value: $8}

Fall Stickers: These stickers are a collaboration with Amanda Newsome of A Perfect Blend. The stickers are perfect for your planner or journal. {Retail Value: $4}

Knotted Headband: This knotted headband from Shabby Flowers is perfect for wearing to school! {Retail Value: $10}

Teach Candle: Made especially for Teacher Care Crate by Guideless Candle Company, this mini candle smells like coffee, cinnamon, and vanilla-- pure fall! {Retail Value: $5}

Vegan Leather Earrings: Handmade by me, these vegan leather earrings are super light and made with stainless steel findings. {Retail Value: $15}

Pumpkin Spice Latte Bath Bomb: This bath bomb from Plainly Simply looks just like a tiny pumpkin spice latte! {Retail Value: $6}

Pumpkin Pie Tea: This loose leaf tea from The Country Muffin is perfect for fall. I've included three tea bags for you to use to brew your tea, or you can use a tea strainer. {Retail Value: $4}

The October Teacher Care Crate is sold out! You can head to teachercarecrate.com on 10/15 to subscribe starting with the November Crate.


September Favorites


I'm starting a new series of monthly favorites! Here's what I'm loving this month:
This post contains affiliate links.

1. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson I had multiple people list this book as one that changed their lives on this Instagram post, so I decided to read it! Not a light read, but so, so important. The author shares stories of his work with prisoners on death row and the racism that is so embedded in the criminal justice system. There are some truly shocking statistics in the book, but it's mostly personal stories of actual cases. Be prepared to cry and shake your fist at society.

2. Naranjas Puzzle I just completed this puzzle and it's one of my favorites! It's a 1000 pieces and on the challenging side, but not crazy hard like some of the puzzles of paintings I've done.

3. Daily Harvest Smoothies These smoothies come frozen to your door, and you just add liquid and blend! They're a little pricey, but they've been working out really well for me since I'm kind of bad about keeping food in the house or eating at all when I'm home by myself. I get 6 every two weeks and they're great to have on hand for breakfast or as a snack. I try not to eat added sugar, so it's great that there are plenty of options without it. My favorite flavors are Acai + Cherry and Cold Brew + Almond. You can try it out and get three free cups with this link!

4. To All the Boys I've Loved Before This Netflix original movie is the cutest! Tons of you recommended it to me on Instagram so I watched it one night when my husband wasn't home so he wouldn't ruin it. 

5. Veggie Grain Bowls This is one of my favorite recipes to meal prep ahead and eat for lunch all week. I've only ever had the first one (there's two listed in this recipe), but it's SO good. I'm not sure in what world sweet potato takes the same amount of time to cook as all the other veggies though, so pop those sweet potatoes in first.

6. Neko Case's Hell-On This album is a couple months old but I'm just getting into it now. I'm a sucker for songs with my name, so Halls of Sarah is my personal favorite from the album.

7. Paper Mate Fine Gel Pens I know everyone has strong feelings about their flairs and Inkjoys, but these are my go-to pens! Ever since I started bullet journaling, I've been on the hunt for the perfect pen for me, and I think these are it!

What are your favorites this month?

September Teacher Care Crate Unboxing




Teach Mug I know it's a cliche that teachers get tons of mugs as gifts, but I, for one, have never once received a teacher mug! Regardless, this campfire style ceramic mug is perfect for your morning coffee or for keeping at school! {Retail Value: $15}

Face Mask This Charcoal Detox Sea & White Clay Mask from True Beauty Organics soothes skin and removes dirt and impurities. {Retail Value: $2.75}

Art Print Naturally the queen of teacher farmhouse style, Jessica of The Magnolia Teacher, designed this month's 5" x 7" art print! {Retail Value: $8}

Oatmeal Soap This gentle oatmeal soap from Serenity + Blossom is perfect for sensitive skin. {Retail Value: $4}

Matcha Chai Latte Mix Chai is the perfect fall drink, and this special mix from Teapigs combines it with healthful matcha! {Retail Value: $2.25}

Wooden Sign I polled the Teacher Care Crate Instagram audience about whether they would like a sign for your classroom or home-- and you choose classroom! These beautiful wooden signs were handmade by Cabin20 Creations. {Retail Value: $11}

{Total Retail Value: $43}

While the September crate is sold out, you can visit teachercarecrate.com on September 15 to sign up to receive the October Teacher Care Crate!



9 Items of Clothing from Amazon to Complete Your Teacher Wardrobe

This post contains affiliate links.

Amazon has some surprisingly cute and inexpensive (okay, that part's not surprising) clothing options for teachers! Unfortunately it can be kinda hard to hunt down items that are actually your style since Amazon is so vast! I did the work for you and found nine items perfect for teaching! They're all under $50, and most of them are WAY below that. My biggest tip for shopping for clothes on Amazon is to the check the brand's size chart and read the reviews. The clothes are often coming straight from Asia and the sizes tend to run quite small. For example, I'm usually a US extra small, and often wear a small or medium in many Amazon brands. Happy shopping!

1. Tote Bag This tote looks basic, but can hold a ton and has lots of useful features like dividers, pockets, and a keychain strap.
2. Striped Button Down This button down would look great untied with skinny pants or tied with a skirt!
3. Black Midi Skirt Speaking of skirts, a black midi is easy to wear and goes with everything.
4. Striped Long Sleeve Tee This top is a little more casual, but still appropriate for most schools.
5. Ballet Flats Some of the colors of these Tieks look-alikes are as low as $14!
6. Open Front Cardigan A neutral cardigan is a must for dealing with eccentric school heating systems.
7. Black Drawstring Pants Can't wear jeans? Why not wear something even comfier, like these drawstring pants!? 
8. Sloth Dress Look, what's even the point of being a teacher if you're not wearing whimsical prints à la Ms. Frizzle? 
9. Long Sleeve Ruffle Top So cute and would look great with a statement necklace!








Cultural Appropriation in the Classroom

From teepees as reading nooks to Drake decor, cultural appropriation is rampant in the classroom. Before I give some examples, let's make sure we all know what cultural appropriation is. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as, "the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture." I actually like this addition from Wikipedia as well: "It is distinguished from an equal cultural exchange due to an imbalance of power, often as a byproduct of colonialism and oppression."

As teachers, and particularly if you're a white teacher, it can be difficult to find the line between cultural appreciation vs. appropriation. Teaching your students about other cultures is important and absolutely not appropriation when you're doing it in a respectful and accurate manner. So how can you tell when you're taking part in cultural appropriation? Consider the intent AND the impact. Is your intent just to be trendy and cute, or is to truly and accurately teach about a culture? Is your intent to gain attention and profit (thinking TPT sellers here!) or is it to honor the culture? Now, consider the impact. Could the impact of your actions be negative, even if your intent is good? If a person of the culture you are appropriating tells you it's appropriation, listen to them! If you are a white educator teaching about marginalized cultures, you need to come at it from a place of humility. If you make a mistake, stop doing it, apologize, and make amends. 

Here are a few common forms of cultural appropriation in the classroom:

1. Using a whole culture or aspects of a culture as decor. "Tribal" is not a classroom theme. Sadly, if you search tribal decor on Teachers Pay Teachers, hundreds of results come up! There are many different Native American tribes that have all different customs and forms of art. They should not be reduced to some zigzag patterns and arrows for the sake of decorating a bulletin board. In the same vein, I also see tons of "teepees" being used as reading nooks! Just because something is sold at Target doesn't make it okay. You can learn more about this specifically in @readlikearockstar's Instagram post on the topic

2. Cultural dress as costumes. This can come up at Halloween, as well as throughout the year. Dressing up as a specific culture or nationality often turns into a stereotype that doesn't promote true understanding. When it comes down to it, traditional cultural clothing (such as Native American headdresses or Japanese kimonos) just are not costumes. When we treat them as such, we are not being respectful.

3. Creating crafts inspired by a culture, but not explaining the significance or incorrectly interpreting it. Most teachers like cute crafts, and there's nothing wrong with that! However, sometimes these crafts are inaccurate or reduce the culture to just one aspect. When you have your kids make a sombrero-and-mustache craft for Cinco de Mayo, you're promoting an inaccurate and often hurtful stereotype. Creating sugar skulls for Dias de los Muertos can also be a form of cultural appropriation. Again, consider both the intent and the impact. Is your intent just to make something cute or is to truly learn about and honor Mexican culture? 

4. Rapping. There's been a trend recently of white teachers taking rap songs and changing the lyrics to be educational or about school. Rap is a uniquely and powerfully Black form of music. It's been used to address social, political, and economic issues and can be seen as a voice of a marginalized group. If you want to listen to and appreciate rap music, great! If you want to study rap lyrics with your students and treat the art form with respect, great! But don't steal from a culture that isn't yours and turn it into something silly.

5. Phrases. Thankfully, many culturally appropriative or racist sayings are no longer socially acceptable to say. Unfortunately there are still quite a few floating around, some of which you might be using at school. I see sooo many shirts that say "teacher tribe" on them. Guess what? Unless you're referring to an actual cultural, regional tribe, you're not in a tribe. A group. You're in a group. Spirit animal is another one I see thrown around a lot, and unfortunately is something I used to say as well. A sloth is not your spirit animal, coffee is not your spirit animal-- NOTHING is your spirit animal, unless you are Native American and it is part of your religion. Also, I really hope no one is still saying this, but your students shouldn't be sitting "indian style"-- just say cross-legged! 

Wondering how to teach about other cultures without culturally appropriating? Consider using teaching resources created by members of the cultures you're teaching about. You still have a responsibility as an educator to do your own work, but this can be a great jumping off point. LaNesha Tabb and Naomi O'Brien have created an amazing K-3 Social Studies Curriculum that would be a great place to start. Jillian of The Starr Spangled Planner also has a great instagram post on cultural appropriation as well.

If you're not sure if something you're doing constitutes cultural appropriation, do some research or just don't do it!

August Teacher Care Crate Unboxing

Find out exactly what comes in the August Teacher Care Crate in this video, and then read below for more details and the retail value of each item. Subscribe by 7/14 at teachercarecrate.com to get the crate shown! 




Beaded Lanyard Handmade by me, this lanyard is both cute and functional! The cord is elastic so you that you can scan your ID and unlock your classroom without having to bend over or take off the lanyard. {Retail Value: $18}

Bath Bomb You all have been asking for another bath bomb since I first included one back in January, so here it is! This one was made by Pink Tub Boutique and contains baking soda, citric acid, rose petals, rose pink clay, jojoba oil, rose essential oil and witch hazel. {Retail Value: $3}

Self Care Pouch This zippered pouch is perfect for keeping in your teacher desk as a place to store your self care items! {Retail Value: $12}

Hand Sanitizer This French Lavender hand sanitizer spray from EO Products is all natural and 99.9% effective against most common germs. {Retail Value: $3}

Art Print Jess from The Social Speechie designed this beautiful 5 x 7, professionally printed art print! {Retail Value: $8}

Self Care Schedule Notepad I designed this notepad as a way for you to schedule out your self care each week! It contains 50 pages-- plenty to take you through the school year! {Retail Value: $6}

Adaptogen Coffee This instant coffee from Four Sigmatic is blended with tulsi, astralagus, and cinnamon. {Retail Value: $2}

This month's Teacher Care Crate is a great way to start taking your self care seriously this school year! With a retail value of $52, it's also a great deal. 

Subscribe at teachercarecrate.com by 7/14 to get the August Teacher Care Crate!

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