Self-evaluation Techniques and Differentiation

Differentiating Instruction in Elementary Classrooms

by modernteacher27 (

How can we explain the multi-layer approach to differentiation and the important step of self-evaluation to new and experienced teachers?  I really like the following clear and to the point explanation of one approach to math differentiation and how we can also get students to think about their learning.  The more we allow students to become comfortable with expressing their learning the more the classroom community can support and assist learners.

In this article in Teaching Children Mathematics, instructional coach Jacque Ensign describes math differentiation strategies used in two Seattle elementary classrooms. These teachers’ approaches have been widely emulated in other Seattle schools, all of which have been using the Everyday Mathematics curriculum.

Upper elementary – The teacher begins her 75-minute math workshop with a 15-minute mini-lesson introducing the math concept and vocabulary of the day. Students write the objective in their notebooks (for example, “I can measure and draw acute angles”) and do a few initial guided-practice problems on their whiteboards. Students then move through three stations, each lasting15-20 minutes. In the first segment, the teacher works with the readiness group (determined by a pre-unit assessment), guiding them through the day’s math concept and having them explain it to a partner. Half of the remaining students work in mixed-achievement pairs on an Everyday Mathematics math game practicing the day’s concept; the remaining students work on practice pages, consulting with their partner and following a class protocol of asking leading questions rather than giving the answer.

In the next two segments, the teacher works with the at-level group, then the enrichment group, covering the same concept but at a brisker pace with taking on more challenging extension problems, while other students move through the game and practice pages station in their assigned mixed-achievement pairs. When all students have had their group time with the teacher and done the other two activities, students return to stand behind their desks. The teacher calls on a few students to report to the class on their own performance and compliment a partner. Students then sit down and the teacher projects an exit problem on the screen with a document camera. “Do this in your notebook. Show me what you know so I know which students got this and who I need to teach again,” she says. When students finish the problem, they write one of the following self-evaluation questions in their notebooks:

  • I could teach this!
  • I can do this on my own.
  • I can do this with help.
  • I don’t get this at all!

followed by completing the phrase, because I am able to… This allows the teacher to see who has mastered the day’s lesson and who needs more support the next day.

Kindergarten – This teacher begins her one-hour math block by convening students on the rug, doing several math finger plays and chants, and then introducing the math concept of the day. She moves students through a brief guided practice and demonstrates how students can develop the concept during work time. She then sends students a few at a time to choose hands-on math activities on cafeteria-size trays. Students work on these individually or with a partner, bringing each tray up when they finish and choosing another. The teacher moves around the room working with individual students and small groups and assessing at least five students a day.

“Teacher-Initiated Differentiation: Two Classrooms Become Models for Their Large, Urban District” by Jacque Ensign in Teaching Children Mathematics, October 2012 (Vol. 19, #3, p. 158-163),; Ensign can be reached at



3 thoughts on “Self-evaluation Techniques and Differentiation

  1. I’ve been looking for a more effective way to structure my 90 minute math block. I’m excited to try this for the second marking period. Hopefully, I’ll be writing about my success sometime soon in my new blog

  2. You made my day! I love to see teachers take a risk and try something new. PLease let me know how it’s going. Besides the great site- Teachers Count, if you have any questions, or if any of your new-in-room friends, please stop by and I created a section for teachers to ask questions. (Learning Loop)
    Take care.

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