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To Differentiate – Lower Floors and Raise Ceilings

From Ian Byrd’s Website:

Ian Byrd writes interesting articles on teaching children.  His website has numerous, helpful ideas on differentiating instruction. In the article link above, he clarifies that a low floor is an easy task and a high floor is a difficult task. Byrd compares it to Tic Tac Toe and Chess. He states, “We want tasks with low floors so many students can get started easily…The ceiling is the potential room for a task to grow…. One is easy to master and the other one you could play for a lifetime and still learn more.” Byrd goes on to say that a skilled teacher can lower a floor on any task. A teacher does this through modeling, guided practice, scaffolding, feedback, and proximity.

Ian Byrd believes that it should be the teacher’s goal to develop tasks that all students can get started with, but that also scale up for students who are ready for more: Differentiation! Start with your highest-ability students first, then figure out how to get everyone else started.

Assigning students more is not the best way to differentiate.  More math problems for an advanced student in Math is ‘busy work’! Byrd reminds us that it is really hard to raise the ceiling on a worksheet, but it’s easy to lower the floor on a research project!

Check out Ian Byrd’s website.  His ideas on differentiating instruction for students are extremely useful.