Category Archives: Differentiation


One of my favorite student projects these days is Fakebook! As the title suggests, students create a faux facebook page for a character, an author, a historical figure, a scientist, whomever. I love this assignment for so many reasons. It’s obviously engaging. Students love technology, and then the play on social networking? Instant motivation and engagement. Because of that, students tend to naturally differentiate this assignment. If nothing else, they practice their skills with plot and characters. But those who can tend to take this much deeper.

Check out a student’s Fakebook for Maya Angelou. She created this after working in a literature circle studying I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She did her own research on Angelou’s life and accomplishments to make the connections seen here. I was especially pleased to see that she’s studied the connection to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because we’ve been studying him quite a bit this year.

If you choose to use Fakebook, here are some quick tips:
1. Students have to select a name, add a friend, update a status, and input profile information first. You cannot save until you do.

2. After this, have students save frequently. Computers and the Internet are unreliable.

3. Make sure students copy down their URLs in PERFECT HANDWRITING. Even my students with the best penmanship have mistaken an x for a X, a U for a V, an s for an S or a 5. If you don’t correctly record your URL, you’ll lose the work.

4.  Play the tutorial video for your students, but also watch it several times yourself.


Leave a comment

Filed under Book Studies, Common Core, Differentiation, Lesson Ideas, Student Engagement

Differentiated Instruction – Literature Circles

Last year, I went to a fabulous training on the Common Core ELA Standards focusing on text complexity (shout out to Jen and Empower!). I got all fired up about presenting my students with increasingly complex texts and tasks. I decided to start small and pulled a group of 5 students to study a graphic novel version of Macbeth. They did this while the rest of my students worked in literacy centers. I teach a 2 hour block, and we spend the last 30 minutes working in centers and in small teacher-led groups with me.

That went so well that by January, I’d added groups studying Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. All but Bradbury are exemplar texts for high school, and I matched them with my 8th graders who were reading above grade level.

This year, I started again with just Macbeth, but recently I decided all 29 of the students in my advanced class needed a good challenge, so I wrote two more studies (The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Pearl by John Steinbeck). I either created or found videos to preview each of the books for my students. Most of them can be found on my YouTube page (along with some top notch concert footage!) Check out the super cool Macbeth trailer that my genius teenage sister Kaitlin made for me. (In case you were wondering, yes, teachers can give their sisters homework. I tried. It worked.)

I asked students to take out their data cards and look at their Lexile levels and San Diego Quick reading levels. They are familiar with these scores because they have to use them twice a month when we check out library cards, but I didn’t want any “I don’t remember my level”s. I told students the Lexiles for each book and explained that for books with lower Lexiles (The Giver and The Pearl) that the assignments would be a little more complex from time to time. I told students to rank the books from 1 – 6 showing which they most wanted to read. As I did this, I reminded them that to grow as a reader, they really needed to match themselves with a book near their level. And they did! I had already decided what I wanted the groups to be, but with this guidance, my students mostly chose one of the books I wanted them to read. I had a few overly ambitious students and one or two wannabe slackers, but even so, no one was assigned a book lower than his/her 3rd choice. And since I hope to repeat these studies next quarter with different students reading different books ¬†. . . no one really has room to complain. One girl was a little mad at me, but she got her second choice, and she did really well during her first week. I hope she keeps it up. Today we started week #2!

I’m going to post a free link to one of my studies … The Pearl. I also have weekly rubrics for each group, but I’m still revising those. Any feedback is appreciated!



Filed under Book Studies, Common Core, Differentiation