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How To Differentiate When You HAVE To Use the Workbook

It’s not uncommon for a district to tell it’s teachers that you must use the curriculum, lessons or workbook that they have purchased with fidelity. This may or may not fit your general teaching style but it can make differentiation feel like a daunting task. 

These 4 strategies can help you to honor the directives of your district while still meeting the needs of your students. 

1) Your students don’t have to do every problem. 

Just because your workbook has 13 problems on the page does not mean your students have to do all of them. 
First, take a look at the page. Where are the problems that might be more simple? Where are the problems that might be more of a challenge? 
Think about the problems that might be most appropriate for each of your students. 
Think about the problems that are the most well-aligned with your lesson goals for each student.
On a post-it note, record the problems in groups. For example, problems 1-5 may be very simple. Problems 6-10 might be more of a challenge.
Consider assigning problems 1,2,3 and 6 to your students who are needing more support. No need to overwhelm them with an entire sheet of problems when these are the problems best aligned to their needs. 
Students who are ready for an extension may be assigned 6-10 — they don’t need to waste their time on problems that are too simple! 

2) The workbook is the starting point, not the ending point. 

Just because the workbook is on paper doesn’t mean that your students are stuck doing a purely paper-pencil activity! 
Even when doing an activity from the workbook, think CRA! 
Is there a hands-on tool students could use alongside their work? 
Is there a drawing or representation that students could mark in their books as they are working? 
Don’t limit yourself to the workbook alone! 

3) … unless the workbook is the ending point.

The other option is to flip the activity entirely! Post problems from the workbook around your room on individual post-it notes. As students come to an example, have a hands-on material or whiteboard available for students to use to solve the problem. 
The workbook turns into nothing more than a glorified recording form in a much more dynamic activity. 

4) A workbook doesn’t have to be solo work. 

Just because you are required to use the workbook doesn’t mean you are required to use the workbook as individual, independent practice. 
Could you work through the problems together in a small group using manipulatives? 
Could you choose a few word problems to discuss and puzzle through as a class? 
Could your students do a selection of problems in a think-pair-share-adjust activity? 
Don’t get stuck in a workbook rut! Workbooks are really no more than a collection of problems around a topic. Choose the problems that work best for you and your students, choose a method and model that works best for you and feel confident in knowing you have both met district expectations AND the needs of your students. 

Are you in need of printable manipulatives for your students? 

I’ve got you covered! 


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