As you move through your journey of learning about and applying differentiated instruction methods, one of the terms you will come across is tiered assignments. So, what is a tiered activity anyway?
Tiered assignments are a way of getting everyone to the same goal (learning a concept or skill) by using different strategies and methods. It is important to understand where each student is starting from if you are going to use this, or any, method of differentiation.
The goal here is to get the children started on the path to learning from a point where they are comfortable. This is not to say that everything should be made easy for them. On the contrary, each student should have a task that challenges them at a level where they will have a chance to succeed and move on. Students get to experience a challenge, but they also get to experience the success of learning and moving beyond the challenge.
When applying differentiated strategies, it is very important to keep up with assessments of where the students are starting out and how much they are progressing. Before plans are made, the teacher needs to get a grasp of where each learning is starting. In a typical classroom today, this could be a very wide spread of abilities and understanding indeed. In tiered activities, each student is given the opportunity to learn and then demonstrate understanding based on their individual strengths and interests. There are typically options presented for the students to choose from when it comes to assignments.
At this point, you are probably following along, but wondering who has time to do so much planning and assessment. Well, it certainly can be a challenge to address the needs of so many diverse learners in a classroom. The idea is not to come up with a separate lesson plan for each student. You will be seeing where they are starting out and then breaking it down to something manageable like three or four groups. Depending on the objectives of the lesson and the subject matter you are focusing on, you can then offer choices in activities that are appropriately challenging for each group.
Here are a few books that have received good reviews from teachers. These are filled with ideas for tiering activities and keeping things at an appropriate level in your classroom. If you already have your hands full with the day to day activities in your classroom, these books of ideas and activities can be a real time saver. To get you started, here is an example of how to do this with a newspaper activity.