Reading Reflection: Zarrillo, Chapter 4


Zarrillo does an excellent job of synthesizing and analyzing the most important aspects of differentiated instruction in social studies. He begins the chapter by introducing three key concepts in effectively differentiating social studies instruction, linguistic diversity, cultural diversity, and exceptionality. Within linguistic diversity, Zarrillo talks about language acquisition and proficiency, subtly tying in key concepts and methods from Stephen Krashen and James Cummins to Vygotsky’s constructivist theories and practices, Zone of Proximal Development and scaffolding. Within cultural diversity, Zarrillo begins by defining terms so as to avoid as much as possible any miscommunications and misunderstandings. He focuses on how culture shapes learning, providing many different examples of how students from select “minority” cultures interact and learn in the classroom, highlighting the possible vast diversity in one single classroom. Zarrillo closes his chapter discussing exceptionality, providing three key strategies (modifications in content, instructional processes, and student work product) that can easily be modified and applied for both students with learning disabilities and students with exceptional gifts and abilities.

Helpful Ideas and Examples

  • Dimensions of Language Proficiency: Zarrillo’s presentation of how each dimension of language proficiency hit home for me! He began by introducing each spectrum individually (cognitive demand/undemand and contextual support/isolation). When he tied it together by saying it can be organized into quadrants, it clicked in my mind! I actually took out a piece of paper and drew out the quadrants and where everything fits. This will be such a helpful resource for me when I’m attempting to keep the needs of all of my students in mind as I plan units and lessons.
  • The bit in the culture diversity section about how African American students think: I’m working with an African American student, Amani, at The Potter’s House this semester, and the paragraph/bullet point on page 106-107 explains so much‼ In the past, I’ve tried asking Amani questions in an attempt to learn more about his likes/dislikes and so I can begin to analyze his thinking pattern; He only answers exactly what I ask him. For example, during a reading assessment, after he has read the passage, I’ll ask him to “tell me about what you just read and what you thought about it.” Without fail (EVERY TIME!) he tells me the title of the story he just read and says “it was good” – every single stinking time! At first I was frustrated by this – why wasn’t he giving me more to work with? And then I realized that I’m the one not opening my eyes to the way his brain works. I’ve begun to ask more open-ended questions where he can’t just give me short one-word responses. This has all happened over the past few weeks. Then I sat down to read this chapter and Zarrillo explained the “why” behind what I’ve been experiencing, “in the traditional African American community, children are not usually expected to be information givers and are infrequently asked direct questions,” (page 106). I’ve also noticed with him that if I want to “get anything out of him”, I need to sit back and direct the lesson as more of a conversation, something that Zarrillo also talks about (page 107). I realize none of that directly relates to social studies, but it relates to differential instruction, something of which I have recently been making quite a few connections (yay for aha! moments!)
  • One final thing that I’ll mention is a, “why didn’t I think of that before” moment: on page 108, Zarrillo talks about how, when referring to children, we should never refer to them by their “perceived” identity but rather refer to them by name. By simply “forgetting” the stereotypes that come with my perception of a student, I’m not “hindering” that student from any potential or possible successes. If I were to always refer to a student by how I perceived them (disabled or gifted), I would be putting that student in a box, which would allow them to see themselves in that same box. They would then have to work much harder to not only accomplish and learn what I’m expecting them to learn, but they would have to also work to overcome the barrier I placed on them by stereotyping them. In eliminating this barrier, I’m helping to create a safer learning environment and I’m communicating to each student I work with that they have true potential and they can do anything to which they set their mind.

Thoughtful and Authentic Question

Tiering assignments is an important strategy in differential instruction. This is something I will be doing in my classroom and I think it will work especially well with the standards-based gradebook system that I’m also planning on using. My concern with this is with the perspective my students will bring into the classroom. Most students are used to a traditional (icky) gradebook system and a traditionally run classroom where everything is the same and to have anything on different levels would either be considered unfair or students would recognize right away that different people are doing different things because they have different abilities, and they would automatically start to “group” students by “smart”, “average”, and “stupid.” Obviously, this is something I want to avoid, but how do I do that? How can I help my students break outside of the “traditional” box and help them unlock what it truly means to take control of one’s own learning (and how that looks different for everybody)?


I’m having a hard time coming up with any outright assumptions, but I know I came into this topic with some background knowledge, and those are, in a way assumptions. I thought I had a semi-accurate understanding of differentiated instruction, but I knew I didn’t really know how to make it happen. This chapter confirmed that I had a semi-accurate understanding of differentiated instruction and it broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of it. It also gave me some key strategies for how to implement it in my classroom.

Go Back: Extra Reading: Social Studies Methods

Class Notes

  • Chapter 4 Zarillo
    • Classroom applications
      • Pick out the top two you identified
        • Small manageable units
        • Allow for open ended questions
        • Change task criteria rather than expectations
      • Share with a partner
    • Questions to author
      • Share one of your questions on the board

What do you think?

  • 3rd grade – Westward Movement
    • Activity – build covered wagons
    • Improvements
      • Make real life wagon – try to fit students and their stuff into it
      • Expand to include themes with exploration, manifest destiny, gold rush
    • 1st grade – Read A Chair For My Mother
      • A book about saving
      • Activity – draw a picture of what they heard
      • Improvements
        • Give ELL (Struggling) students their own copy of book
    • 4th grade project options on a novel
      • Create a new jacket for the book
      • Build a set for a scene in the book
      • Rewrite the novel’s ending

Elements of Differentiation

  • Focus on the Essentials
    • Identify clear targets
    • Assessment and Instruction are inseparable
  • Attend to Student Differences
    • Readiness
    • Interest
    • Learning profile
  • Modify
    • Content – what
    • Process – how
    • Product – end

Individual Student Learning Plans

  • Early and frequent formative assessment
  • Based on outcomes for the grade level
  • In conversation with Student and Parents
  • Allow students to respond to assignments in multiple ways.
  • Teach to multiple levels of ability.

Instructional Strategies

  • Stations/Centers – various tasks, simultaneously
  • Entry points
  • Tiered Activities
    • Clear Learning Target
  • Project Based Learning
  • Solid Unit Planning

Let’s try Stations

  • Student Differences – readiness, interest, learning profile
  • K –H2.0.1 through K-H2.0.4
    • Distinguish among yesterday, today, tomorrow – pink
    • Timeline of life events – yellow
    • Identify beginning, middle, and end – green
    • Ways people learn about the past – blue
  • Big Idea – Essential Question
    • Big Ideas: The Past
    • Essential Question
      • How do we learn about the past?
  • Brainstorm Activities with Evidence
    • Group:
      • Pre Test: Interest area survey – ask students a series of questions that ultimately lead them to choose whether they prefer to tell a story by drawing, oral speaking, or writing.
      • Stations that attend to student differences
        • Station 1: Tell a story about your own past by drawing a picture or acting out the story.
          • Targets: interest, readiness, learning profile
          • Lower Tier
        • Station 2: Tell a story about your past by either using the iPad to video your own story or to interview a friend’s story.
          • Targets: interest, readiness, learning profile
          • Middle Tier
        • Station 3: Think of a story in your life and create a headline, or hashtag to summarize it.
          • Targets: interest, readiness, learning profile
          • Higher Tier
  • Exit activity with evidence for EACH student

Cognitive Demand and Contextual Support        

  • Differentiation does not mean that every single lesson includes differentiated content, process and product for each student’s interest, readiness level, and learning profile.
  • Partners
    • Briefly share one of your assessments for your assessment plans
    • Rate the level according to the Cognitive Demand & Contextual Support scale on pg. 100 in your textbook.

Differentiation Matrix

  • Assessment in a Differentiated Classroom
    • Was this difficult? Absolutely. Did I learn a lot? SO MUCH‼ Simply having to work through the process would have been immensely difficult on my own. Working through it with Abagail and Esther was extremely helpful. While I don’t have the process mastered yet, at least I know what the process is so I can easier work through it and make it muscle memory.

Making a Difference

  • Good Samaritan
  • Love your neighbor
    • How close do they have to be to me?
    • How close will you get to them?
  • Action; relationship building
  • “No significant learning will occur until there is a significant relationship.” Juwanzaa Kunjufu
  • Break down the lines that come between us.
  • Proverbs 3:3
    • “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Differences Among Students

  • Multiple Intelligence/Learning Styles test
  • Student inventories
  • Check cumulative files for standardized test information; reading levels
  • Pre Tests
  • Student Profiles
  • Know the communities
  • Assess the resources available
  • Call home about positives and build relationships with parents
  • Home visits
  • Relationships are CRITICAL
    • Story about Isaiah

Me and We – Strategy

  • Ice Cream
  • Jazz
  • Broccoli
  • Action Movies
  • Novels
  • Rap/Hip Hop
  • Romantic Comedies
  • Pizza
  • Opera
  • Sports
  • Acting
  • I wish my teacher knew…

Poverty Literacy

  • A comprehensive understanding of the general adverse effects poverty has on lives and learning
  • Recognize the uniqueness of each individual’s experience and response to poverty
  • Ability (knowledge and skill) to recognize the conditions that too often deny students in poverty equal access to educational opportunities
  • Willingness (disposition) to address and correct those conditions

What is poverty?

  • It is the extent to which an individual does without resources. (Payne, 1998)
  • Poverty knows no bounds neither race, gender, culture, nor language.
  • Resources:
    • Financial
    • Emotional
    • Mental
    • Spiritual
    • Physical
    • Support Systems
    • Relationships/Role Models
    • Knowledge of hidden “class” rules

Confronting Common Myths

  • Fact or Fiction…
    • People in poverty are unmotivated and have weak work ethics
    • Education, as a way out of poverty, is readily accessible to everyone.
    • People living in poverty are uninvolved in their children’s educations because they do not value education.
    • People living in poverty tend to abuse drugs and alcohol more than people in other socioeconomic classes.
  • Power of Language

Multi Cultural Education

  • Movement toward equity or equity pedagogy
  • Curriculum reform
  • Multicultural Competence
  • Teaching toward social justice
    • Begin with the premise that we are all racists – at least unconsciously so.
    • Set a context of “listening as action” – make dialogue an advice-free zone.
  • Challenges:
    • White and Female
    • Achievement gap

Lesson Plan Rubric

  • Review the lesson plan rubric
    • Read the highest level
      • Circle the features
    • Read the next level down (3)
      • Underline or highlight the differences between this and the top level
    • Continue through to the bottom level
  • Time to grade
    • Each student will be given a different lesson to grade
    • Grade the lesson according to the rubric making comments on the lessons
    • Share the lesson and the grade


What new information did you learn?

The matrix (readiness, interests, student profile – content, process, product) that you had us work on during class in groups was especially helpful regarding differentiated instruction. It helped me understand exactly what readiness meant and how to apply it to content, process, and product (still a little fuzzy, though, on how to apply interests and student profiles in relation to content, process, and product).

How has the material/experience affected you?

I’m intrigued and excited at the same time. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working to figure out my schedule for next semester and how that’s going to affect the rest of my time here at CU. I ran into some complications, but through those complications, I’m able to do an independent study that looks more in depth at differential instruction. This lesson helped me get my mind around it a little more so I know kind of where I want to take my independent study next semester.

Has it challenged your thinking?

It has absolutely challenged my thinking. To be quite honest, I was struggling to keep up a little bit during class. It wasn’t until we started doing that matrix activity that I really started to understand what we were doing, but after working through some of that, I’m realizing this is a much bigger and broader topic than I could have imagined.

Go Back: Extra Reading: Social Studies Methods


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