Aligning Strategies to Strengths

Aligning Strategies to Strengths:  The Guides for Selecting Differentiation Strategies


Forms and Support Materials

The Guides can be completed online or printed and completed offline.
Printable version of the Guide for Students (pdf file)
Online version of the Guide For Students
Forms and directions for Guide for Students
Printable version of the Guide for Teachers (pdf file)
Forms and directions for Guide for Teachers
Online version of the Guide For Teachers & Parents
Printable version of the Guide for Parents (pdf file)
Forms and directions for Guide for Parents

” Nothing is more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals”.
— Thomas Jefferson

The authors of this site agree wholeheartedly with the quote above.  The Guide for Selecting Differentiation Strategies for HIghly Able Learners offered here was created to enable students to be treated as individuals who differ in ways that influence their learning, therefore their education should reflect these differences.  Three versions of the Guide are provided; one for use by teachers, one for students and one for parents.  All have been designed to identify a small set of differentiation strategies that are recommended for an individual based on the Brilliant Behaviors she or he demonstrates when engaged in a challenging activity in an area of great strength or passion.  This is how differentiation strategies can be aligned with a student’s strengths.  For a high ability learner, these areas are most in need of differentiation.  The Guide can be used for and by students in any setting — regular classroom, pullout program, special school, etc.

The major elements in all versions of the Guide and how they work are described in the table below.  All three versions can be completed on paper or online.  The print and online versions vary slightly in appearance but work in the same way.  The online version is less work as it does the calculations.

Like the Behaviors (“Brilliant Behaviors“) that appear in the Guide, the original version of this chart appeared in Maker and Nielson’s (1996) Curriculum Development and Teaching Strategies for Gifted Learners. The version provided here has been updated so you may notice differences if you’ve seen earlier versions.

In both the print and online versions of the Guide, the individual completing the form first observes the student for evidence of the Brilliant Behaviors.  The student observes (or assesses) her- or himself on the student version.  Separate forms and directions for each are provided on the webpages that describe them and on the form.  Brief definitions for the curriculum differentiation strategies are provided on the back of the chart when it is printed. More extensive descriptions and examples are provided here as well as a collection of teaching materials that involve each strategy.

Explanations of the elements common to all versions of the Guides and the process for completing them are provided below:

Student information Spaces to enter the student’s name, age, strengths and the date.
Directions Instructions for completing the Guide.
Description of the activity or activities This appears only on the teacher and parent versions, not the students’.  Record the dates and names of the activities observed here.
Things you LOVE to learn about This appears only on the students’ version.  The student enters a list of interests, passions and/or favorite school subjects here.
Check or click The observer checks (√ for printed version) or clicks the box (online version) to the left of those behaviors that are frequently, intensely, and consistently true of the student while engaged an activity in an area of strength.
Behaviors These are the Brilliant Behaviors described extensively elsewhere on this site.  There is no minimum or maximum number of behaviors that must be evident.  One is sufficient.  Complete the chart and see what comes up.  You have the opposite situation if the student demonstrates all of the Brilliant Behaviors, it means ANY of the differentiation strategies applied to existing curriculum will generate lessons more suitable for the student.  A brief description of the behavior is provided on the print version.  The same text will appear in the online version when the cursor is placed on the name of the behavior and on the back of the page when it is printed.
Differentiation Strategies Each column heading represents a curriculum differentiation strategy recommended to develop the potentials of high ability students.  They are clustered under three modifiable elements of a learning activity: content, process and product.  Brief definitions for each of these strategies are provided on the back of each of the printed Guides.  The same text will appear in the online version when the cursor is placed on the name of the strategy and will appear on the back of the form when it is printed.  Slightly more extensive definitions are provided elsewhere.  A collection of materials and resources associated with those differentiation strategies is also available.
X Each X in a “cell” on the chart indicates that the differentiation strategy at the top of the column is recommended for a student who behaves in the manner described in the Brilliant Behavior described to the left of the X.  The placement of each X was determined by the accumulated research and practical experience of the four authors: Lannie Kanevsky, June Maker, Aleene Neilson, and Judy Rogers.  In the online version, the row of Xs will automatically convert to √s and be highlighted when a Behavior is clicked.
Number of Xs highlighted in each column Print versions only:  After the Brilliant Behaviors data is recorded in the column to the left of them, the row of Xs to the right of each behavior which was observed must be highlighted on the print version.  Once this is done, attention shifts away from the rows to the columns of Xs.  Looking down each column separately, the number of Xs which were highlighted must be counted.  Ignore those that were not highlighted.  Record the column total in the empty box above the number.
Total number of Xs in column Print versions only: This number indicates the total number of Xs appearing in each column. These numbers do not change throughout the process.
Mark the 3 or 4 strategies with the greatest proportion of Xs highlighted Print versions only: After totalling and recording the number of Xs highlighted in each column, the “Number of Xs highlighted in each column” (recorded two rows above) should be compared to the “Total number of Xs in column” (provided in the row above this one).  Do this by creating proportions. For example, if three Xs were highlighted in the first column for Abstractness, the proportion would be three out of a possible six.The 3 or 4 columns (strategies) with the greatest proportion of Xs highlighted are those the Guide indicates would be most beneficial for a student who behaves as entered when learning from challenging tasks in an area of strength or interest.  These strategies might all be in one section (content, process, or product) or be spread across all three.  They should be applied to the same subject area as that in which the student was observed.  Descriptions of each curriculum differentiation strategy are provided on the back of the Guide.
Rank Online versions only:  Each number indicates the rank for that strategy out of the 22 differentiation strategies included in the Guide based on the proportion of Xs highlighted in a column.

The strategies the chart recommends are expected to differ across students in a group as they are likely to behave differently while engaged in the same task.  Similarly, the recommended strategies may differ for one individual in different subjects or types of tasks.  For example, those recommended for a student in Math may differ from those recommended for the same student in Literature if both are strengths and his or her behavior differs while engaged in tasks in those subject areas. Therefore it’s important to separate observations of the same student in different subject areas. They can be recorded on one chart using different colors on the print version, or on separate charts with the online version.  If you want to use different colors, just match the color ink used to describe the task and √ behaviors on the print version.

After the three, four or five most recommended strategies have been identified, the results can be validated with a quick check. Ask, “Do I think that engaging in activities that involve these strategies would benefit this student?” If the answer is “Yes”, carry on and apply the recommended differentiation strategies.  If the answer is “No”, these can be replaced with the strategies receiving the next highest ranks.