This is an example of a lesson that includes differentiated instruction. It is about the life of Queen Elizabeth the first.

First, we found a lot of different texts about QE as well as about the Elizabethan age in British history. Texts ranged in length from 1 to 23 pages.

Multiple texts on the topic of Queen Elizabeth:

Here is the questioning process we planned:
Bloom's taxonomy:

Some of the many possible questions:
What are some important facts you discovered about QE?
Why are these interesting? What else....What else....What else?
What kind of ruler do you think QE was? Would you like to have lived under her rule? Why or why not?
How does QE compare to leaders today? Choose a specific leader.
To which President of the USA might you compare QE?
There are some aspects of QE's life that would appear in the tabloids. Write (and illustrate....) the type of article you would see at the supermarket.

In actuality the first question we asked was how people selected their texts. We were glad that people felt comfortable to give honest answers because that gives us insight on how students approach a new text when given the opportunity to choose.

The best analogy I can think of is a buffet dinner. For a given dish such as mac and cheese, some will take lots of it and come back for seconds and some don't want it at all but under certain social circumstances would take a tiny bit. We need opportunities for students to have choices about their "serving" of text.

Some might argue that the people who chose 1 page texts deliberately (the length of the text was the major factor in their choosing) wouldn't get as much out of the reading as someone who chose a longer text. This is where discussion can fill in the gaps. When everyone reads the same textbook, "discussion" is often a regurgitation of the text. When everyone reads different texts, then people people can answer each others' questions. This happened in our discussion--someone wanted to clarify the relationship between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth and someone else was able to answer that question based on the reading that person did. Therefore, through discussion based on the different texts, the 1 page texters got a lot of information and the topic became more interesting (they tried the mac and cheese with a tiny bit and then discovered they liked it). At the same time, the one page biographies of QE gave them a context for the discussion.

We didn't get to all the questions we had planned but we did have an interesting discussion and followed it up by writing tabloid news articles. Of course, asking youngsters to write in the tabloid style would be a bad idea. People in class came up with great suggestions which I cannot remember at this exact moment. I'll try to get those up here.

What we need to do the next time we use multiple texts in this way: there are some things I hoped we would get to about Elizabeth. I had chosen some texts that would have appeal such as an eyewitness account of her when she was old. This kind of text became foregrounded in our discussion instead of her accomplishments and struggles. So, there may be some other activities that could be done that would give perspective about the whole life of QE. Probably a different line of questioning might help steer the discussion in that direction or a different activity (e.g., timeline on Smartboard that everyone fills in) would put her whole life in perspective and give everyone common knowledge about her before proceeding to a writing activity.

More thoughts on a timeline: we have that lovely brown paper in a roll and we could make a long time line out of that. Smartboard has its advantages, but it doesn't have the space for a really good time line.

AND NOW....Tobie reflects on Elizabeth I differentiated instruction experience:

I think Carolyn and I could have helped our students establish a purpose for reading their selected, differentiated materials. When folks have a sense of why they are reading what they are reading, they become much more strategic.

For example, If we handed you the Yellow Pages book for Columbus, Ohio and asked you to start reading. our guess is that your internal self would say something like...."Oh yah, and just exactly why do you think I will do what you ask me to do?" However, if we handed you the same reading resource and said let's order some lasanga and rigatone for all of us that could be delivered hot and yummy in about 20 minutes," you might take a much more enthusisatic and strategic approach to "reading" the Yellow Pages. Organizing qualifiers like "lasagna," lunch," and delivery available in 20 minutes" become much more helpful. Purpose invites reading, comprehension, and application of meaning and information. Your reading becomes strategic and comprehension happens. Without a purpose...reading is, um, not purpossful.

Helping readers establish a purpose for reading is a powerful motivator of comprehension! Carolyn and I could have done a way better job of that with the Queen Elizabeth experience.