Here’s how I differentiated the Houghton Mifflin comprehension skill of “Compare & Contrast” for my gifted sixth grade students, who have been successfully comparing and contrasting since kindergarten. Students investigated artists, developed a haiku, and learned how to shade with pencils.
The Houghton Mifflin reading program includes “making inferences” as the weekly comprehension skill. Their sample lesson concludes with an underwhelming worksheet. Let’s do something better. We’ll ask students to infer from multiple points of view, incorporate visual art, and present their thinking.
Here’s a movie made in 1977, and its trailer is barely watchable! In fact, it almost made me not want to watch Star Wars, a movie I know almost by heart. Perhaps we’re onto something interesting for our students to analyze.
Like all HM comprehension skills, “Making Inferences” appears yearly beginning in kindergarten, so I know my 6th graders have had practice, and may have mastered, the skill. To differentiate, I turned to Sandra Kaplan’s model of “thinking like a disciplinarian.” Students will be expected to think from the perspective of an expert, making well-informed inferences.
In 6th grade, Houghton Mifflin’s Theme Two begins with the comprehension strategy of “Fact and Opinion.” A quick pre-assessment shows that my class has a solid grasp on the difference between fact and opinion, so how can I up-level my instruction? I realized that my students had an assumption that facts are “good” and opinions are “bad.” So my differentiated lesson became centered on challenging this belief.
By 6th grade, our reading program’s comprehension skills have become a bit basic for most of my gifted students. I’ve been working on increasing the depth and complexity of these skills. In this case, “Noting Details” has become “Explicit Vs. Implicit Details.”