Differentiation IS for every classroom. However, the degree to which you
differentiate is up to you. This series is
all about getting started. Catch up on
these other Free to Discover posts from my first series about differentiation for additional ideas.

If you teach middle school math, you probably
do some degree of note taking. In eighth
grade, I taught Accelerated Algebra I and Algebra I Part A (Standard
Math). There are a lot of differences
between the two courses, but a big distinction is in note taking
procedures.

Students in accelerated math spend a larger
amount of time taking notes. The
majority of these students are motivated, organized, and able to keep up with a
fast pace of instruction. In addition,
they take their own notes – meaning they copy what I write on the board. I keep my format structured and organized and
spend the first week or so emphasizing directions for how to take good notes. Here's a basic example of how notes look in my Accelerated Algebra I classes:

This would not fly in my standard eighth
grade math class so I differentiate how I present and organize notes. The first difference is the amount of time we
spend taking notes. In this course, I
stick to 15 minutes or so. More than
that and it seems there is probably too much new information for one day. These students generally need plenty of class
time for practice and check-ins.

The second difference is the format of the
notes. I almost always provide skeletal
notes for my students in standard math.
This allows students to worry less about organization and more about the
math concepts involved. The hope is to
avoid common pitfalls that can occur such as copying the wrong problem, leaving
too much or too little space between problems, and keeping up with the pace of
the class during note taking. Notice in the image below that only basic information and problems are typed out, then students fill out the rest.

One way to differentiate for students who are
very organized and perform exceptionally well is to offer them the opportunity
to practice organizing their own notes.
They can skip the worksheet and copy everything they need into a
notebook. This is great preparation for
high school math.

For students who require teacher notes or
have accommodations on a formal or informal document, I provide the examples
written out with blank space for practice problems. This is an accommodation that is common for
students with hearing disabilities or fine motor difficulties. It is at the teacher’s discretion and/or
specifics of a student’s plan to determine whether the student should try the
notes first, then be given a filled-in version or whether they should start class
with a filled-in version. Some students
may highlight or underline as you go over the notes and others may just listen
to absorb the information. {Note: The lesson shown in the image below is available for free here.}

What if students have been absent? For my students in advanced math, I check in
about the missed sections and ask them to copy the notes from a classmate. For students in standard math, I try to have
a copy of teacher notes ready for them so they can use it for reference when
completing the missed homework assignment. The image below is an example of completely filled in notes. These are great for reference as students work through the practice they missed.

8

^{th}grade math teachers, let me help you differentiate in your classroom! When I was teaching full time I never had enough time to keep up with everything on my plate. I used to get frustrated when students required “teacher’s notes” because, honestly, I didn’t always write out my notes ahead of time. I knew what and how I wanted to teach and in my busy schedule I skipped the step of writing them down. So it became more work for me to have to write them out – neatly – for a student or two. Now that I have taken on a supporting role for teachers, I have the time to meticulously create differentiated notes for every topic in 8^{th}grade math. Save yourself A LOT of time and headaches by investing in my 8^{th}Grade Math Differentiated Notes and Practice Bundle here.
Now it’s your turn to join the
conversation! How do you organize
note-taking in your classroom? Any tips
or tricks for differentiating instruction?

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