Differentiation...I don't know about you, but when I was first told that this was expected in my room, I was a little nervous. How was I going to be able to help the students that needed help AND enhance the learning of the students that already had it figured out AND make it interesting so that it didn't feel like extra work? Well, here is my answer to prayer: Creature Feature. (This has 15 different animals.)
When I am doing my warm-up in class, some of my students finish way before others.
Some students know exactly how to prioritize. They know exactly what to do when they finish with something early instead of getting into trouble. However, some students have no idea how to prioritize and need to be taught.
At the beginning of every period, I have a list of priorities on the board starting with the agenda task. I add to the list anything that I think would be helpful to the students. For example, missing work, study for spelling test. The last thing on my list every single day is Creature Feature. Eventually I will add other units.
Ahead of time I have made a copy in color of the Creature Feature picture for the day. It is posted in the room but in a place where the students have to get up to go see it so that it doesn't distract them other doing their work.
Students can only make a guess if they are done with their other work.
In order to make a guess, students must understand some of the vocabulary that we use in class. For example, claim, which means their opinion, and evidence, which means their reasoning for why they feel this way or for what they already know. In other words, their claim is what creature they think is in the picture, and their evidence is why they think that. (i.e. This creature is a kangaroo because it has fur.)
I don't look in the box until the end of the day when all the students are gone. If anyone has guessed correctly, I put their name on the board. The next day I go through and explain what was so remarkable about this feature for this particular creature. I also have a place in class where I keep up the pictures with the information so that students that were absent can still look at it and students that want to remember some of the unique qualities can look back at it too.
I also have another picture up and in place of the first picture so that this process can start again.