Two Differentiation Strategies (Skip the Final & 10 Line Journal)

The following strategies come from a book called “The Teacher’s Toolbox for Differentiating Instruction” by Linda Tilton.

Differentiation Strategy: Skip a Final – Grades 9-12

Regular attendance is a critical part of independent learning and helping our students become accountable for results.  Attendance at my own daughter’s high school has improved dramatically in the last five years since Skip a Final was implemented as a school wide policy.  It is a simple plan with positive results.  Ask any teacher who has been on the faculty longer than five years to name one of the best strategies for improved attendance and improved learning.  Skip a Final will be at the top.  Students also give is an enthusiastic ‘thumbs up.”


Students, who have no more than a total of four excused absences, counting all class period in all courses during one semester, may choose to skip one final exam of their choice.  There are some additional conditions that must be met.  The option is open to any student who has no excused absences in any class and at least a “C” average in the Skip a Final course.  Note the three tardies could as an unexcused absence and disqualify a student.

Students know from the Student Handbook that the total of four excused absences from all classes means exactly that.  Four class periods.  Total.  Count them.  It is very easy to monitor.  The only exception is a school-sponsored event, such as a field trip, band concert, or athletic activity involving a specific student. Illness, orthodontia, doctor appointments, and funerals all could against the four class periods.

Despite cries of “Foul!” is an earned privilege for not missing more than four excused classes; it is not an entitlement.  One student pleased with her mother, speech pathologist by training, to tighten her braces a week before the end of the semester rather than miss school time to got o orthodontist.  The message sent is clear.  Be there and be on time.

Differentiation Strategy:  Ten Line Journal – Grades 3-12

When the U.S. Department of Education required students in fourth grade, eighth grade, and twelfth grade to take a national writing exam four years ago, only about one-fourth of students were writing at grade level.  There has been tremendous concern expressed that our students today will need an increased ability to communicate effectively in writing both in college and in the workplace.

What this means for students is the need for writing on a more frequent basis in the classroom;  One way to increase writing without adding more than five minutes of class time each day is to incorporate the Ten-Line Journal.  The goal is to have students quickly write ten lines on a given topic or subject area to continuously improve writing language skills.  Feedback is a critical part of it.  Periodically students turn in their Ten-Line Journals for comments and writing suggestions.  It is short but effective.


To make a Ten-Line Journal, students fold four or five sheets of lined paper vertically.  The size of the lines should be appropriate for the grade level and needs of the student.  Add a cover of construction paper and staple along the fold.  The journal can be used two or three times a week during a grading periods convenient place for creative writing, a please to record results from a science lab, reactions to a novel, or retelling a story, I used the ten-Line Journal as a writing tool for the Question of the Day. Examples of question would truly run the gamut:

  • What advice would you give parents of teenagers today?
  • Should every child have a pet?  Why or why not?
  • Who is your hero?  Why?

The Ten-Line Journal creates brief, open-ended writing opportunities for every student in the classroom


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