Differentiate Centers Using Simple Color Coding

Reinforcing skills over time is such an important element in any classroom.  

The struggle: How to reinforce the skills across the classroom without reinventing the wheel each week.  I've come up with a system in my centers that has made it so simple!  

Part One: Setting Up a Color Coding System

Step One: One Skill in One Place
When I determine a skill to practice, I want my students to go to one place.  Inside that one place, I will provide the differentiation that is needed.  If my students need on-level and above level practice, I will have color-coded activities just for them.  I recommend you build any center with this idea in mind.  In math, I try to have five centers going to choose from.  Most will be differentiated with different choices inside.  Perhaps not EVERY center, but nearly every center will be differentiated.   I love using these Sterlite bins for SO many reasons in my classroom!  These are super sturdy, stackable, and easy to label.  I buy mine at Dollar General mostly, but Target will often have a different color on the handle that I like to buy, too.  If you don't have these stores, buying them in bulk is a great option with Amazon Prime.  

Step Two: How to Prep Differentiation
To set up the assignments for the students, you will need to choose a consistent color scheme.  The first three colors you choose may depend on some systems you already have in place.  

I want to be fair in saying that I determine the level based on year-end grade level expectations.  At any given point in the school year,  below-level activities might be the appropriate choice...and that is okay!  My students are not labeled-the activities are.  My fourth color will be for everyone-my generic color.  If I have an activity that is not differentiated, I code it pink.  Pink is just a color that works well in my room and I always have tons of pink paper!  My kids know right away that if there are pink cards or a pink bin, they don't need to find a certain color. 

Step 3: Differentiate Using Existing Activities
If you have been collecting centers and task cards for any amount of time, you need just a few simple tricks to push them out to your students.  I use a combination of these all the time!

I love these Target brand sandwich bags to put my task cards in.  They are already blue, yellow, green and red (but they look pink!).  It is so simple to just drop in what I need for each group.

No colored baggies?  No problem!  Use any task card holder and drop a sticky note or colored index card inside.  You can even add specific directions on the card.  Simply discard the directions or save them for future us.

Step Four: Prepping New Activities
With my system already in place, I may decide to use colored paper to copy the activity or task cards based on how it meets the standards I am addressing.  For example, as a 2nd grade teacher, I often have children ready to do multiplication activities or 4 digit subtraction.  If they come in an ink-friendly format, I would copy them on blue paper before I laminate.  I've created some task cards for my student-centers and made them Low, On-Level, and High to cover certain math skills so that I can easily differentiate throughout the year.  
You can take a closer look at all of the skills covered in this series by clicking HERE.  

Tune into PART TWO of this blog series when I share some other ways I differentiate and set up my centers!

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