My teaching colleagues and I read Differentiation by Rick Wormeli this summer. In conversation, I hear a lot of comments about how chaotic it seems. Everyone doing different things! Different lessons! Different products! Different assessments!
I felt the same way at first, then I realized that there would be something stable in my differentiated classroom: the learning objective.
In my un-differentiated classroom, the assignments were the same for each student, and supposedly the learning objective was the same too. But looking back I see it didn't really work that way. I'd assign a project, students would attempt it, and then I'd grade them: you learned it, you kind of learned it, you didn't learn this at all. The End, no reassessment. The assignment was the same, but in the end, each student had wildly different levels of what they really learned.
In my differentiated classroom, I'm going to set a learning objective and say "WE ARE ALL GOING TO GET HERE." Some students may already be there. Some are on their way, and some are going to take a while. We can all use different paths, and demonstrate the learning objective in different ways, but in the end we've all learned what we set out to learn. That foundation, that stable goal, must be present for my differentiated classroom to resist chaos.