Differentiation in the Classroom
› In the Classroom
What does differentiation in the classroom really look like and how can teachers make sure they are growing all students?
Differentiated instruction is done by recognizing that students have a variety of background knowledge and
experiences, interests, and readiness, and then reacting
That sounds easy, but it isn't. Like anything else, using differentiated instructional activities becomes easier the more you do it but at the beginning it is tough. Planning and having an organized tracking system is absolutely essential to success.
You can change the content, process, expected outcomes and even the learning environment to meet a child's needs. Just don't do it all at once, and remember that everything does not have to be adjusted to be an effective lesson.
While you cannot always change the content of what you are to teach, you do have control over the process you use to teach the content.
You can also extend your lessons by going more in-depth and providing alternative ways to evaluate learning.
The goal is to match the level and depth of your curriculum to the motivation and readiness of your students (Tomlinson, 1999).
Current studies about brain research and learning will also give you some ideas for ways of increasing your students' learning. Understanding how to use Bloom's Taxonomy and the Proximal Zone of Development will also give more depth and rigor to your lessons.
What Does Differentiation in the Classroom Look Like?
These activities can be applied in any learning environment and they will result in significantly increased student learning.
When implemented consistently and correctly, the strategies outlined can provide average percentile point gains as high as 45% on student achievement tests.
- You provide choices for the student to show their understanding. This will maximize their interest
- Pre-test as often as you can - if they know it, why make them sit
there and listen to it again? Let them move ahead or go deeper. You
are likely to find that they already know the entire chapter of math!
- Teach it once then check if they have it, because most likely they
will. Then have another activity for the students to move
on to while re-teaching the lesson(s) to the others
- What they miss on a pre-test, teach it directly and then let
them move on. Again, often they only need it taught one time and they
- Let them show what they know with a few problems, not the whole
page. Is that really necessary for a kid who already grasps the concept
to do 25 math problems?
- Give them ongoing problem solving activities that are mentally
stimulating and challenging. These types of activities are a great way
to go deeper into the curriculum instead of going wider
- Have activities at different levels (think Blooms Taxonomy)
4 Classic Differentiated Instructional Techniques
- Compact the Curriculum: assess knowledge
and provide alternative activities for content already mastered. You
will need to provide a learning contract that lets the student choose
what activities will be completed. Give credit for the knowledge
- Tiered Assignments: a series of related tasks that vary in
their complexity. All the activities relate to the key skills the
students need to have. I like to do a Tic-Tac-Toe board and the
students choose 5 activities to complete.
- Independent Study Projects: if you have a student who is
truly interested in a topic and wants to work on it, let him do this
research project. The amount of help you provide will vary between
grade levels, but remember that all kids need a teacher to teach them
(don't just ignore them).
- Buddy Study: like an ISP, but with a few other like-minded
students. This social aspect is very important for gifted kids, and you
may need to help them work on those skills because many gifted students
find it difficult to work with others.
Differentiated Instruction in Reading
Reading Karate is slam-dunk winner with kids of all ages.
Using DRA or Guided Reading Levels, teachers have been using this motivational reading program to address fluency and comprehension for students at every level.
Try it now and see how easy it is to motivate all levels of learners to become better readers!
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