Differentiated Instruction

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Teachers who consistently use differentiated instruction produce students with greater academic gains. These 4 differentiation strategies work because one size does not fit all.

Using a variety of instructional strategies is nothing new. Great teachers have always done this (that's part of why they are so good).  

Now that Value Added scores are being utilized by many states as one measure of growth, using differentiation in the classroom is even more important, especially for our gifted learners.

three children studying, differentiation activities

Differentiation is responsive teaching. It is proactively planning for success for all students, while keeping 3 areas in mind:

That means teaching to the direct needs of the child and not always using a one-size-fits-all approach.

These three areas are actually the foundation of any lesson that is differentiated according to students' needs. You also need your students to buy into it from the beginning so they understand why there are different assignments and expectations.

Parents need to understand what differentiated instruction means as well so they can support my efforts and provide input.

Differentiated Activities

A variety of activities allow children to work on skills that are appropriate to their level of readiness and extend their learning. 

It truly is not that difficult to do, but it does take time to prepare. First you must assess your students, then create a variety of teaching "tools" and strategies to use with meeting the variety of needs you will find.

1. Tiered Assignments

When assignments are tiered, that means they are designed to provide different levels of complexity. Assignments can range from the knowledge aspect of Blooms Taxonomy all the way up to synthesis and evaluation.

For example, at the comprehension level a student might illustrate the main idea, but at the evaluative level a student would conduct a debate with another over the possible solutions presented to the problem in the story.

2. Interest Centers/Groups

Allow students to choose their own sub-topic within a framework the teacher provides. A center is usually geared towards primary students, while an interest group is generally for intermediate.

An example would be in math a center could focus on multiplication and showing it through designing arrays with tiles, drawing pictures, and creating word problems with objects. A group would have activities that could research how multiplication applies to statistics, art or engineering.

This is an excellent application of brain research and learning.

3. Compacting the Curriculum

This is when a teacher adjusts the amount of instruction a student receives based on assessments of prior knowledge. After assessing the student's needs, a plan is created for what needs to be studied and mastered, as well as enrichment plans for accelerated study.

I apply this differentiated instruction strategy on a regular basis in my own room through pre-assessing every math chapter. Students who show they do not need my instruction for most of the chapter (if any!) are then given an individual compact that states explicitly what they need to work on, what lessons I expect them to join the class with, and what activities will replace the regular classroom criteria.

4. Choice Boards

A choice board is an organizing tool that can be as simple as a tic-tac-toe board. It has a variety of activities on it that are geared towards different levels of Blooms Taxonomy.

Students are to choose a set number of activities to complete that are in the differentiated instruction framework.

More About Differentiated Instruction

I prefer to put meeting the needs of a wide variety of learners into the category of differentiation.  Generally educators use this word when talking about meeting the needs of higher learners, but at the heart of the matter is that we need to differentiate for students at both ends of the spectrum.

So on this site, topics like DIBELS and RTI are filed under differentiated learning.

Motivation Problems for All Learners?  Solved!

reading karate ebook

Reading Karate makes it easy to differentiate your reading instruction.

It doesn't matter if you have students who read at a level D and a level P in the same classroom - everyone experiences success with Reading Karate!

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