Increasingly, public educators stand before classrooms where no two children have the same background or ability. Whether your classroom is made up of students who are mainstreamed, possess limited English proficiency, or simply are of differing abilities, the need to accommodate individual learning is of utmost importance. This week, we offer tips to help teachers differentiate instruction.
This Week's Tips
Use Learning Pages to Differentiate Instruction (Monday)
Use individualized learning pages to help all students master an objective. Provide a common introduction to your lesson and then distribute individualized learning pages based on reading ability. Although all students are reading about the same topic, the passages will vary according to student ability. Organize the class into learning teams by grouping students of varying abilities. After students have read and identified the main ideas, they should meet with their learning teams to discuss the topic and share information. Close the lesson as a whole group, reviewing key concepts/skills all students should have acquired. Adapt the sample learning page download to your specific content.
Build a Collaborative Relationship with Special Education Teachers (Tuesday)
Work closely with special education teachers to clarify roles in a heavily mainstreamed classroom. Classroom teachers and special education teachers are sometimes unclear about the role each plays in the collaborative classroom. Effective content and special education teachers recognize one another as unique and valuable resources. Collaborative teaming works when the teachers involved maximize the role of the classroom teacher as the content specialist and the special education teacher as the delivery specialist. Talk frequently with your collaborative partner to adapt delivery methods to reach students who learn differently.
Assignment Choice Allows for Student Differences (Wednesday)
Compile a list of projects that address learning objectives yet appeal to a variety of interests and abilities. From this list, allow students to choose the one they want to complete. You can create a single rubric that addresses the learning objectives. While the rubric allows you to assess students using the same criteria, giving students the ability to choose a project addresses individual learning styles and preferences.
Promote Teamwork for Differentiated Instruction (Thursday)
Organize students into research teams according to ability or interest. You can then ask each team to research one aspect of the topic of study. For example, if the topic of study is World War I, one group might research weaponry, a second uniforms, and a third major battles. Each group then teaches the rest of the class the information.
Use Written Conversations to Differentiate Instruction (Friday)
Incorporate written conversations into instruction to encourage self-expression and participation. Arrange the class into pairs, seated facing one another. Ask both partners to respond to an initial question or prompt in writing, and to then exchange the paper with their partner. The partner responds and they exchange again. The written conversation may continue using the same prompt or you may elect to alter it.