Our classrooms today are made up of students with diverse needs and interests. Students are more successful when instruction is tailored to their learning level and area of interest. When instruction is above or below a student’s level, they may become bored, frustrated, or even disruptive. Our goal is to challenge each student appropriately. But how can we accomplish such a task with so many students? Read on as I share how you can meet the needs of all your students at the same time.
The first thing you must do before you begin to implement differentiated instruction is to know your students like a doctor knows his patients. You must first find out each of your students’ strengths and weaknesses. This can be done through assessments and observations. Once you find out where your students are on a particular skill, your next step is to write the prescription for success. The prescription is a list of multiple ways students can practice and achieve mastery of a specified skill.
Learning centers have proven to be one of the most effective tools for differentiating instruction in my classroom. They allow me to have my students actively engaged in learning without my direct instruction. During this time, I am free to provide direct instruction to small groups of students in the class. Periodically, I assess each student to determine the types of activities that will be included in each center. I try to develop three levels of activities. Students rotate through these centers each week, working on skills that are challenging and geared toward their learning styles and abilities.
Each day while students are busy working in various learning centers, I meet with small groups of four to five students. These groups are made up of students with similar learning abilities. I try to meet with each group at least two to three times a week. During this time I work on skills that I’ve previously identified through assessments and observations. For example, students who struggle with rhyming will receive specific instructions in small groups to increase mastery of the skill.
As teachers, we all know that differentiating instruction requires a lot of planning and time. This is especially true since the average class size has increased over the years. While it may be impossible to clone yourself, it is not impossible to have an extra pair of hands. Volunteers in the classroom can be a great asset to both teachers and students. Develop a choice sheet for volunteers in your classroom. This choice sheet should include tasks that you would like the volunteers to work on while in the classroom. Some of these tasks might include reading to a small group of students, listening to students read, and more.
To find out more about differentiated instruction, take a look at these two great resources:
Differentiating Instruction in Kindergarten by Cindy Middendorf
The Scholastic Differentiated Instruction Plan Book by Cindy Middendorf
Planning for differentiated instruction is a work in progress. Teachers must be flexible and open to change. What are some ways you incorporate differentiated instruction in your classroom? Comment below!