Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Differentiation in the Classroom

Differentiation is all the rage in education.  First we’ll talk about it, and then we’ll laugh.  Ready?

This is differentiation: it’s a small group of kids doing something different. 

They’re at the meeting area talking about the garden book we just read, while the rest of the class is at their seats writing about it.

My small group is discussing the main idea of this page, and pointing to the supporting details.  They’re describing the details, and telling interesting things that you might not notice at first glance.  They’re also talking about details the author might have added, but did not.  
ReadyGEN Kindergarten Reading
 In other words, my small group is having a high-level conversation about a non-fiction book.  When they’re finished, they’ll go back to their seats and write about it.

There are so many ways to differentiate—in fact, as many ways as there are kids.  

You can vary lesson elements based on a student’s needs:

a. Readiness (skill level and background knowledge)
b. Interests (topics related and unrelated to the lesson)
c. Learning profile
•  Learning style—visual, auditory, tactile, or kinesthetic
  Grouping preference—individual, small or large group
•  Environment—quiet or loud, bright or dark, large or small space

Differentiation Tips:

  • You may change the content, process, product, or learning environment.
  • You do not have to differentiate for every single child during every lesson, but there should be some accommodation for at least one small group.
  • It may be as subtle as having one child work on the computer with a buddy while the others write independently.
  •  Or it could be a small group of four children, working on phonics skills with the teacher, while the rest of the class pairs up with a buddy to read a leveled book.
  •  Consider differentiating for ELLs, SWDs, high, mid, and low level learners.
An ESL (English as a Second Language) group might learn to say the names of the pictures.  Another group can work on phonics by matching the picture names with the written words on the page.

Differentiation is the same as "tiering."  It's a tier 1 intervention: the classroom teacher is addressing the specific needs of each child.  Tier 2 is when a push-in teacher intervenes, and tier 3 is a pull-out teacher’s domain.

Differentiation isn’t easy.  A teacher needs to put a bit of thought and effort into it.  Some teachers find it impossible, or unnecessary.   Others will tell you they do it all the time, with every teacher-child interaction.

Wanna laugh?  Got 3 minutes?  Here’s a deliciously hilarious video about differentiation.  Enjoy your differentiation video :)

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