Differentiating Instruction: Meeting Children Where They Are
Differentiating instruction means to adapt teaching material based on students’ individual needs and academic levels of performance. To differentiate instruction teachers must take a proactive approach to plan according to how students learn and what students need to learn. There are four areas you may choose to modify: content (the information that is being presented), process (they styles/strategies used to present this information, product (what you want the student to be able to produce), and learning environment (the classroom arrangement used to best present the information).
The following strategy ties in all four of these areas and can be used during language and/or math.
When establishing a workshop routine, I start by introducing a workshop task as a whole group activity. I introduce one task about every other day for a few weeks. As I add on classroom tasks (activities following a mini lesson), I begin to create activity tiers. I establish three tiers per task. Students who work fluently breeze through the first and second task and spend the majority of their time working through the third task. I usually start every one off on the first task as a whole group activity. As students feel comfortable they can go off and work independently on task one and then begin on task two. After going over task one in its entirety, I open up support for task two. I usually sit at a table and students who want additional support (and those who I assign) work with me through task two. Students working independently have the option of coming and listening in if they have any questions or need support. Eventually the majority of the class is working independently or in small groups throughout the room. I love this part of the lesson because the students support each other. I teach like this for about a month. This instruction takes place during our regular workshop period. After a month or so I begin to introduce workshop activities. The workshop activities mirror the tiered tasks that they have been doing for the last several weeks. The students are familiar with the activities so it makes reinforcing the norms for our workshop period easier. I have students work on workshop activities (similar to center activities) throughout the school year to help reinforce important skills. Students get one-on-one time with me and also get to work with their classmates for additional support. During this time I pull small groups and/or make student observations. This way of differentiating instruction has helped me to meet the needs of all of the students in my class. In addition, this type of instruction supports students in being held accountable for their work. Students eventually learn how to gauge when they need support and when they are capable of working independently. Students also begin to get a solid idea of what they can do well and what they need to strengthen. This is just one of the ways I differentiate in my classroom.