Differentiated Instruction: Making It Work for Your Classroom

To effectively differentiate, teachers are called upon to tailor not only content, but also delivery, practice, and even the environment, in order to accommodate and reach all of the students in their classrooms.

In today's academic environment of mixed-ability classrooms, the key to tailoring content is assessment. Your class is moving on to regrouping, but some students are struggling with place value. While the bulk of your class moves on to regrouping, you are finding that two students have already been shown how to do multiplication—do you need to begin compacting curriculum for some of your kids? Create a spreadsheet for the grade-level objectives in each your subject areas, and track where each student is on each objective. You’ll be able to more flexibly respond, and focus on the content where each student most needs it.

Tailoring delivery and practice are the areas where the fun comes in. Some students may find that journaling conversations, between themselves and the teacher, best help them with comprehension of material. Others may find that a graphic organizer best sorts out information for them. Some students may enjoy a lively small-group discussion, and others a thoughtful exchange with a partner. Which students are always humming, or drumming their pencils? Which students excel on the kickball field? Who is always doodling and designing their own craft projects? Allow your students to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways that they are excited about. At the beginning of the year, give your students an interests inventory—many can be found online for free!

Other things to keep in mind to ensure differentiated instruction is happening in your classroom:

  • Group flexibly
  • Allow student choice of tasks and products
  • Consider hands-on tools when planning lessons
  • Provide a variety of seating options

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