"Fair means that each student is doing the activity best suited for his or her learning. It does not mean that every student is doing the same activity."
~ Carolyn Coil
Many of our Professional Development Wednesdays will revolve around the teaching and learning of differentiated strategies that will best meet the needs of our students. I will highlight various strategies as the year progresses.
- Recognizing that all students learn differently
- Customizing instruction for learning after student readiness is determined
- Having high expectations for all students
- Varying the content depth, process, student products and performance so ALL children can succeed
Differentiation is NOT...
- Labeling students
- Assigning the same learning task to all students
- Teaching learning solely from designed textbooks
- Learning isolated facts or memorizing content
- Using technology as an isolated curriculum
Modified from Differentiation: Simplified, Realistic and Effective (Kingore, 2004)
In order to determine the most effective differentiation strategies, we must first know the levels and needs of our students. In the month of September, our teachers are using a variety of assessments to determine student strengths and areas of need. Assessments include curriculum based measures in reading and math, Rigby comprehension/vocabulary levels, curriculum based pre-assessments and skills checklists.This information provides valid and reliable data which can be used to differentiate instruction for all learners.
The first strategy I will highlight is flexible grouping. This approach allows us to group children according to student readiness with a particular skill. Students with a similar readiness level may be grouped for instruction on a particular skill or concept. Flexible grouping allows for fluidity within the groups. Once a student has mastered a particular skill, he or she may move to a new group that better meets his or her needs. Flexible grouping by levels also allows for meaningful direct instruction and successful cooperative learning.
"A learning center or station is a physical area of the classroom that is organized with various materials and learning experiences for instructional purposes." (Kingore, 2004) Our staff uses centers or stations to focus on a specific learning outcome. Students are often working in cooperative groups to complete activities that incorporate higher-level thinking skills. Center activities incorporate learning experiences moving beyond the traditional desk learning and allows students to develop independence away from teacher direction. Center activities are chosen based on student levels, curriculum topics or can be student developed based on the children's interests.