differentiation – to recognize students varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning, interests, and to react responsively. Differentiated instruction is a process to approach teaching and learning for students of differing abilities in the same class. The intent of differentiating instruction is to maximize each student’s growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is, and assisting in the learning process. (CAST.org)
Differentiation is no longer considered a strategy, but rather a principle of effective teaching. One great resource I have found for new ideas about differentiation is the Internet. As we move into a new age of technology, tools such as YouTube and other video sites serve as great wealths of information. Anyone can upload videos to the majority of these sites, and they are a great way for teachers to share ideas and teaching methods. Let’s be honest, few teachers have adequate time to pour over lengthy write-ups of lesson ideas, no matter how dedicated they are to effective differentation. By presenting these differentiation ideas in a video format, teachers can communicate their great ideas to one another in a fraction of the time…not to mention provide a visual of their students in action! This is this Classroom Instruction That Works video on differentiating instruction. Take a look!
As the teacher describes in the video, presentations and activities are used to prepare for more formal assessments at the end of the units. I liked the idea of having small groups answer a question in the form of a performance or skit, like the students who explained how pioneers got their mail. Each group was responsible for a different “big idea” that would be on their unit test. Differentiation also occured (prior to the video) when the teacher assigned groups and topics to research and enact. The teacher also used supplemental questioning to make sure the students had a complete understanding of the facts. She challenged her students based on their individual level, but all students were still engaged in the same type of activity. As a teacher, i do not like singleing one or two “high” or “low” students out from the group to complete completely diferent tasks. I have found that students perform better and feel more included in the classroom when everyone is working together toward the same goal. The format in the video, I believe, will help all students to know and remember the information rather than just memorizing it for the test. Such activities allow students who may learn better with visuals or audio-stimulation to more effectively “soak in” the knowledge. Of course, this format does require more time and effort from the teacher to guide learning, but it engages students in authentic learning activities.
I wish we did more of this creative, interactive learning in my placement classroom. My students are so creative, and I think they would really benefit from a skit or a performance-type of activity. I haven’t seen many other students in the schools doing this type of activity, but perhaps that is because I have been in the younger grades. Sometimes it seems like the older elementary grades are more ready to do this type of activity.