Differentiation of instruction is vital for a successful classroom. The goal of all educators should be to meet the needs of every child. In the perfect setting every child in the class would be at the same developmental level and have the same learning style. Teachers know the reality is that in a class of twenty children, you will encounter twenty individuals with many various levels and needs. An effective teacher will use differentiated instruction to meet each student’s learning potential.
Individualized instruction is one way to differentiate learning. If a student is struggling with a new concept after several class lessons, meet with them one on one or in a small group to help remediate the problem. Sometimes a personalized three minute lesson will help that child who is beginning to understand the concept but isn’t quite there yet.
The partner or buddy system can be useful for some students. Pair the struggling child with a proficient classmate for extra help. As in any partner work, make sure the personalities of the students are compatible. This system can be valuable for ELL students as they try to make sense of English.
Small group work is another way to differentiate instruction. The make-up of the members in the group should vary along with the objective of the lesson. At times use ability groupings and put all those high level thinkers together and allow them to soar to their ability level. This group should be encouraged to research, infer, analyze, and synthesis information. At the same time the group that may be lagging developmentally can draw, create and give oral presentations. Teacher support is necessary to help every group achieve its goals.
When appropriate, group students of various levels together. Students will learn to utilize the various strengths and interests of fellow group members. Team work and cooperation should be recognized and rewarded.
Differentiated instruction addresses different learning styles. Some students are visual learners. Others learn best through auditory or kinesthetic activities. New concepts should be presented in a variety of ways. Lessons should reflect teaching and practice for all styles of learning.
A spiraling curriculum is also important for differentiated instruction. This simply means don’t just teach something once and expect all the students to master or remember the skill. The best approach requires multiple exposures to concepts over the course of the school year. Quick reviews of important skills and strategies should be part of daily or monthly routines.
Teachers should offer scaffolding ideas to help all learners achieve. Provide vocabulary lists before each new unit of study. Teach students to use organizational aids and how to take notes. Use visuals and manipulatives as often as possible.
The best reason for differentiated instruction is to give all children a chance to learn. Students should be treated as unique and amazing individuals and be taught how to use their abilities to achieve success.