Four Easy-To-Use Differentiated Instruction Strategies for Classroom Success
A typical classroom anywhere in the world presents a highly diverse range of students each with their own abilities and unique learning needs. Teachers who are not prepared for this challenge quickly feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Teacher burnout soon follows. Primary school teachers and Special Education Teachers are even more vulnerable. They feel like not enough butter spread thin on toast.
Differentiated Instruction Aims to Reach Everyone in the Classroom.
Differentiated instruction is a unique teaching method aimed at reaching everyone in the class., regardless of whatever limitations, disabilities or skill levels they each have. Differentiated instruction strategies focus around pushing higher performing students higher while ensuring lower performers have a firm grasp of the same rigorous academics. This is made possible by inclusion techniques. Inclusion works by blending high performers with other children and all are made to learn the same material. The benefits have been proven to include the development of individual strengths and unique gifts, the acceptance of others and their differences, a reduction in bullying and a richer diversity in the classroom.
Inclusion forces teachers to use a wider range of differentiated instruction strategies, which in turn benefits learners at all levels – high and low.
This can be a tough challenge, especially for new teachers. Ask any teacher and you will have no luck finding anyone to report that their training prepared them for the reality of their classrooms. Without a solid teacher mentoring and indoctrination program, new teachers are thrust into dire, sink or swim situations which has led to outrageous turnover rates in the United States. Here are four simple Differentiated Instruction strategies you can begin using right away to start the school year off right. ( You can get more great Teaching Tips by clicking here! )
Four Easy Inclusion Strategies to help struggling students
- Adapt Questions to Your Students
When teaching a classroom full of diverse students, they will only understand what they are being taught at their own pace. Plan your classes and questions ahead of time – even just a few minutes to think through your students’ strengths and weaknesses. During the lesson, ask children questions based on their level – this is a top differentiated instruction technique. It will help them build confidence and encourage them to speak up and participate in class. A side benefit is that this brings struggling learners into the fold and gives them positive attention so they don’t need to seek negative attention.
Maintain high expectations of all your students – don’t teach to the lowest common denominator
- Encourage Multiple Modalities of Expression
Some of the children will respond better to a task by drawing, but others would respond better to the exact same task in writing. Adapt your lessons to allow students to choose their preferred mode of output. Informal assessments especially can be adapted, allowing them to express what they have learned in their preferred modality. Insisting that every child learns and conforms identically is an outdated stereotype. Children with stifled creativity and expression will withdraw and detract from your lessons out of boredom and resentment.
- Maintain High Expectations
A challenge teachers often face is the temptation to lower expectations for a particular group that is not keeping up with the group. This is not the aim of differentiated learning. A learning disabled child for instance (depending on the level of severity) can be included in the same classroom with otherwise able children and still learn the same things – as can a physically disabled child. That’s where inclusive instruction comes in. The teacher can explore more visual or audio tools rather than written learning aids for such a child. You will quickly learn how eager all your students are to engage in non-traditional modes of expressing learning: acting out roles, performing rap songs, using pantomime. In all honesty, a differentiated instruction technique such as providing notecards to students with difficulty in recall does not hurt the rest of the class. Quite the opposite, it empowers them to answer their own questions instead of interrupting class again with a “stupid” question.
Make a special effort to include all your students at whatever level they are able to participate.
- Consider Summarizing Material Orally
in a classroom where a particular child or children are struggling to keep up the pace, you could try summarizing longer text for them in a way that does not deduct or reduce the message being passed across. This is especially helpful for students with working memory issues; by the time they reach the end of a passage, they have forgotten the meaning of the beginning. How could anyone make meaning that way? By summarizing for them, the message remains the same and is easier to remember. Again, all the students will benefit, not just the slower learners.
- BONUS TECHNIQUE: Keep the attention of distractible and ADHD students
Differentiated Instruction Techniques can be particularly challenging to implement if your material is not exciting, but there are many things you could do to make it a fun learning time for everyone and avoid or limit disruptions. Think
projectors, visual learning aids, short storytelling breaks, use drawings and stick figures and so on. Highly structured activities support the students in staying under control, but they will not be able to handle an entire day filled with busy structure. Mixing in some activities that are high interest or allow group work and getting out of seats will give them a break from the challenge of sitting still all day. Beware your transitions, though, as these tend to be the toughest times for challenged learners in particular.
Differentiated Instruction and Inclusion classes don’t have to be difficult, but they do require you to use your creativity, to be flexible in your approach and to develop a toolbox of tricks that work for your group. To achieve success with differentiated learning teachers need to use their own imagination and at certain points have to present the same study materials in multiple formats (think in line with written, audio, visual or pictorial). This approach does not treat some students as special at the expense of others. Instead, all students benefit from the highly effective teaching strategies listed above.
What tools are already in your bag of tricks? How do you include everyone in the class? What methods do you like for getting more reserved students to participate?
Please share in the comments!
Here is a great infographic you can Pin to your teaching boards on Pinterest – or use any of the smaller images here.