Welcome to Differentiated Instruction
The needs of each student within your classroom likely vary on many levels. It can be challenging to meet these needs and learner-specific goals because there is not a one-size-fits-all approach that will be successful for every student. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to begin to meet the goals of each and every learner.
Differentiation allows educators to tailor their lessons and goals to meet each learner’s unique needs. This can be done in various ways by adjusting the learning process, the environment, the products, and/or the content. Utilizing flexible grouping and ongoing assessment helps to enhance learning as well. Teachers can provide quality learning opportunities to each unique student by differentiating instruction.
Taking both student readiness and interests into consideration is a critical part of successful differentiation. Teachers begin by assessing their students' prior knowledge, skills, and learning styles. This can involve pre-assessments, observations, and discussions to understand where each student is starting from.
By identifying ways to respond to differences in readiness and styles in advance, teachers can successfully differentiate to meet the needs of all learners within a classroom. Fortunately, there are many technology tools that can help teachers adapt learning experiences for students and multiple tools for students to utilize as well.
Differentiating the Learning Process
By differentiating the learning process, students can utilize their strongest assets to gain new knowledge. This can be accomplished through the use of tiered activities. Students work with the skills they have gained and continue learning with various levels of support or enriching challenges. Providing centers or other opportunities that focus on specific interests allows students to explore further subsets that branch off their current interests.
Another option consists of creating personalized task lists that use work for the entire learning group as well as individualized jobs that effectively address the specific learning needs and goals of each student. These tasks might be completed during a specific scheduled time or as learners finish their work early.
The process can also benefit from providing learning manipulatives to students when applicable. Manipulatives are often utilized during math lessons, but other manipulatives that can aid in student learning can include organizers for writing, specially lined paper, highlighters or crayons for color coding, and sticky notes. These types of materials are relatively easy to provide and can make a world of difference for many students, offering valuable and critical support to their path to success.
Another helpful technique focuses on the length of time a student has to work on a lesson, project, or other assignment. Offering additional time and placing less focus on the time an assignment is due can help a learner feel less stressed. This can be beneficial for a struggling learner. It can also benefit an advanced learner by allowing additional time to focus on pursuing a topic in greater depth.
Listed below are a variety of TeachersFirst recommended technology tools that might be an asset to successful differentiation within your classroom.
Prezi (reviewed here) - Prezi is a visual, "zoomable" presentation tool. This tool is great for helping students connect with prior knowledge and also allows for collaboration and extended thinking and learning.
Google Forms (reviewed here) - Create forms for virtually any need using Google Forms, part of Google's online suite of document tools. Take advantage of the flexibility of Google Forms to create surveys for parents and students at the beginning of the year to learn about student interests.
Holt Interactive Graphic Organizers - (reviewed here) - Interactive Graphic Organizers help to gather thoughts, visualize, understand, or organize.
Text Compactor (reviewed here) - This simple, free tool can shorten or summarize an otherwise long passage or text.
Cloze Test Creator (reviewed here) - Create your own cloze quizzes from any piece of text. Paste the text into the box and select how you want the cloze test made. The site has a lot of flexibility in creating cloze tests and is a great tool to utilize when differentiating for your learners.
StoryToolz (reviewed here) - StoryToolz offers many different tools for authors: story generators, word count meters, a readability analysis, a random conflict generator, a title generator, a cliche buster, and more. Don't miss the Readability area: paste up to 5K of text in the box to check the readability of any source.
Rewordify (reviewed here) - Rewordify helps you understand what you read. Paste any text or website into the box to “rewordify” the text into simpler language. Easier to understand words replace difficult text shown with highlighting.
Printable Paper (reviewed here) - Download and print many types of papers easily from Printable Paper to meet the needs of your students and their learning goals.
Talk Typer (reviewed here) - Your spoken words are instantly changed to written text. Just click on the microphone and speak.
PuzzleMaker (reviewed here) - Create your puzzles by following the simple directions. These can be used both online and in print form. You or your students can create games for use on an interactive whiteboard (students highlight the answers in different colors). The whiteboard option is useful if you have kinesthetic learners or those with weak fine motor skills who have trouble with pencils.
Thinkport (reviewed here) - This site provides sample student activities and "how to" instructions for students to create timelines, museums, pattern makers, and more. Explore the tools to give students ownership over their learning.
E.ggTimer.com (reviewed here) - Project the time on an interactive whiteboard or with a projector while students take a test, solve a drag and drop, practice speeches, rotate between learning centers, or during cooperative learning groups.
Make Beliefs Comix (reviewed here) - Use comics to prompt writing, assess understanding, teach summarizing, or as digital storytelling.
Leveled Books Database (reviewed here) - This comprehensive database for determining the level of books is a MUST for elementary and reading teachers. Just type in the book's title, and this handy tool tells you the level for guided reading, Accelerated Reader, and/or Reading Recovery.