Teachers are faced with the challenge of increased expectations of rigor while meeting the diverse needs of their students. Teachers can engage their learners to access the same content by matching their needs. Differentiation is a teacher’s response to a learner’s needs. Differentiation is employed during Tier One, general education instruction of the Response to Intervention (RtI) Framework. The purpose is to allow all students to be successful in grade level curriculum and to allow students to progress at their own level. Flexibility is essential to differentiation. A teacher crafts effective instruction based on assessment of learner needs.
Teachers facilitate learning and build effective curriculum and involved students in decision-making to enable them to gain independence and ownership of their learning. Teachers differentiate content, process, and product according to student’s readiness, interests, and learning profiles.
Content consists of facts, concepts, generalizations or principles, attitudes, skills related to the subject, and materials. A teacher can differentiate content by:
Process is how the learner makes sense of, understands, and owns the content. A teacher can differentiate process by:
Products are items students use to demonstrate what they have learned, understood, and are able to do as after a unit or successive lessons. A teacher can differentiate products by:
Multisensory Approach. When creating and choosing resources and tools for your students, take into consideration the learning styles of your students - visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic. Graphic organizers and picture cards support the visual learners. Manipulatives can be used for tactile learners. Incorporating movement, like Total Physical Response, which pairs movements and gestures with words and expressions, can be used for kinesthetic learners.
Feedback. A teacher’s feedback is critical to helping students move forward in their understanding. Feedback needs to be given while students are still thinking about the work and when they can still do something about it. The information provided to a student should be timely, focused, clear, and constructive. Praise is not feedback. Rather it is a set of concrete next steps in understanding how to fix mistakes and clarify misconceptions that students are ready to learn.
Flexible Grouping. Students can work in flexible groups - grouped by similar or mixed readiness, common interests, similar learning styles, or random arrangements. Teachers can build a community of learners that support one another in the learning process. Group students based on student’s learning goals rather than labels.
Open-Ending Questions. Open-ended questions allow students of varying levels and abilities to offer different perspectives. Students also learn to value listening to understand another person’s ideas while also learning to respectfully agree and disagree with one another.
Tiered Assignments. Designing assignments that vary in complexity support the students’ readiness levels based on their learning targets. Students can reach the same goals while taking into consideration students’ individual needs.
Learning Centers. Students can explore concepts or have the opportunity for independent practice at stations. Centers can use a variety of materials with different levels of complexity. The same topic can be presented in different ways to engage all learning modalities.
Choice Activities and Assessments. Learning based on student interest or learning styles can foster a strong sense of motivation for students. Students choose how to access the content as well as the mode of assessment to showcase their understanding of concepts. Activities can be completed in learning centers, small groups, or independently.
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