Practical Strategies for Differentiation in the Classroom
Differentiation is a word that gets thrown around a lot, especially in education. And it is something that teachers should be doing every day in their classrooms. However, finding practical strategies for differentiation in the classroom can be like finding a pearl. You know there’s one out there, but you have to go through a lot of clams to find the perfect one.
Each of your students comes into your classroom with an individual learning style. This means that they’re not all going to start with the same level of knowledge. They won’t all grasp concepts in the same way. Some will LOVE maths, while others – not so much. You will have students who love learning about the history of our world, while others will not see the relevance. Some will come to you with an identified learning need. Others will have a thirst for knowledge and want to do more. So how can you deliver lessons that are going to attempt to connect with everyone in your class? By using practical differentiation strategies.
What is Differentiation in the Classroom?
First thing’s first – we need to understand what differentiation in the classroom IS. It is:
- Providing a variety of activities so all students can access the content.
- Ensuring there is variation in how the content is presented.
- Creating opportunities for students to show their knowledge and understanding in different ways.
- Providing support, and extending those who need it.
- Creating homogenous student groups to encourage peer tutoring.
- Making adjustments to cater to the needs of all students.
Differentiation in the classroom starts from the assessment of students’ prior knowledge and skills and the setting of individual learning goals. Teachers need to outline the lessons in the unit of work. They then need to adjust the content that needs to be learnt. Teachers must then vary the processes students use to learn the content, and the product expected from students to demonstrate learning. The environment in which students learn should also be considered. In simple terms – you need to know your students before you plan your lessons.
When planning your teaching and learning experiences, utilise high quality, evidence-based instruction. Provide different methods for students to show their understanding. This will ensure that learning is occurring within the students’ zone of proximal learning development (ZPD) and links to their identified learning goals.
Teachers who practise differentiation in the classroom:
- Assess students regularly using a variety of assessment methods to adjust lesson content and meet students’ needs.
- Create lessons based on students personal and learned experiences and learning styles.
- May group students based on ability, shared interests, skill set and personality.
- Use good classroom management techniques to create a safe and supportive learning environment.
What are some practical strategies for differentiation in the classroom?
There are many different strategies teachers can use for differentiation in the classroom. Teachers could teach the same material to all students using a variety of presentation methods, such as flipped learning and small focus groups. They could deliver content at varying levels of difficulty, based on the prior knowledge and ability of each student.
Before utilising a strategy, however, you will need to consider each students’:
- Learning Profile
then you’ll be able to differentiate the instruction by
For example, you’re planning a Stage 2 PE lesson on Netball. One of your students is an upper limb amputee. You’re not going to assess them on their ability to do a chest pass like you would everyone else. You would need to change your assessment criteria to cater to their needs and abilities. Firstly, look at the specific outcome – “performs and refines movement skills in a variety of sequences and situations”. Then adopt inclusive practices such as partner passing and single-hand ball skills.
Differentiation is not simple. However, if you sign up to my monthly email tribe, you will receive a printable Practical Differentiation Strategy sheet. This sheet will provide you with strategies for content, process, product and environment. You will be able to print it out, stick it up in your classroom or staffroom to use as a visual reminder of strategies to cater to all students.
You can read more about differentiation here.
The Pros and Cons of Differentiation in the Classroom
With the ever-increasing workload facing teachers, it can be difficult to do the extra work needed to differentiate and meet the needs of all the learners in your class. Differentiation requires more work during the planning stages. There is often a lack of support and appropriate resources available in schools to cater to the broad range of learning styles in today’s classroom. However, research has consistently shown that differentiated instruction is effective for both high-ability learners, as well as those students requiring significant support. Research also shows that when teachers differentiate and cater to the needs of their students, there are fewer discipline problems.
You can read more about Differentiation in the Classroom in these texts:
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