Differentiation for some educators, conjures visions creating different lessons for every student in the room and long nights of planning and grading. That insanity is not what differentiation is all about. Differentiating instruction is really a way of thinking – not a preplanned list of strategies. Often times, it’s making plans in the moment. It’s recognizing that fair does not always mean equal and that all of our students bring different gifts and challenges. As teachers, we need to recognize those gifts and challenges while we flexibly differentiate instruction.
We can differentiate instruction in 3 key areas:
Student choice is one way to differentiate. For example, you might allow students to choose their own research topics for essay prompts. If you’re teaching argumentative writing, & a student is checked out, try adapting the prompt to involve their favorite sports team or video game. We have to keep asking ourselves – what are the main learning objectives? And, adapt as needed to get our students there.
Fair does not always mean equal. ~ Rick Wormeli
- We can change up how we group students. Sometimes a mixed ability group works best, while leveled ability groups might work better in other scenarios.
- An English language proficient student might become an English Language Learner’s buddy to help them out.
Teachers can also differentiate the product a student is asked to create. The major demonstration of learning doesn’t always have to be a test or essay. One year, I had a student that liked to doodle. I told her that was fine as long as she was doodling about the subject. She built on those doodles to create a final project.
Many teaching resources come with differentiated versions. Keep an eye out for those when possible.
None of the strategies I mentioned have created extra work for me. They did require that I have a relationship with my students and know their strengths, challenges and interests. I need to demonstrate flexibility in my thinking. Making these changes also required creating a strong class culture so that some of the students are being treated differently and they understood why and they understood that was the only way to be treated fairly. These ideas are just a drop in the bucket. There are a zillion ways to support our students. We just need to keep our eyes and our minds open. With a little creativity and effort, you can ensure that each and every student in your classroom is engaged, learning effectively, and thriving.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful! Click here to follow Peas in a Pod on Tpt for more classroom tips & freebies.
When creating resources for teachers, I often try to include multiple reading levels or project variations like the flip book below. This map resource offers a 7 page me on the map flip book to help teach some of the most basic “must know” geography! I have included 2 versions: A guideline font with dotted words to trace and a version for differentiation with just blank guidelines for more experienced writers. You can read more about it HERE.