It seems as though the term “differentiation” has become overused and under – utilized in education today.  For those teachers who have been teaching for the past 10 years, when this term is mentioned, eyes roll and sighs escape from mouths. 

What exactly does it mean to differentiate instruction?  When I hear the term, multiple factors come to mind: student ability and readiness level, student interest, student skills, outcomes, etc. How does this actually look in a classroom day-in and day-out?

There are many successful differentiation strategies used in our classrooms on a daily basis. Teachers who are delivering whole-class instruction on grade level standards are scaffolding their text levels to support readers with varying needs. When moving from the mini-lesson to station work, the concept remains the same focus, but the activities provided reflect the range of abilities of the students with whom we work.  Book clubs and tiered activities at stations are examples that happen in our school regularly.

By integrating core content into Language Arts and Math, students not only see the relationship between the subject matter, but teachers are meeting the needs of student interest as well. Students may have the opportunity to read Science text or use Social Studies content to carry-out a writing assignment.  These are also considered to be differentiated instructional strategies that hit on a very important factor in student achievement and engagement – interest.

Teachers do a great job of seeking and utilizing resources.  We are always looking for ways to engage students and find materials to support that goal.  By providing students with additional opportunities to work with technology and involve themselves in anchor activities that allow them to continue working even when they claim, “I’m done!”, we are differentiating the choices students have at school.

Additional programs we use at Paramount are community resources such as YMCA tutoring which partners our students with adults from the YMCA organization to help bridge skill gaps and focus on improvement in reading and math.

One way teachers can gather information about student needs and interests is through goal-setting activities.  When students set realistic goals, with teacher support, they are motivated to work to reach that goal.  Teachers can seek assistance from other teachers within the school setting, Special Education staff, counselors, mentor-teachers, to help students develop goals that are meaningful and inspirational to them.

There are so many other ways differentiation takes place in the classroom.  I am interested to hear what is working for you.  Please share your thoughts and ideas related to differentiated instruction that can benefit us as well as our students!

Scott Frye
Assistant Director

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    Our authoring staff is based in Indianapolis, IN and work in a multiracial, urban, K-8 school setting.


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