· How does your understanding of differentiation compare to what you have observed in your practicum?
· How will strategies for differentiation and engaging all learners be reflected in your practice?
One of the greatest ways we can help our students is through differentiation. What is differentiation? Basically, it’s the way we should have been teaching all along. Every student learns a different way; students have their own needs. As a teacher, we must teach in a way that encompasses most, if not all, of these different styles and needs. This can be exceptionally difficult to do, especially in a large class with many different learning styles. However, we can try our best to use a variety in our classroom. In my current practicum placement, I see differentiation all the time. One student in particular has a very specific learning style, and very specific needs. His needs are consistently met through assignments (given more difficult problems in and out of the classroom), seating arrangement (can sit in a certain spot that will help him learn), and through communication (letting the student know what will be coming up next, in addition to other techniques). These are only a few to name for this specific student, but there are many strategies for the other students as well. One other example is for a student who has difficulty with spelling. This technique works with others as well (universal design), however it especially works with student A. During times in which students must journal, or create text-to-text/self connections, the spelling is not something that is always looked at. We encourage students during these times to simply write, and not think about the spelling. Content is just as important as spelling. For student A, he becomes more motivated to write, knowing that this bit of differentiation is being used.
I strive to use differentiation in my practice. In the past, I have been in a split grade (one and two). Certain students needed the opposite grade’s worksheet, and I was aware of which students needed this. In this case, I would tell all my students that they could start with either their grade worksheet, or the other one, and then once they were finished with that, move on to the next one. This allowed for all Grade 2 students to use the Grade 1 worksheet as a refresher, and the Grade 1 students to see what they could do from a Grade 2 worksheet. Students that needed this differentiation did not feel out of place using another grade’s worksheet.
During this year’s practicum, whenever there is a group discussion, I make sure to write down all points on an anchor chart. Students that need to look back at what we spoke about have this opportunity. The anchor chart will remain up for the duration of their activity. I also put schedules on the blackboard of the tasks they need to complete, and in what order. Lastly, I make sure to have visuals. If the students are creating something, most of the time, I have an example of the creation (one case I did not give an example was when they were building structures. I wanted to see what they could create on their own!).
These are, of course, only a few examples of differentiation that either I do, or am apart of. I feel that differentiation is something all teachers and educators should strive to do in their classrooms. It is beneficial for all students, and will make school a safer and more trusting place.