Differentiated Instruction in Reading

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  • 0:04 Differentiated Instruction
  • 1:11 Adjusting the Content
  • 2:21 Adjusting Teaching Methods
  • 3:24 Adjusting Assessment
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Social Studies, and Science for seven years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Differentiated instruction is a common term in the educational world. This lesson describes three different ways a reading teacher can differentiate instruction so that all students can be successful.

Differentiated Instruction

Imagine you're driving a car, but there is no lever to adjust the driver's seat. Instead, it is permanently set for the average body size of all Americans. What if you're only 5 feet tall? Would you be able to reach the pedals? How about if you were 6 feet 6 inches? Wouldn't your knees be hitting the wheel? How can you possibly drive like that?

This is an example of the danger of constructing our world according to averages. We wouldn't think of forcing a person to drive a car if he cannot reach the pedals, so why do we force students to learn according to averages? In the classroom, no student is average. Each is unique and has individual learning styles and needs. Expecting each student to learn in an average way will limit many students and frustrate most of the others. Instead, use differentiated instruction, which is how a teacher adjusts or modifies his or her classroom in order to meet a variety of student needs.

Inventing a device that allows us to adjust the driver's seat in a car is one way to differentiate the process of driving. A teacher can differentiate in the classroom in three main ways: the content, the teaching methods, and the assessments.

Adjusting the Content

Differentiation is especially important in reading classrooms. Choose any group of 25 adults and each will have different reading interests, abilities, and uses for reading. The same is true for every reading classroom. The first way to differentiate in the classroom is via the content, which is the material and concepts the teacher hopes the students will learn.

True, every state has reading standards that must be taught. However, teachers usually have flexibility on the reading material. Most get to choose which novels, short stories, articles, or biographies the students will read.

So then, how do you differentiate the content? In regards to material, it's best to provide a wide range of texts and allow students to choose some of what they read. Not only will this allow students to read at their reading ability, but it will also allow students to read what interests them. In addition, you can limit the texts according to your specific learning objective. Let's say the goal is for students to read with the purpose of gaining information on a current issue. You can provide a variety of newspapers and magazines, but allow students to choose which article they will read. The variety of topics will also help your students develop stronger reading comprehension skills.

Adjusting Teaching Methods

The second method for differentiating is through teaching methods, or the processes you use to teach information or transfer the knowledge to your students. For instance, the most traditional method of transferring information is via a lecture, where the teacher stands in front of the class discussing information while the students listen. Although sometimes useful, this method is often playing into the idea of averages and discounts students who can excel by learning in different ways.

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