Differentiating Instruction Based on Student Interest

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  • 0:02 Differentiation Defined
  • 0:32 Determining Student Interests
  • 1:45 Differentiating Teaching
  • 3:22 Differentiating Assessments
  • 4:07 Align with Objectives…
  • 4:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derek Hughes
Tailoring instruction to student interest is a good strategy for helping students connect with learning. This lesson will provide strategies and techniques for differentiating instruction for different interests.

Differentiation Defined

As you may know, every student learns in different ways. Some may have learning disabilities and require services, some may struggle with certain subjects but excel in others, and all will have a variety of interests that impact the way they learn. In order to effectively teach, you need to differentiate your instruction. Differentiation is the process of adapting instruction to suit students' needs, interests, and abilities. This lesson will focus on differentiating instruction based on student interest.

Determining Student Interests

If you have 24 students in your classroom, you also have 24 diverse set of interests. Therefore, differentiating instruction for student interest can be a big job, but it is possible and worth it. The first thing you should always do when differentiating instruction is learn about your students. Without knowing your students' interests, you can't design lessons and activities geared toward them.

There are several ways you can do this. The first is to simply ask and talk to your students in the first weeks of school. After some initial hesitance, most students will open up and begin to share with you. For those who are more shy and guarded, you can pass out a questionnaire to the whole class in the first few days of school. By including an open-ended question about what students like to do when not in school, you can learn a lot about their interests.

Finally, one of the best ways to learn about your students is to just pay attention and observe their interactions in the classroom. For example, you might notice that one of your students consistently picks books from the classroom library related to dinosaurs. You can probably assume that this student is interested in dinosaurs. You may also hear a student talking to others about baseball on a regular basis.

Differentiating Teaching

Throughout the school year, you're responsible for teaching a wide variety of skills and standards. When differentiating instruction, you must align these skills and standards with student interest. This means creating varied lessons and activities that every student wants to engage in.

The most useful strategy you can implement is to use a variety of teaching methods that target or teach one skill. Instead of presenting information to students in a single mode, give students the option of several different modes. For example, some students might prefer to hear things explained to them by the teacher, while others might prefer watching videos online. By doing both of these things, chances are most students are seeing information in a way they find interesting.

Take the teaching of multiplication as an example. It might be useful for some students to simply be told to memorize their times tables. These students can look at a chart of times tables, study them for several days, and have them memorized. However, others might need a more hands-on approach to learning their times tables. For these students, you can provide them with concrete examples tailored to their interests and manipulatives to help them learn their times tables.

You can also create small group or independent activities that allow students to practice skills you have taught. These activities can also be differentiated based on student interest. Since students are working on their own, you can create a wide variety of different tasks suited to a variety of interests. For example, a group of students interested in using digital tools could research a concept further with educational technology. Another student could work alone, reading a book that interests him, and relate his reading to the skill he learned.

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