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Differentiating Instruction to Engage Students of All Levels

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  • 0:03 Importance of Differentiation
  • 0:52 Setting Students Up…
  • 1:55 Challenging and…
  • 3:17 Engaging Learning Tasks
  • 4:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Differentiation is a tool teachers can use to help all students succeed and using instructional strategies to engage students on every level. This lesson explains how to make sure all students have opportunities to be challenged and engaged.

Importance of Differentiation

Every day, teachers are tasked with making sure the students they work with receive instruction to meet individual levels and interests, what we refer to as differentiated instruction. We know differentiating is vital to student success; teaching in one way without modifying instructional methods or processes leaves some students confused and others unchallenged.

Anthony is a teacher who wants to make sure that every learner in his classroom has a chance to succeed. He provides tasks that are equally interesting and engaging and makes sure they all have an equal chance to understand essential skills. How does he help each student feel challenged and engaged while making sure they understand the topic and move on to the next learning stage? Glad you asked.

Setting Students Up for Learning

Anthony does several things to make sure each of his students has the same opportunities to learn and succeed:

  • Organize the classroom to support differentiated learning - Before students arrive at his door in the fall, Anthony groups the desks into pods of 3 or 4 students to facilitate cooperative learning. He also sets up a guided learning area where he'll work with a small group of students.

  • Assess students - During the first few weeks of school, Anthony gives his students several different types of screenings and assessments to determine their specific reading, writing, and math levels.

  • Organize his teaching - Using the results of the assessments and the curriculum objectives as a guide, Tony plans his teaching, both for the scope of the year and on a day-to-day basis.

Anthony's preparation for learning allows him to differentiate. His students will be able to work in a space that supports individual, small group, and whole group learning. Anthony uses the screenings to determine a point at which to begin teaching; he'll continue to assess students throughout the year to keep up-to-date information on each student's progress. Finally, Anthony uses this data to drive instruction. All students, whether below, on, or above level, will make progress.

Challenging and Engaging Everyone

How does Anthony make sure each student feels challenged and engaged? Using differentiated instructional methods allows him to know where each student is and to help move them on to the next level. Let's take a look at how this works.

In his daily instruction, Anthony has two parallel jobs - teach students at their level and teach objectives determined in the curriculum. Because each student is at their own unique level and has a different set of strengths and struggles, Anthony will need to balance whole class instruction with small group and individual teaching.

For most lessons, Anthony starts off teaching the whole class a lesson, let's say on the comprehension skill of making mental images. During whole group instruction he'll conduct informal assessments, like observing students during discussions. If students seem to struggle with understanding the concept, he'll modify his instruction to make sure he reaches all learners.

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