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How to Differentiate Instruction with Elements of Content

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  • 0:01 Elements of Differentiation
  • 0:50 Preparing to…
  • 3:00 Differentiating…
  • 4:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teachers differentiate the content they teach so all students can learn. What content is modified, and how does this work? This lesson discusses how to differentiate content while still meeting rigorous standards.

Elements of Differentiation

Joan is a new teacher with a lot of energy. She knows she wants to create opportunities for all students to learn, no matter what levels they're on, and knows differentiation is a good method to use to achieve this. Differentiation will allow her to modify what she teaches, how she teaches it, and what she expects students to produce to show they learned. In other words, she'll differentiate content, process, and product.

She'll do this by getting to know her students well. Joan will need to determine her students' levels of readiness; levels of performance on tasks; interests, like sports or animals; and learner profiles, which include things like gender, culture, and learning style. That's a lot of information to consider. She decides to begin by looking at how she can differentiate the content she plans to teach. Let's take a peek as she gets ready.

Preparing to Differentiate Content

Joan may be a new teacher, but she's a smart cookie. She knows that she'll modify content according to student readiness, interest, and learner profile. In other words, until she gets to know who the students are academically and personally, she won't have enough data to make important teaching decisions, like what level books to use or which teaching methods work best.

Before her students come, however, she can do a few things to get ready for differentiation. She can make sure her room is arranged in flexible groupings, allowing for small, whole, and individual learning. She can stock quality materials on several different levels that will be engaging for all learners. For example, her math area has counters for students still working on one-to-one correspondence as well as calculators for more advanced students. Finally, she plans on being flexible, understanding that differentiation is built on meeting students at their unique needs and helping them make progress.

She also checks her national, state, and district standards to make sure the material she uses meets these goals and objectives. Balancing student needs with requirements for student growth is an important piece when planning for instruction.

Once she has a chance to get to know her students well, Joan can begin modifying content as a means of differentiation. What kinds of thing fall under the term content?

  • What is taught, such as facts, figures, and data
  • Ideas, beliefs, and concepts related to facts
  • Opinions or values related to beliefs or facts
  • Skills used to practice and engage in subject matter
  • Materials students use to learn, practice, or engage in subject matter

In other words, when Joan modifies content, she's taking a close look at what she teaches, what materials her students will use to make sense of learning, and the methods they'll use to do this. For example, if a student is in 2nd grade and the class is working on two-digit addition but the student doesn't yet have a solid number sense, the teacher can differentiate by backing off that topic and teaching what the student needs. She'll also allow students to use different manipulatives to solve problems and introduce different ways for students to solve the problems. But not all differentiation of elements of content includes change to what she is teaching. In fact, she differentiates content in many other ways.

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