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How to Select & Adapt Materials to Meet Student Needs

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Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Educators use differentiation to ensure that they are addressing the varying levels of students in the classroom. Explore the process of selecting and adapting content, applications, and other resources to support diverse learners. Updated: 11/09/2021

Student Needs

Mira is a teacher with many different students in her classroom. Her students vary from way behind academically to scholastic superstars. She also has a variety of different cultures and languages in her classroom. Often, classrooms like Mira's have students of varying levels, cultures, and belief systems. Each of these students is unique, and each student has unique needs. As a result, teachers like Mira need to select and adapt materials to account for varying student needs. But how, exactly, can Mira do that?

To help Mira meet the needs of her diverse students, let's take a closer look at differentiation and how to apply the principles of diversity in education to a classroom like Mira's.

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  • 0:01 Student Needs
  • 0:42 Differentiation
  • 1:56 Applications
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Differentiation

Mira needs to meet the needs of her students, but her students are all very different from each other. What can she do?

Differentiation is the process of modifying instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners. In a fully differentiated classroom, each student has their own personalized instruction and materials. Of course, Mira is only one person, and in reality, teachers often have to differentiate in ways that allow them to still serve the needs of the majority of the class, while also supporting those who are ahead or behind the majority.

There are three ways to differentiate instruction: through changing the content (what is being taught), the process (how it is being taught), and the product (how students demonstrate learning). When talking about classroom materials, they can reflect any of these three things. For example, materials like textbooks are about content, lesson plans and posters or charts are about process, and worksheets and tests are about product.

Whether Mira is talking about student readiness (the academic level of her students), culture, or language limitations and abilities, she will want to differentiate one or more of the three elements of instruction to meet every student's needs.

Applications

That sounds good and well, but Mira isn't sure exactly what she should do. How can she differentiate content, process, and product to meet her students' needs? To help Mira out, let's look at some ways to differentiate each of those elements for student readiness, culture, and language.

Content

When it comes to differentiating content in her classroom, Mira can meet students at their level by offering materials, such as books and articles, on varying levels. For example, if her classroom is studying World War II, she can choose a variety of WWII-related books so that everyone in her class can study the content at their individual level.

In addition, Mira can choose culturally sensitive materials to make her content differentiated for students of different cultures. For example, many Western materials about World War II paint the Japanese people as bad. Materials told from the Japanese point of view or books about the experience of Japanese Americans during that time period can reach students who are Japanese.

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