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Steps in Implementing Differentiated Instruction

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  • 0:04 What Is Differentiation?
  • 0:44 Implementing…
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
Successful teachers make sure all students' needs are being met. How can teachers differentiate? This lesson outlines the four major steps teachers can take to implement differentiation in their classroom and gives examples of each.

What Is Differentiation?

Paula is a perfectionist. She began teaching long ago and works hard to keep up on the best practices in her profession. Lately, she noticed the teachers on her floor are using a method called differentiation. What is it, and is it a valid model?

In education, differentiation is using varying instructional methods and practices to meet all students' needs. Teachers using differentiation in their classroom continually observe and assess their students and align their teaching to make sure students are being met on their level and making progress towards an objective. This way, students are able to master skills in a building-block way, layering success on success. How can Paula do this? Let's see.

Implementing Differentiated Learning

The good news is Paula isn't too far behind the curve. She already uses forms of differentiation in her room, like small group instruction and assessments. To get her classroom and practice ready for full-fledged differentiation though, she'll need to do these four things:

Step 1: Prepare the Classroom

Before students even walk in the door, Paula needs to get her learning environment ready to support differentiation. Paula's classroom is arranged in neat rows, with her desk at the front of the room. To prepare for meeting with small groups, using collaborative group work, and hosting independent conferences, Paula needs to make a few changes.

For starters, she needs to get rid of those rows and organize her desks into clusters. This way, students will be able to collaborate when learning. She'll also need to set up an area for small group work, preferably a small table where she and a group of four to six students can meet. Finally, Paula can create subject-based learning spaces, like a reading library or a science exploration area. Students can work in these areas in small groups or individually during guided or independent practice times.

Step 2: Assess Strengths & Needs

Once her classroom is ready, Paula's next step is to prepare for instruction by assessing her students. She does this for a few reasons. One, in order to meet her students at their individual instructional level, she'll need to determine what that is. She can use a variety of assessments, like observations, quizzes, and more formal screenings, to determine specific student needs. For example, she can use a diagnostic reading assessment to zoom in on her students' decoding, fluency, and comprehension skills, then group students according to the results.

She can also use assessments to align curriculum with student needs. Once she determines where her students are academically, she can take a close look at goals and objectives and align the two. She'll know how to teach and support the comprehension skill of making mental images best when she knows what skills her students are bringing to the classroom.

Step 3: Create Management Tools

Paula has 24 students, and though they have similar skill levels, they're all very different learners. She needs to make sure she is able to keep track of each student throughout the year so she can offer them all quality instruction. To do this, she can create teaching tools to help her manage.

Paula will need to organize her class in three ways: time, pacing, and content. Using the information from her assessments and screenings, she'll first develop a schedule, balancing time for whole group, small group, and individualized lessons. She can choose to use a manual planner, online organizers, or other planning tools like notebooks and folders.

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