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5 Ways to Differentiate Instruction

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If you're a teacher, you've probably heard of or even dabbled in differentiated instruction. This blog post offers five methods you can easily apply in your classroom to benefit from the differentiated instruction method.

Differentiated Instruction: Key to Success

Differentiated instruction is a teaching philosophy that emphasizes the importance of providing all of your students with lessons, assignments, projects, and assessments that are suited to their individual needs. It focuses on making sure that each student can learn effectively no matter their ability or background. While it might require a bit more effort and planning than the traditional teaching approach, it's much more likely to result in success for the whole class, not just a few students. Here are five ways you can differentiate instruction in your classroom.

Differentiated learning is a popular classroom strategy

1. Include Every Learning Style

One of the main principles of differentiated instruction is understanding that each student learns differently and that one approach is not going to be the best for everyone. The theory relies primarily on the concept of learning styles, whereby different people learn best verbally, visually, through reading and writing, or physically. If you can design lessons that cover all of these bases, you're much more likely to reach all of the students in your class.

This means using different teaching materials for one lesson. For example, textbooks are a good option for reading/writing learners, while movies and videos work well for visual learners. Kinesthetic learners might prefer to complete an interactive, hands-on activity, while verbal learners will respond well to lectures. You can include all of these modalities in one unit or topic.

It is important to include multiple learning styles in differentiated instruction classrooms

2. Offer Assignment Options

When you assign classwork or homework, it's important to consider the type of assignment and whether it might favor certain types of learners over others. Written book reports, for example, may be easier for reading/writing learners to complete, while others might struggle. To that end, when you assign a project, like a book report, consider offering multiple options so that each student can choose the one that will best work for them. For example, visual learners could design a graphic organizer of the story, verbal learners may give an oral report, and kinesthetic learners build a diorama. That way, everybody has a fair chance of success.

3. Establish Learning Stations

One fun, active way to include many learning styles and modalities into one lesson is through the use of learning stations. This means organizing your classroom into sections through which groups of students rotate during the class period, and where each station features a different teaching method or engages a different skill. For example, one might involve a hands-on activity, another a worksheet, a third a video to watch, and the last a creative project. That way, students interact with the material in many different ways, one of which might stick better than others.

4. Plan Tiered Lessons

Outside of learning styles, it's also important to differentiate assignments for students on different levels. After all, any classroom will inevitably include a range of students, from gifted children who grasp material quickly to those who struggle and might get left behind.

In order to include all of your students, consider planning tiered lessons. This means that each lesson will have a base that can reach all students no matter their level, and that extension activities will be available to those who understand the basic concept and want to move on and try something harder. You can also offer a more basic tier that goes over the concept in a more rudimentary way. This way, each student can spend more time on the tier that is best suited for him or her.

5. Organize Students in Groups

One way to keep differentiated instruction in place throughout the school year is to organize your students into groups according to their level of ability, interest, or learning style. This approach can be of benefit to both students and teacher.

For instance, you'll be able to work individually with each group, providing direct instruction based on the group's specific needs. The key to this situation is to avoid making any one group feel inferior or superior to the others. Or, for a different approach, you could purposely mix up the groups so that students can collaborate with and help each other. This is a more student-led approach to differentiated instruction.

Groups are a good differentiated classroom strategy

Using a combination, or all, of these five methods should help you and your students be as successful in the classroom as possible.

For more ideas and tips for differentiated instruction, check out this resource on Study.com.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
August 2019
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