As you plan for the new school year, think about how you structure your classroom and lessons to engage all students and meet each learner’s needs. While differentiating instruction can be daunting, it can also be a lot of fun. Differentiation involves recognizing individual student’s talents, interests, and challenges. It also involves varying ways you present content and use the classroom space. Below are examples of teachers differentiating their classrooms. Jump to the subject you teach or read them all. For a deeper look into what differentiation is and how to recognize the potential in all students, listen to the “Differentiated Instruction Works: How and Why To Do DI” podcast on the ASCD website.
Arts and World Languages
Tap into students’ love for the arts. In The Arts in Every Classroom, program 2, “Expanding the Role of the Arts Specialist,” watch how dance, visual art, and theatre teachers coordinate with teachers of other subject areas.
Use the arts to teach students how to express their ideas in multiple ways. In Connecting With the Arts, program 12, “Finding Your Voice,” middle school students use music, art, and dance to explore the concepts of conflict and protesting.
Students are most engaged when they are talking about what they know. In Teaching Foreign Languages, K-12, “Comparing Communities,” students compare community life at home and abroad while practicing language skills. The video is captioned in English for all language teachers.
English and Language Arts
In Teaching Reading, K-2, workshop 6, “Differentiating Instruction,” learn what flexible grouping looks like and apply examples to your own classes.
Think outside of the essay and use your students’ kinesthetic and creative skills. Watch middle school students explore characters in literature by creating ceramic place settings in Connecting With the Arts, “Revealing Character.”
Vary methods of communicating with students using technology to give feedback. Jen Roberts uses Google Tools to collaborate with her students on their work. Watch “Blended Learning: Acquiring Digital Literacy Skills” from Reading & Writing in the Disciplines. Under the video, see the Differentiated Instruction paragraph to learn more about how Ms. Roberts scaffolds the lesson to meet different students’ needs.
History and Social Studies
In Social Studies in Action, program 4, “China Through Mapping,” Ms. Norton offers multiple entry points into a lesson on Chinese culture and history. Elementary students create salt-dough maps, sing songs, and complete a group mystery puzzle using printed maps of China. At 20:24 in the video, Ms. Norton explains how she assigned the roles for group work.
Try lesson plans that use photographs to hook visual learners and students interested in photography. The Essential Lens video, “A Closer Look,” explains the Focus In strategy for examining the meaning and point of view of photographs. Browse several photo collections connected to activities and big ideas that can be used in the social studies classroom. Themes include “Economies and Empires” and “Change and Resistance.”
Ms. Ambrose’s students discuss racial profiling as they develop an understanding of constitutional law and criminal law in Making Civics Real, workshop 7, “Controversial Public Policy Issues.” One of her students reflects “… if she sees that something is boring us, if something’s not working, she’ll get at the problem. She’ll change it to make sure that we’re always interested, so that we’re always learning something. As soon as you lose interest, you stop caring, you stop learning.”
In Teaching Math K-4, video 17, “Choose a Method,” the teacher provides multiple learning experiences for exploring problem-solving methods with her fourth graders. Two groups work independently, one on computers and another on puzzles and games. The teacher and students in a third group investigate different computational methods, including base-10 blocks, calculators, mental math, or paper and pencil.
A blended learning approach to instruction allows students to collaborate using technology. Math students evaluate arithmetic sequences and share work on a Smart Board. While some students also practice speaking and teaching skills, other students focus on concepts. Watch “Blended Learning: Using Technology to Learn Math Concepts” in Reading & Writing in the Disciplines.
In “Creating Opportunities for Mathematical Discourse” from Reading & Writing in the Disciplines, Ms. Langer lets students choose from different types of classroom materials to explore content, provides scaffolding to students as needed, and allows students to work in groups or independently as they study graph theory.
Young kids love animals. Bring the outdoors inside to young citizen scientists with Journey North. Students answer the essential question, “How do animals in different parts of the world respond to seasonal change?” while completing activities in the viewing guide and watching animal cams by Explore.org of bears, birds, and more.
Use photographs to hook visual learners and students interested in photography. The Essential Lens video, “A Closer Look,” explains the Focus In strategy for examining the meaning and point of view of photographs. Browse several photo collections connected to activities and big ideas that can be used in the science classroom. Themes include “Processes of Science,” “Energy,” and “Genetics and Bioengineering.”
In Reading & Writing in the Disciplines, “Creating a Culture of Collaboration,” learn how Mr. Berryman develops students’ understanding of scientific terms in multiple ways, from using an interactive web app, a word wall, drawing activities, and more.