I have been feeling lately that my posts have been a little on the long side. In an attempt to keep them short and sweet, I will be breaking them up in segments when appropriate, so I can tackle the information of larger topics in readable, bite-sized pieces. This will also allow me to cover a topic in more depth, and with more specificity around each piece. The first piece I want to cover is differentiating instruction.
Differentiating instruction can look like many things in classrooms. It is also a buzzword in education right now that can, unfortunately, not carry much meaning in day to day instruction. Teachers use the word to describe many things that they are doing, and through the overuse of the word – there can be a loss for the true meaning of what the goal is for the instruction. That is why I am going to spend the next series of posts highlighting some of my favorite resources and strategies for individualizing instruction for learners.
One way teachers can be more responsive to diverse learners in their schools is through active engagement and collaborative learning. In their book, Joyful Learning: Active and Collaborative Learning in Inclusive Classrooms, Alice Udvari-Solner and Paula Kluth describe many useful, tried and true differentiation strategies for elementary and secondary teachers to engage and support students with diverse learning profiles. This book is one of my favorite resources, and is one that I give as teacher gifts annually to my sons’ teachers. It is always a welcome treasure, as the strategies they offer as well as the reasons they give for the use of each, are extremely versatile and effective in supporting all students, including English Language Learners and learners with disabilities.
I love their definition of differentiation, which they describe came from articulating the words of the many teachers that they have worked with over the years:
“Differentiation requires a desire to honor the individual. It is a conscious and critical act that calls into question what we teach, why we should teach it, and how we expect students to learn. Teachers attend not only to curriculum, instruction, and assessment, but also issues of relevance, meaning, and respect. A student’s individual needs, experiences, and interests influence the design of learning experiences. The presence of difference in the classroom is not viewed as a liability but as the necessary catalyst for changes that will improve instruction for all.”
In my next post I will offer some of their specific strategies as well as situations that I have been in that I have used them, or seen them used effectively.
NOW – for the fun part! If you write a comment about how you have seen or used effective, active engagement or collaborative learning to meet the diverse needs in classrooms, or with a question about how they could be used in your classroom (or your son’s or daughter’s if you are a parent) – I will randomly choose one winner from the comments and send a copy of Joyful Learning to you.
Let’s hear all about those great things that are happening in our schools, and any questions there are about how we could differentiate more effectively!