3 Simple Ways Differentiated Instruction in a Multilingual Classroom Can Make a Difference

Janelle Cox

The most effective way to teach ESL students is by differentiated instruction. The "one-size-fits-all" curriculum will not work when students come from different cultural backgrounds. These students come to class not only with a variety of different backgrounds, but each with unique learning styles and different past experiences. To make sure each learner performs at the best of their ability, it is imperative that you establish a teaching approach that will benefit all students individually, despite their different backgrounds.

Here you will find three simple ways to use differentiated instruction in your multilingual classroom. Use these tips to create a learning environment where all of your students' needs are met.

1. Use the Multiple Intelligence Theory

Howard Gardner's multiple intelligence theory is based upon the fact that all children learn differently and have a different learning style. These styles are referred to as: interpersonal, intrapersonal, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical and linguistic. At the beginning of the school year, pass out a multiple intelligence survey so you can get an idea of how each of your students learn. You will find that a few of the styles will be dominant, and this will help you to create lessons and activities around how your students learn best.

2. Employ Flexible Grouping

There are a variety of ways you can group students in a differentiated classroom. Grouping can be arranged in the classroom by the learner's needs, a particular activity, using the multiple intelligences or according to student interest. Whichever way you choose to group your students, it's important to remember that groups can be flexible, and you can change them as little or as often as needed.

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Teachers may choose to change grouping for each lesson or activity in order to develop particular skills. You can adjust your groups daily, weekly, or monthly depending upon the material that is being taught. The key word in this tip to differentiate instruction is "flexible" grouping. Once you have created a group, make sure you monitor and record how the group is working out. Keeping track of this data will help you decide if these particular groups are worth staying together.

3. Offer Students a Choice

When students are given the opportunity to have a voice in their education, it is quite apparent that they will exhibit motivation, and you will see their interest for learning increase. Offering students a choice in a differentiated classroom can be an effective component in combating the students that are struggling to find their find way in class. Start by giving your ESL students a choice in the activities you will be doing for that day. Allow them to choose between a variety of activities that you have already put together. This effective teaching strategy may be time consuming for you, but the result is the student's ongoing motivation to want to complete a task because they had the opportunity to choose it.

Research on differentiated instruction is limited. They have validated implementing strategies, such as responding to students learning styles and grouping for instruction. Depending upon student's abilities and their learning situation, these strategies have proven to be successful in multilingual classrooms.