By Teachers, For Teachers
As teachers, we hear the buzzwords differentiated instruction all the time. We know that differentiation is important in the classroom because not all students learn the same way. Even with the knowledge that DI is important to help students succeed, why do many teachers feel like they aren’t doing enough of it, if at all?
Most teachers would say that to make tiered lesson plans for every class of every day would be impossible to fit in to their already limited planning/prep periods with all the other pull-outs, modifications, assessments, and push-ins they already have to add to their lesson plans.
Finding easy ways to implement DI is – believe it or not – very achievable even with the busiest teacher’s schedule! Differentiation of instruction can be done in one of three ways (or a combination of two or more): content, process, or product.
Let’s look at three simple ways to differentiate for each.
Content can be differentiated easily in the classroom by using a leveled reading system. That could be in the form of a school-wide library program, or even on a smaller scale with leveled readers that may come with your reading, social studies, and/or science series.
Allowing students to read at a level that is neither too easy, nor too hard, makes taming behaviors down in the classroom more manageable as well. If students are able to read the content at a level they understand, then they are less likely to want to misbehave.
If your students are not being challenged at an appropriate level in the classroom, differentiating the process is also a great method. You can differentiate the process by creating learning centers based on child interest that still cover the same standards for all, but students are not required to go to every single center.
Or maybe you provide the student with a manipulative or learning tool that will assist him to be successful with the content, such as reading rods or even an audio recording to follow along. While tiered lesson plans are wonderful and ambitious; some of these simple differentiated techniques are also just as effective.
When differentiating instruction for product, you really are just giving students a choice about HOW they will show what they have learned. In my opinion, this is the most fun way to differentiate of all. Your artistic or musical students can shine in ways they can’t when just taking a standard paper and pencil assessment. Feel free to check out my popular article, 40 Alternative Assessments for Learning for some great ideas! The thing to remember when giving choices as these is that you need to have clear expectations for the final result in a rubric or with an example, otherwise students may not perform to your expectations. If you give them clear goals for their assignment, you are much more likely to use this type of differentiation again!
Overall, differentiation is not as hard as many teachers believe it to be, and the majority are already differentiating much more than they are even aware!
Want to be even more on task with DI on your team? Assign each teacher in your team to either content, process, or product differentiation for a month. Each teacher should then come to the weekly planning meeting with one differentiated idea for their category, which everyone on the team will implement in their lesson plans. Switch up who does which category once a month for a fresh perspective. Not only will you get to try some new techniques, but your students will enjoy the variety as well!
Share your easy DI strategies in the comments section!