Cindy Strickland has been a teacher for more than 30 years and has worked with all ages. She has focused on many different things one of these being differentiated instruction. Strickland defines the term differentiated instruction as “shaking-up” the classroom so students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas and expressing what they learned. She also describes it as meeting kids where they are not where we wish them to be.
Differentiation is classroom practice that looks eyeball to eyeball with the reality that kids differ, and the most effective teachers do whatever it takes to hook the whole range of kids on learning. It is very important to have differentiation in your classroom because you will encounter different students. Not everyone learns the same, some can learn by reading, some can learn by writing, some can learn by hearing and some can learn by doing. Some students even can learn in all of these ways. Most children now need to learn by doing, but you cannot only teach that way because those that struggle with it need to have it taught in a different form so they can understand and not fall behind. Differentiation doesn’t suggest that a teacher can be all things to all individuals all the time. It does, however, mandate that a teacher create a reasonable range of approaches to learning much of the time, so that most students find learning a fit much of the time.
I have learned a lot from Cindy but the thing I can take away most is that differentiation has done away with stigmas about being different. Special needs students are no longer exceptions to the rule because everyone’s an exception. Students really seem to grasp and accept the premise that everyone has different learning needs, profiles, choices, levels of challenge. And that’s the real norm for them.
I would use differentiation in my classroom as much as possible because not only are the students learning in their own ways it is how they will use it in their life as well. They will re teach it the way they understand it and if it is not correct then it will fall back on you. Me as the teacher is responsible for the students learning and to make sure they understand it correctly. It will also make for a more positive environment if the students all understand the same thing, just in their unique form of learning. Differentiation is not WHAT we teach, it is HOW we teach it.
An example I could use in the classroom is the alphabet, how there are capital and lower case letters and how we use the letters in the alphabet to form words. Specific sounds correspond to certain letters in the alphabet, sounding them out is one way to show them, making a song out of it is another way. Skipping straight to reading is how some more advanced students learned. Telling the students it is important to know this