Differentiation What Is it? Part 1

Some people think differentiation is a new way of teaching. Differentiation has been around for many years. It is nothing new. At one point in time it was generally thought that differentiated teaching was just for teachers in special education. Grade level classroom teachers often taught their content one way to the entire class. Those students that mastered the content got it and those that didn't were left behind. However with the inclusion of more students with disabilities in the general education classrooms; some teachers find themselves face to face with differentiation and implementing it in their classrooms for the first time. Gone are the days of cookie cutter teaching where you have one method to teach and just plug the kids in and see if they succeed.

Differentiation is varying the teaching methods and end product expectations for different students.  Differentiation addresses the learning needs of the many.  It is a way to meet our students' multitude of learning needs taking into account their learning styles, interests, experiences and abilities.
Differentiation is CHOICE.

 This is going to be a multi-part series on differentiated teaching. Please feel free as we go through the segments in the coming week, to post comments and experiences you have had with differentiated teaching in your classroom. LET ME HEAR FROM YOU!

In order to meet the needs of a variety of kids, we first have to know what have they learned about this topic already. How much can they do before I even begin teaching this concept.  In order to do this we first have to know the strengths and weaknesses of each of our students. Pre-assessment can give us an idea of what information a student knows about a specific topic. Pre-assessment can be as easy as a KWL chart where you have a discussion with the class about what they KNOW now about a topic, what they WANT to know, and then after the skill has been taught, what has been LEARNED. KWL charts could also be done as a large group, small groups or even individually as a worksheet. See the example of a KWL chart below. Grab yours for free! Click on the image.
KWL Chart
Pre-assessment can also be a pretest such as before a math chapter or one you make up.
Once you have an idea of what your students currently know, you can structure your teaching unit to meet the needs of your students.

Use materials that utilize  a variety of modalities in your teaching. All of us have strengths and weaknesses in everything we do and in the ways we learn. Some people learn by listening to materials; some learn best by reading materials and others learn optimally by having hands-on materials.

When choosing how to assess your students at the end of a unit, take their learning strengths and weaknesses into account here as well. In a  classroom, you may have students who can't write, are visually impaired, don't remember what they hear, have very low reading ability, but can learn what you have taught them. How can you differentiate the product you need to prove mastery to meet the needs of these kids? Some ideas are:  ask the students who can't write yet to give the answers orally; the students with vision impairments perhaps can have the assessment read to them.

When differentiating a lesson, continually ask yourself, "What can I do to get the most information from this student on this topic?"


Marvelous Monday Freebie Day!

Happy Marvelous Monday! I hope everyone out there is having a great one!

Wow! What a lot of years. I could hardly believe it this year when I received a pin commemorating my 35 years of teaching.  It almost came as a shock to me. How could I have been doing this for so long?  Well, its plain and simple I LOVE THIS JOB!!!! No day, no week, no year is the same especially in a special education classroom.

Have you ever had those years when you just aren't satisfied with the job you did?  You aren't sure where the next supply of passion is going to come from?  I have had years like that ... but it certainly WAS NOT this one! This year I gained  a new found passion and enthusiasm for teaching and it's come partially from beginning to make teaching products myself and selling them. It is coming from the opportunity to share with others what works for me and getting out on the web and in the blogs and finding what is working  for others like me and what can I gain from others?

  It  also comes from having awesome support in the job place from my phenomenal paraprofessional to a fantastic speech/language clinician and a wonderful talented lead Exceptional Education Teacher. Here in FL we call it Exceptional Education or ESE but I really prefer to be "Special"  as in Special Education as it is in many other parts of the country. It's people like I have the honor to work with, and my students, that make it so wonderful to go back every Monday.
I love the beginning a new week in my job!  Kids come back refreshed (most of the time) and it's an opportunity to start anew. In my classroom, we call it MARVELOUS Monday!  We always share on Monday mornings what our weekend was like, what goals we want to accomplish during the week.
In honor of Marvelous Monday, even though school isn't in session for me, I am going to start a Marvelous Monday FREEBIE! Every Monday I will put up a new freebie that hopefully you will find useful in your teaching as I have in mine.  I hope you enjoy!
What is YOUR best part of teaching?
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday