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Differentiating instruction
In a differentiated classroom, the teacher plans to meet the unique needs of all students. That means that students are going to start where they are comfortable and learn in their own particular best way.

Each child is unique
The key to differentiating instruction is developing a deep understanding of the students you are teaching. Differentiation is guided by the student readiness level and student interests. Every child is unique, developing at his or her own rate.

To create an environment that supports all learners, see excerpt from Reflections of Me… Creating the Whole School Learning Environment.

You can decide what differentiated learning looks like by:

  • Reflecting student interests and/or learning styles are visibly in the classroom (posters, chart paper, models etc.);
  • Providing multiple approaches to teaching and learning  (centres, small group teaching/learning, paired investigations); and
  • Posting evidence of student-centred learning throughout the classroom (posted chart paper KWLs, different centres/stations).

Differentiated learning sounds like:

  • Students are engaged in focused dialogue about their learning that is rooted in their interests and/or learning styles;
  • Students are using the language of clear criteria although they are engaged in varying modalities or processes; and
  • Teacher and students are engaged in dialogue that encompasses learning goals and student readiness for learning.

Teachers play an important role in supporting all learners by providing for the physical needs of students.

Different learners = different learning
Teachers differentiate in the classroom by discovering sound instructional strategies and ideas. In order to meet the varying needs of all students, you need to differentiate content by:

  • Purposefully deciding what you want students to learn; and
  • Strategically selecting how to give access to what you want students to learn.

Differentiating content can be accomplished as separate strategies or a combination of strategies which meet the needs of your students. Here are some tips on differentiating physical education.  See the following for ideas on how to develop in students a disposition for learning math.

Celebrating diversity
Teachers need to continually check the suitability of the differentiated learning process by asking the following questions as the learning proceeds:

Readiness: Have I matched the complexity of the task to the student’s current level of understanding or skill?

Interest: Have I provided students with choices about part of the topic? Have I linked their personal interests to the process goal?

Learning profile: Have I encouraged students to make sense of an idea by using their preferred way of learning?

For sample lessons on celebrating diversity, see the Reflections of Me…Grade One lesson plan or Grade Two lesson plan.

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