Differentiation is a buzz word in the education community. It has attracted attention and sparked conversations. Not everyone agrees on exactly how differentiation looks, but the common consensus is that differentiation can occur in four different areas: Content, Process, Product, and Environment. The purpose of differentiation is to reach every student and provide them with access to the curriculum that fits their learning style and their interests. The following are ways I provide differentiation in my own classroom:
When introducing a topic, I use both auditory and visual. It is usually a PowerPoint that contains pictures and diagrams. I read through the PowerPoint as a whole group and ask for discussion throughout the presentation. I will also allow one of my students whom I know needs movement to be my “Vanna White” for the day. This student stands at the front of my room and is in charge of moving the slides while I walk around the room presenting the material. This also allows me to enact proximity control for students that struggle with behavior issues.
There are generally three parts to a topic when I teach. An activity, graphic organizer/diagram, and an assessment that includes test-like questions and a written response. I do vary the length of time for students on an individual basis to complete these tasks. A struggling learner might be asked to provide a basic response to the written response while an advanced learner may be asked for a more in-depth response.
I have incorporated the Genius Hour concept into my classroom, but because of the needs of my students, I tweaked some of the ideas. In my classroom, students are responsible for creating at least 1 Genius Hour project for the year, but can complete as many as they would like. This assures that struggling students do not get left behind, while also giving advanced students an opportunity to go wild. The Genius Hour is an idea they have picked. They have 101 choices on how to present their Genius Hour.
In the past, I have had clearly defined whole group and small group areas. Generally, the whole group is in the center of the room while small group areas are against the walls. This allowed me to teach whole group and then, disperse the students to their small group areas. Then, we could reconvene at our whole group area and discuss what they worked on. I do not have that now because the building structure of the room does not allow it, but I do have students at partner tables. I generally tend to play calming music at a low volume anytime I am not directly instructing. I also tend to place students that I know need movement at the back of the room and allow them to stand as long as they are participating.