Differentiation is a one word description for a method to reach every student and provide them with access to the curriculum that fits their learning style and their interests. There are four areas that differentiation can occur: product, process, content, and environment. Differentiating content does not mean veering from the state standards or laws required to teach by law. You stick to what you are required to teach, but your presentation of the material may vary. It is the “how” of your teaching. No two teachers will teach exactly the same and ideas on how to differentiate content can very well come from within your own building. Content differentiation can be any of the following:
- Using a flipped classroom- This is used primarily in upper grades and a preponderance of responsibility rests on the student’s shoulders. In a flipped classroom, students receive direct instruction prior to class through use of guided reading, videos, and/or activities. When students enter the classroom, remediation and extension activities occur. This allows for open dialogue about concepts that students may be struggling with. It is not for everyone. I did try this in my own classroom, but it was not successful. I found myself reteaching consistently. I do know of a classroom with students in a gifted program that it works enormously well in. You really have to know your population of students as well as their needs.
- Small group instruction- This is using your awareness of students and their abilities to successfully group them to teach. Some students will require to be taught at a very basic level while others will be to work at a more advanced level. If no co-teacher or teaching assistant is available, it is important to have independent activities that groups can work on while waiting for instruction. Classroom management will also be key.
- Learning Style Incorporated- This is my absolute favorite and something I use in my classroom each and every day. The very basic learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. I am a visual person so I need to “see” the content. I develop my lesson plans with these learning styles in mind. For each element I teach in my classroom, I provide a visual, auditory, and manipulative activity. This can be a PowerPoint with pictures, diagrams, and videos embedded into it as well as a “hands-on” activity that follows. I use the PowerPoint for direct instruction while reading it verbally and incorporating follow-up comments to statements listed on the PowerPoint. At the end of direct instruction, I ask for feedback regarding the visual, audio, and manipulative activities the students completed.
It has definitely been awhile since I’ve been in an early education classroom, so I’m curious for ideas that are used in these classrooms to differentiate content. Please, share your ideas!