Classrooms today are complex and trying to teach to the individual instead of the group feels overwhelming. One of my of the realities of my teaching job depends on my ability to differentiated instruction.
- What differentiation means in the classroom
- How to do it effectively without pulling your hair out.
A bit about whyAs a classroom teacher of a combined grade class with often a high proportion of students with special education needs I am no stranger to a difficult class that comes to me at all different levels. Being that it is just me in the classroom with all of my students I have learned some tips and tricks to differentiate and hone my skills in order to survive.
As a result I have become one of those crazy teachers that actually enjoys teaching splits and this is primarily because it helps to support differentiated instruction.
Differentiation and bowling?In my research into digging deeper into differentiation I discovered a lot of connections between teaching and bowling. I think when most people go out for a fun night of bowling they try to throw the ball right down the middle.
“Try to roll the ball down the middle and get most of the students.”
But if we bowl or teach like this then we are missing the point of differentiation. Shelley Moore has looked into this further and when talking to pro bowlers she found that they don’t aim for the middle but aim for the pins that are hardest to knock down. She has helped me to instead look at this comparison to bowling differently.
“Teaching is like bowling because in order to knock down all the pins you need try to knock down the hardest to hit pins first.” – Adapted from Shelley Moore
So what does it mean?Differentiation is good for all but necessary for some and this is why when planning you should plan with the hardest to reach students first and understand that some of the things you might do to teach these hard to reach students will work for all kids even the ones in the middle.
Ways to differentiateAccording to Carol Ann Tomlinson. There are four ways that you can differentiate a learning task for your students. You can differentiate
o the product
o the process
o the content
o the environment