5 Ways to Differentiate in the Classroom

This post is brought to you by Study.com.

Whether you're a special education or general education teacher, differentiation has come to be expected in just about every classroom. According to Study.com, with differentiated instruction "teachers proactively create options to accommodate a diverse range of learners while keeping the whole class on track". Here a few ways I differentiate in an inclusion setting:

1. Small group instruction. While simply assisting struggling students isn't truly differentiation, building in leveled instruction for all students is. For example, when co-teaching in a general education math class, my co-teacher and I taught the mini-lesson to the whole class, and then provided leveled instruction to three different groups afterward. I differentiated for the below-level students by re-teaching the lesson and working on basic skills as needed. My co-teacher would work with the on-level students to address any misconceptions and provide additional guided practice. Above-level students would work on a leveled computer program. The next day, a different group would work on the computer program and the above-level group would have a chance to work on enrichment activities or more challenging problems. We adjusted these groups based on assessment.

2. Independent work. Sometimes differentiating independent work can be as simple as changing the length requirement. The standard requirement for a writing assignment might be one paragraph, but you can quietly let some students know that they will be writing three sentences and other students know that you will be expecting two paragraphs. At times, you may need to provide a different practice sheet or assignment altogether.

3. Visual cues. Providing visual cues is a great way to differentiate for students that are below-level or are simply visual learners. You can do this by making sure anchor charts are visible to them, or by providing personal references for those students, like an alphabet sound cue guide that provides a picture reminder of what sound each letter makes (apple/a, b/bat, etc.)

4. Different products of learning. For cumulative projects, allow students to choose how they display their knowledge. For example, if students are learning about life cycles in science, they could display their knowledge through an essay, a poster, a video, or a presentation. A student who struggles to write an essay may be more accurately able to display her knowledge through one of the other options. You can also do this using the "tic tac toe" method, where you provide a grid of options and students choose three they feel prepared to tackle.

5. Flexible environment. Students have different sensory and physical needs in addition to academic needs. Even if you aren't ready to go full on flexible seating, you can still provide a flexible environment that differentiates to student needs. For example, students who are uncomfortable sitting on the rug can be allowed to bring over a chair during a mini lesson. Wiggle seat cushions can work wonders for fidgety students.You can even provide a cool down corner for students who get overwhelmed.

If you're interested in learning more about differentiated instruction, Study.com has an entire course on this topic called Using Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom. And as a little giveaway to our readers, if you like their resources you can use the promo code StudyComTeacherDiffPromo to get 20% off the first three months of their teacher plan!

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