Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.
Using differentiation, teachers can provide a more equitable learning environment for their students. In the classroom where I am a student intern there is a wide spectrum of learners represented. A few students in my classroom are excelling above grade level, some of my students are meeting grade level benchmarks and too many are below grade level. In addition to academic differences, I also have an exceedingly large population of students who are English Language Learners (ELL). Therefore, it is essential for me, as an instructor, to include differentiation for my students in order to provide the most effective instruction possible.
One example of differentiation that occurs in my internship classroom is the use of a math word wall (Figure 1). This math word wall provides essential support and differentiation in instruction for my students who are ELL as well as students with math, reading and writing IEPs. Through the use of a math word wall, I am providing pre-instruction of essential math vocabulary words and a visual aid. Multi-sensory input such as a math word wall is a critical aspect of supporting students who are ELL. This is supported by research done by Stephen Krashen, who’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition states that those who are leaning a new language must have multiple sensory inputs to become proficient speakers (Krashen, 2009).
Other ways I incorporate differentiation in my classroom include the use of kinesthetic activities to support my students who learn best using manipulative. From the beginning of my internship it was clear most of my students learn best through discovery and they love art. By providing students an opportunity to utilize these strengths in every academic discipline, I provide differentiation for my unique classroom demographic. One such example of this is the use of Cheeze-its to find the area of a rectangle. Not only does this activity support learning related to the 2nd grade level math standards, but also is fun and engaging because it is tailored specifically for my students. Another opportunity I took to utilize differentiation was with an activity I call “Pattern Block Art”. By manipulating pattern blocks to create a piece of art, students practiced another 2nd grade math standard of combing shapes.
When implementing differentiation in a classroom, a teacher must consider the strengths and cultural knowledge of their students in order for it to be an effective instructional aid. Using a math word wall and manipulatives have been both engaging and helpful to students during math instruction because of my student’s background knowledge and interests.
Krashen, S. (2009). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition (Internet Addition). doi:http//www.sdkrashen.com/content/books/principles_and_practice.pdf