For the past 5-10 years, differentiation in the classroom has been a big BUZZ word. Educators are mindful that children do not learn at the same speed, nor learn the same way. But to differentiate your teaching can be daunting to implement. Let’s look at three ways to bring about big changes for your students.
This can be a real game-changer if you implement this. Within a month of being with your students, you should be able to tell those who work fast and those who don’t. Speed isn’t always about speed. Sometimes speed is about whether the worksheet is easy or not for the student. Does the student already know this information?
Before you start a unit, if you can, pre-assess your students. This alone has been highly insightful in determining student progress. But know, you will have some students who will “ace” the pre-assessment and it can keep you up at night deciding how to make this unit enjoyable for them too.
What To Watch For During Assessments
When you are assessing young children, how much intervention are you delivering?
- Are you reading the questions?
- Do you remind students to write the numbers/letters a certain way?
- Finding students drawing on the paper instead of completing questions?
- Re-reading questions for students?
- Explaining pictures or words for students b/c the questions aren’t clear?
I try to write my own pre-assessments for the class but it can be really difficult, given all the factors involved. What I’m trying to make clear if that a pre-assessment can tell you a lot about your student and not tell you a lot about your student. YOU are best tool for pre-assessments.
This is another game changer if you can do it. There can be a wide gap in abilities in your classroom so given students the same worksheets does a disservice to many of them. If you are looking for worksheets that are differentiated on Teachers pay teachers, look in the product descriptions.
For example, when creating these number booklets for a colleague’s kindergarten class, we chatted on how could we differentiate some of the pages?
We talked about having a text box at the top so the teacher can direct students. After you determine your students’ fine motor skills, use a page like the above pictured gives the teacher the flexibility to have students complete with a pencil, coloured pencil or crayon. This booklet also has drawing and colouring activities, again depending on each students’ abilities. A couple pages offer bonus questions for those students who need a challenge.
Volume of work
The last way to differentiate in the classroom is the amount of work each student receives. Some students will finish quickly while others not so much. As mentioned, there will be factors behind the speed. But if you have students that you feel you are always waiting for, then decrease the amount of work you give them. One page of adding or 2 pages of adding will not make a big difference when assessing, but it can make a huge difference to the student struggling. If your goal is to get everyone finishing at the same time, then you can’t give them the same work.
To Differentiate, Think Both Ways
Often when we are differentiating, we are thinking of our struggling students. And that is important. But also consider the students who are academically strong and need a bit of a challenge. Giving more pages is not necessarily the best route. If they are independent workers, consider allowing them to have their own “personal project”. Set up a student learning plan for them and give them time to explore a personal interest.
That’s it for now. If you are interested in more ideas regarding differentiating or personal projects, please write a comment below. The previous post talks about whether we need worksheets for kindergarten students. You can find that post here.