How to Differentiate Instruction
Schools today serve children of varying levels, backgrounds, and learning styles and one is unlikely to find a homogeneous class anywhere in America. Differentiated instruction is necessary ensure that the needs of all students are met. In my classroom, I develop lessons and activities that are appropriate for each learner. Therefore, you may find students working on a number of different tasks at any given time. With so much going on in the classroom there is inevitably a child who comes to me, finished with his work, and curious to know what to do next. To solve this problem, I developed the “I’m Done…Now What?” bin where tasks of all difficulty levels are stored. In putting this bin together, the trick is to select activities that are of interest to students, take more than ten minutes, and do not require that I take loads of papers home in my school bag.
One thing that is always in the “I’m Done…Now What?” bin are task cards. I color coded these cards and guide students to selecting tasks that fit their ability level. On these cards you will find such things as “Super Solver” problems. These are challenging math, logic, or language problems that require multiple steps. If you have ever sat down with a Suduko, you know that puzzles and mind games can keep a person engaged for hours. I am also constantly pulling from newspapers, magazines, and brain teaser resource books. I copy and laminate the Super cards so that students can mark on them with Vis A Vis markers and clean them off for the next hungry solver.
Another activity that I have found to have lasting interest is a project entitled “What is America?” Students start out on a road trip and visit desirable cities, landmarks, or national parks throughout our country. Along the way, students keep journals, plan routes, keep track of mileage, and make weather reports. At each stop the students must design a scrap book page, write a brief report, and find a “little known fact” to add to our trivia book. Before we begin our trip, we agree that everyone is a part of the trip and one student can pick up where another left off. The students love this and are entertained for hours. At the end of our journey, we attempt to answer the burning question, “What is American?” In my classroom, the students are always encouraged to ask questions. Although we can answer some questions immediately, many times the students want to know things that require additional research and resources. When a question such as this arises, we write it on a card and stick it in our “I’m Done… Now What?” bin. Any student can pick up the question and seek its answer. We share the answers and site our resources so that students not only learn new information, but new ways of researching and sharing their findings.