Monday, June 11, 2012

Differentiated Learning Tips

by Tammy Utchek Lee

Related Teachers by Teachers Storefront: Teacher Tam 

As a teacher of combined preschool and kindergarten classes, students range from those who can read at kindergarten or first grade level to those who know only a few letter sounds. Some work on addition and subtraction skills while others recognize numbers and count out manipulatives in various quantities. A functional classroom like this would not be possible without implementing many differentiated learning strategies.

Here are three ways to reach students with diverse educational needs in differentiated classrooms:

1)  Centers, centers, centers! Those who define "differentiated learning" are quick to point out that centers are not individualized instruction, so keep the latter in mind when planning centers. For example, "Bobby, Maria, and Sam are working on letter sounds, so some letter sound activities need to be placed in centers." Ask: Which students are likely to benefit from this type of center activity? Which type of answer/recording sheets will work best for them? Can this center be expanded so that other students benefit from it? For example, in one center, Bobby and his friends are matching pictures to letters while other students are using magnetic letters to spell names of pictures. Yet, other students are writing words from items around the room that begin with that letter. 

2) Games are a great way to review material and spend transitional minutes, but they also lend themselves well to differentiation. For example, a student favorite is "Secret Sight Word" (or "Secret Letter" or "Secret Letter Sound," or "Secret Number"—the possibilities are endless!). In "Secret Sight Word," make a 3x3 array of current sight words and list them on the board. Then, call on the quietest student to choose a sight word to see if it's the "secret" one. If the answer is incorrect, cross the word off the board then call on another student to choose a word. Here are two differentiations of this particular game: 
a. Use different levels of sight words. "I" and "a" along with "here" and "when."
b. Reread the remaining words on the board often so younger students can answer, too. Even if students cannot read words yet, they hear the teacher say it and can pretend to "read" it.  

3) Take-home activities. Place take-home games and activities in plastic bags so they are ready to send home. This a great way to make a home-to-school connection with families, and it's also instant differentiation. The games (and backpacks) keep students reading, counting out appealing objects (like gold doubloons!), retelling stories, moving around game boards
with cars and dinosaurs, and doing other fun, developmentally appropriate, educational activities. 

Due to the nature of differentiation, of course, activities shouldn't always be the same from year to year. Choose materials and vary approaches based on students interests and needs. Changing the centers, group games, and take-home activities provides teachers with great school days, and students are placed at the center of instruction. After all, that's what differentiation is all about.  

Visit the author's related blogspot: Teacher Tams Educational Adventures
Related Teachers Pay Teachers Products:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...