Differentiation is the process through which teachers are meeting the needs of all students. Instruction is organized and flexible to maximize growth of the learner by addressing the variety of learning styles, students’ readiness, and interest levels. Providing different modalities of learning allows students the opportunities to experience, conceptualize, analyze and apply meaning to their learning experience. Varying modalities, as defined by Howard Gardner, include linguistic, logical, musical, spatial, kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.
Four Elements of Differentiation
There are four elements for successful differentiation in my classroom. These elements include behavior management, time management, tiered activities with a variety of strategies, and flexible groupings.
Math instruction can be differentiated to allow students to practice skills appropriate to their readiness levels. I’ve changed my approach to differentiating math instruction through work stations. Debbie Diller, author of Math Work Stations, does a magnificent job at helping teachers understand how to organize, manage, maintain, differentiate, and assess various math concepts.
Math work stations are strategically designed areas set up around the room where students discuss their mathematical thinking. Unlike math centers which rotate each week with a new topic, math work stations often remain for multiple weeks as students reinforce or extend prior instruction and develop their understanding through problem solving.
Concepts are often introduced whole group and modeled multiple times. Working with concepts during small group instruction helps reinforce practice. Once a concept has been reinforced with the teacher facilitating, the materials can be placed in work stations allowing the teacher to observe and interact with students working on mathematical topics.
Allowing students a choice is an important component to ensure success during math work stations. As topics are developed during instruction, adding the new activity to the station will provide a “controlled choice”. Providing a limited number of resources will keep the students from becoming overwhelmed.
Patience and perseverance are required to differentiate effectively. All students deserve appropriate differentiated instruction in math so to demonstrate their strengths and talents. This challenging process needs time to adapt and grow as the classroom community matures in content knowledge.
About the Author
Cheryl Saoud is a second grade teacher from Jacksonville, Florida. She would like to invite you to visit www.primarygraffiti.blogspot.com for additional teaching resources.