I’m sure most teachers out there have an idea what differentiation is. But since it is such a broad concept covering many avenues, it’s best to start right at the beginning.
Differentiated instruction is more than just using a variety of instructional strategies to engage students. It is more than making instruction student centered. It is more than providing choices to students. It’s about responsive teaching. It is more than just thinking outside the box for teaching students. It’s about creating a balance between effort and success. It’s about meeting the needs for ALL students in your classroom.
Students who aren’t being challenged enough are often done first and bored right away. It’s too easy for them. Students who try and try, still have too little success. I had a colleague one time tell me it’s about watering down (Her words were a bit worse) the content for those low learners. No it’s not.
Every student should have an equal shot at learning the same content – it’s our approach as teachers that make the difference. Have you ever taught (or even had heard about) the lesson in Daily 5 about the “just right fit book?” In my district we bring in a series of shoes and work up a big dramatic demonstration to help students understand that a soccer shoe works best with a soccer student, a small shoe isn’t going to fit the large foot student and vice versa and so on. The overall point of the lesson is that we all have that perfect shoe – we just need to find it. The same applies to differentiated instruction.
So in a nutshell- differentiation is about how teachers proactively plan approaches to:
*What students need to learn
*How they will learn it
*How they will show they learned it