250 words, please respond to the following questions with your perspective based on what you learned this week based on the assigned readings.
1) What are you already doing to differentiate instruction in your classroom?
2) Which format(s) are you using in your classroom or would use?
Ways that I have differentiated instruction in my classroom include offering different options for types of student projects. I’ve also intentionally placed “checked out” or “behind” students in groups with students who could help catch them up and fill in gaps. I’ve also woven in topics or entertainment that excite “checked out” students to inspire them to think about and engage with the class material in new ways.
On one occasion I had a student who didn’t care at all about doing class assignments. He was really into science and video games. I was teaching Scripture. Once it became apparent that he was going to fail that 6-week period if something didn’t change, I met with his father. I quickly realized why the kid had no interest in Theology class. His father was extremely overbearing about religion and had a hard time appreciating that his son had a different temperament and interests. His father’s constant intensity about religion only served to demoralize his son. To help the student catch up in class, I worked with him to design a project that touched on other subjects of interest to him so that he could find the motivation to engage. There was a sentence in one of our readings that reminded me of this and inspired me. It says, “One teacher … created a science, history, music, and literary curriculum centered on hairstyles and the history of fashion (Delpit & Dowdy, 2002).” Brilliant!
I’m sorry to say that differentiating instruction is not something I’ve had much training in. The approaches I mentioned above were intuitive moves I made while “reading” my class. I am very interested to learn more about how I can differentiate instruction in my classrooms and to hear what other teachers are doing successfully in this regard.
I also really appreciate this week’s emphasis on the importance of creating a positive community experience in the classroom. I have utilized student feedback to help shape how I teach curricular content. I agree that taking time to give each student a voice and to lay a foundation of familiarity, trust and fun makes teaching much easier. I need these reminders as I gear up for the new school year with a whole new batch of students.
I don’t believe you can create a differentiated classroom without creating a community of learning. In my Dance space, within the first couple of weeks, the students and I have gotten to know each other through a series of activities. For example, The Name Game for Dancers, a game where in a circle we recite our name with a gestural movement. Through movement, we are allowed to get a glimpse into each other’s personalities, the students then associate that movement with the name increasing memory of the names. It has always been a teaching goal of mine to learn every student’s name the 3rd class to address them as individuals that offer something to the community. Through, Student Speed Date, students address their goals to each other, which then allows accountability in the classroom because they become aware of each other’s wants and needs. Expressing our goals within the classroom, allows all of us to work towards achieving those goals together lifting the burden of having to do everything alone.
There is a lot of choice in my Dance classroom, because everyone’s learning style is unique. There are specific skills within each genre that students must learn to fully master the understanding of the genre. In a Dance 1 Class (survey course that explore various genres of Dance history, theory, and movement vocabulary), students are encouraged to make choices in how they want to be assessed on the information explored in the classroom. For example, in our Ballet Unit (usually 6 weeks of exploring Ballet movement, history, and theory), I present options within the confines of a project based assessment where they can also choose to work individually or with a group. Student choose to create movement from a Ballet class in a specific era, immerse themselves in the era through an exploration of a specific choreographer/composer, or create a set design for a Ballet that was created in a certain era of the genre. In all of these choices, the students would have already explored each era within the genre with a focus on race, class, and gender (all connect to a broader conversation about dance and society). Student present and display their work to each other and then reflect on their experience with their project. Students work is celebrated in the classroom through a space completely dedicated to the work they have created. Allowing students to choose how they want to address information allows them to work within their learning style and needs.
In offering choices and building community through beginning ice breaker activities and consistency throughout the year. I am always searching for new ways to encourage learners in my classroom and I find that being humble through open discussions about lesson (address achievement and challenges) encourages growth on both ends. This also holds everyone in the space accountable for their own growth and comprehension for future use of information.