Differentiated Learning = Groups

The buzzword for many years has been 'differentiated' approach in teaching and learning. Essentially that means meeting the needs of ALL learners. Not an easy task for any educator who has a classroom full of students of varying abilities. Regardless of the grade taught, there will usually be a range of ability that can span 5 or more years. Hence, in a typical 4th grade classroom, it won't be too unusual to have students reading many grades above and many grades below level. Hence, we differentiate. This starts with the teacher working with smaller groups of students while the others work on related activities.

How is it done? For those of you struggling with this notion, here are a few tips I learned over the years. The Sage on the stage approach rarely works. So teaching to everyone is not overly effective. But, to start teaching in small groups means that the rest of the students need to be engaged and the students need to follow your protocols or expectations regarding the noise level and routines you expect from them.

I can't say this enough, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. When you're working with a group of students, go over the routines and rules for your expectations. For those students you aren't currently working with:
  • How does a student get help? 
  • What does a student do when they are finished their work?
  • What do they do if a pencil needs to be sharpened or they need something else?
  • What do they do if they need to go to the washroom?
  • What do they do if somebody else is bothering them?
Your students need to fully understand the answers to the above questions. These routines need to be practiced and fully understood for your groups to be successful. 

When you begin working with your small groups, make sure the rest of the class/groups have something they can work on to consolidate a skill. Keep your small group with you rather short initially to enable the other students to learn how to work independently or in their groups. You can increase the length of time slowly as the other students learn how to work independently.
I have a series of free classroom management tips that will help you over at worksheetplace.com

Over time, you will find that this is a great first step to differentiated learning. Each day, increase the amount of time you teach to small groups and always prepare the others with work that helps them to consolidate a skill. The others in the class who are working independently or with independent groups should NOT be working on a new skill. Save that for their small group learning time with you.

Be sure to use my 'Understanding Poster' to let students cue you in a quiet way. A great way to demonstrate understanding quickly!

No comments