How To Differentiate Instruction

What All Teachers Need to Know to be Effective!

As a teacher, you will have many challenges to face in teaching a group of students. All children do not learn in the same way, so a teaching method that is very effective for one student may not be very helpful to another.

You need to differentiate instruction in order to reach all students, even while working toward the same academic goals. Differentiating instruction creates more effective learning for your students, and can even help with students who are acting out in your classroom!

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  1. Assessments. Before you can differentiate instruction, you need to assess your students. You can assess your students formally or informally. Formal assessments may include tests from your district, curriculum-embedded tests, standardized tests, or tests which you create yourself. Many teachers find that informal assessments are of great value to them when determining their students' academic level and interests. This may take the form of interviews with students, having them write about their interests, class meetings, or just getting to know your students.

  2. Differentiating content. This allows students to work at their own pace on specific subject matter. When you are planning to differentiate content – or the actual subject matter of what you are teaching – you usually need to formally assess your students. This way, you can determine where they are and what background knowledge they already have. Students who have already mastered the content will become bored if they are forced to endure the same instruction again. In addition, students who do not understand the concepts will be frustrated if the teacher moves too fast. By working with small groups or setting up peer tutoring, teachers can differentiate content to meet the needs of all children, challenging and supporting them.

  3. Differentiating the activities and learning processes. As a teacher, it is your responsibility to give your students a variety of learning tools. After you have modeled the various tools to your students, they will be able to choose for themselves the process which best helps them in a particular situation. Some of the tools you can supply them with are ways of organizing data and ideas, such as graphic organizers, charts, tables and mind maps. Once your students are used to these different forms of laying out concepts, they will be able to use them effectively, at the level of difficulty and complexity that is right for them.

  4. Learning styles. Teachers know all too well that children come with a variety of learning styles. Some children are able to learn visually, some do well with a lecture format, and some need kinesthetic movement in order to grasp a concept. Changing your teaching strategies frequently will ensure that all of your students are having their needs met. Just reading a chapter may not help all of your students retain information. Try having the student explain aloud to another student, listen to the chapter on tape, take notes while reading, or search the Internet to find connections to the subject. Take note when one of your students seems particularly engaged in the subject – you have probably just stumbled upon his most effective learning style!

  5. Get to know the students. If you have been working with your group of students for any length of time, you probably already know them quite well. Keep an eye out for students who seem to be falling behind, acting out, or showing signs of depression or frustration. These students may not be having their academic needs met. By differentiating instruction for all students, you will lessen these problems, making your students – and yourself – much more content and productive in the classroom.

With differentiated instruction, students at different academic levels, with different backgrounds, and with different abilities are all able to learn in the way that is best for them. Your students will begin taking a bigger role in their education, becoming more responsible for their own learning. Differentiating instruction can also help with many behavior problems. When you are teaching effectively to children, they are less likely to be frustrated and act out.  You can learn other excellent teaching tips through online classes in education.


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