Simple ways to differentiate the curriculum to help your students learn more effectively.
Differentiation is one of the biggest challenges for teachers. Teachers are always asking how they can provide access to learning that caters for a wide variety of learning styles, interests, strengths and backgrounds.
If you think of differentiation in terms of content, process, product and learning environment and begin by providing difference in one aspect, you can reduce some of the associated stress.
1. Give choice
At the basic level of differentiation allow students to choose different ways to respond and demonstrate their learning.
For example, you may set one task, but students may respond using a PowerPoint presentation, a speech, a song, a rap, a collaborative presentation with others, a written presentation, oral presentation just to the teacher or small group or a recorded audio presentation.
When you provide a variety of media for students to choose then you are more likely to engage students with the task by expanding their creativity and autonomy.
2. Use a variety of resources
Provide a variety of ways for students to access the material. For example, some students may prefer to read a text, others may prefer a video while others may prefer to listen to a lecture and take notes.
Students could listen to the information in a large group or work with a small group in a more interactive way. Students could also learn from each other in a peer tutoring activity.
Allow students to choose the most effective method for themselves by giving them access to a variety of resources.
3. Teach many times
Don’t assume that just because you have taught a concept, that students have learnt it. Research shows that students need to come into contact with new learning material at least 3 times before authentic learning can occur.
Revise concepts at the beginning and end of a lesson using a Do Now Activity.
4. Learning Matrix
Devise a learning matrix such as those presented by Ralph Pirozzo or Helen McGrath that combines learning styles with Bloom’s taxonomy to provide students with choice and variety.
The matrix can be developed for any age group in any KLA to cater for all interests and ability levels. The matrix requires some initial preparation but then provides lots of opportunities for self-directed learning and self-management.
Students are more motivated and engaged because they can choose what they present and how to demonstrate their learning, and they can also choose the level of effort required.
5. Heterogeneous groupings
This is not a commonly used strategy, teachers and schools more often stream students into homogeneous groupings. The benefit of having mixed ability groups is that students can learn from each other and be given tasks that suit their interests and strengths.
Working in mixed ability groups gives all students the opportunity to experience the different roles necessary for a group to function effectively.
6. Self-directed learning
When students are taught to access learning material, work at their own pace, seek assistance when needed and work collaboratively with peers to complete tasks the teacher is free to provide support where necessary and extend students in meaningful ways.
Teaching your students to be self-reliant, and providing them with opportunities to develop the skills necessary to locate, evaluate and analyse information through independent research, will create curious, engaged, lifelong learners.
7. Video yourself
While this may seem a bit daunting to begin with, it is a useful way students can access your instruction without asking you to repeat yourself.
Most schools have an intranet where you can house the videos, so that students can view them as much as they need. If you are loathe to put yourself on screen you can use technology such as PowerPoint to create displays and lessons that can be saved in Camtasia, Screencast or SlideShare.
8. Small group instruction
Often many of your students need little or no instruction in order to complete a learning task. This fact means that you can provide small group instruction only to the students who need it, depending on the topic and their level of understanding.
Small group instruction can be highly interactive giving students immediate feedback, which enhances their learning as well as identifying misunderstandings and misconceptions more readily.
For another perspective and more ideas on how to cater for all your students see Differentiation in the Classroom