A Differentiated Approach
11th Grade English Ms. Henderson Hayward High School
What Is Differentiation?
Students and families, welcome to another year of engaging, exploring, and expanding. Each student that comes into our learning community is different from one another and they all have different learning styles and abilities. Using differentiated instruction allows me to use multiple ways of teaching in order to adapt to each student's learning needs and make sure that each student is successful in learning (Puckett, K (2013). Differentiating Instruction: A Practical Guide. Bridgepoint Education: San Diego, CA.)
I have been a student in classrooms where the learning was not differentiated. I have done assignments that I really did not learn form. I watched some of my classmates struggle and fail simply because the teacher never paid any attention to the fact that we all learned differently. I never want a student to come to class everyday and feel like they do not understand anything that is taking place. That is why I have chosen to use differentiated instruction.
The Learning Environment
- Students will be asked for their input on the rules and expectations of the classroom. Freedom of expression will be encouraged along with respect for other's ideas and opinions. We will have frequent group discussions promoting the idea that this is a learning community and we all are members. When students know they can express themselves without the chance of bullying or ridicule, they feel physically and emotionally safe (Swafford, M., Bailey, S., & Beasley, K., 2004, p.33).
- An organized teacher is a responsive, dependable, and aware teacher. Along with being organized myself, the classroom space will be organized and clean. In a chaotic or unorganized environment students cannot feel at ease. They will never know what to expect next resulting in a sense of insecurity and discomfort within the classroom.
- 21st century skills include collaboration. By collaborating and working in groups students become responsible for making choices. "When we allow students to make choices, we respect their autonomy and show that we trust their judgment and values. These actions support the development of freedom of expression, self-esteem and confidence," (Swafford, M., Bailey, S., & Beasley, K., 2014, P.34)
I Expect Students To:
- Grow as learners.
- Give their best effort on class activities/assignments, homework, tests, projects, and discussions.
- Ask questions to myself AND/OR their peers when are confused or unsure.
- Take ownership of their learning by actively participating.
- Practice academic honesty; complete work as assigned without cheating or plagiarizing.
- Approach learning with an open mind and confidence.
- Respect the learning needs and abilities of classmates.
STUDENTS CAN EXPECT ME TO:
- Provide quality curriculum and content that is interesting,relevant, and differentiated.
- Assign respectful tasks that are "purposeful, meaningful, and engaging."
- Help them reach their full potential even if that means they are working at "difficulty levels that are just above their individual comfort levels". I will always provide the support and resources for them to succeed.
- Give clear feedback. I will not say, "Good job!" I will say, "You did very well on your introduction paragraph. It made me want to keep reading."
- Include their parents in their learning experience, letting them know positive and negative happenings that may occur.
- Be reliable, dependable, and treat them as individuals.
- Provide varied types of assessments: written assignments, group projects, oral presentations, etc. Every assessment will be used to determine areas of growth and areas where improvement can be made.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUCCESS: INTEREST, PACE, and PERSONALIZATION
- Interest: One thing is clear, "If students lack interest in the subjects taught in school, they will have little motivation to learn," (Morgan, 2014, p.36). If students are not motivated to learn, they will not learn much and if they are not learning, they are not being successful. In an English class allowing students opportunities to choose what they want to write about or who they want to read about gives them a chance to successfully learn because they will have a genuine interest in the material.
- Pace: Some students work faster than others and this is no secret. This is when it is up to me as an educator to know my students and their individualized learning needs. In one night of homework I may ask students to read one chapter of our text. For some students this may be too much and the assignment may need a modification. For another student, this may be less difficult and he or she is given the choice to read ahead if desired.
- Personalization: Students should never feel like cattle herded into a classroom. Instead they should feel like they are unique members of a community and their learning needs are considered. Personalizing the learning experience for a student does not mean he/she is running the classroom and eliminating the teacher's role. It instead means the teacher and student have made a team effort to help the student succeed. For example, if a student does not have a computer at home and ask basketball practice after school, the teacher may allow him to type assignments in the classroom at lunch or after school in order to be successful.
Teaching is not a "one size fits all" model and no educator should pretend it is.
I look forward to working with you all this year!
Morgan, H. (2014). Maximizing Student Success with Differentiated Learning. Clearing House, 87(1), 34-38. doi:10.1080/00098655.2013.832130
Puckett, K (2013). Differentiating Instruction: A Practical Guide. Bridgepoint Education: San Diego, CA.
Swafford, M., Bailey, S., & Beasley, K. (2014). POSITIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS ENHANCE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT. Techniques: Connecting Education & Careers, 89(5), 32-35.