McLean's Brain

Differentiation not so Different

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Fairness is not Sameness

One of my principals made the statement above at a staff meeting, and it is something that I have tried to remember when planning for my students. Everyone learns at different speeds and in different ways. It would be nice if we could assess and evaluate all students using only trees, but it would get pretty boring.

We all have a unique learning style that allows us to make sense of the world around us. Take the following quiz and find out where your strengths are.


Differentiated instruction is a response to this idea. In order to meet the needs of students, we need to present information in a variety of ways, at different levels, based on their strengths and interests. We also need to provide choice in how they show what they know. This diagram from the Differentiated Instruction Educators Package illustrates the process of D.I. (for short) quite effectively.

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Differentiated Instruction is cyclical. It is responsive based on the needs of the learner, uses high-yield strategies that move students forward, and embeds choices into the process. There is constant reflection involved as well. As a former special education teacher, I can see the parallels between differentiated instruction and what I did as a learning resource teacher. D.I. can also support ELL learners, reluctant learners, and gifted learners. I even use D.I. during physical education classes. Playing catch games with rubber chickens instead of boring old balls is much more fun and engaging, but it still teachers the same skills. Using 2 litre pop bottles and pool noodles to teach striking and fielding is also much safer than giving kindergarten students a baseball bat.
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How do you make D.I. part of your teaching? Let me know!