Saturday, February 2, 2013

Differentiated Instruction??

What is differentiated instruction?  I think this is instruction that is tailored to meet the individual learning styles, passions and needs of my students.  This could be done by changing the mode of instruction to meet the visual, auditory or kinetic learners.  This can also mean alternative assessment and assignments which may or may not include flexible grouping, partners, and individual work. This should be offered to all students not just the struggling or advance students but to all students.

But my question is can we as educators modify tests such as eliminating one of the four answer choices but the student has no I.E.P. goals for that subject or accommodations or modifications listed?  So that student then receives a higher grade then the best student in the class.  Is that differentiating instruction or an unfair advantage?  I thought that differentiating instruction is suppose to level the playing field not boost them so high that an untrue picture of that student's abilities are being portrayed. 

Then I question how do we make sure the child's parents and other schools that they may move on to have an accurate picture of that student.   If a child receives those types of modification and accommodations that are listed on their I.E.P. then I feel that their parents and any other school would have a true picture of their abilities.  I am talking about a student that does not have an I.E.P.  I am obviously really struggling with this concept of differentiating instruction. I do not want to not meet the needs of any of my students.  I think in my classroom I do a pretty good job at meeting the many needs of my students but still reflecting every students ability. I wonder if any of my followers have any ideas, advice, or have faced the same dilemma in their classrooms.  How do you differentiate?  What is or is not differentiated instruction to you?   I would love to hear your thoughts.



  1. Hey Wendy,

    Taking questions off of a test (from 4 to 3) sounds like an accommodation for an IEP, not differentiating instruction.

    To me, differentiating instruction is meeting the students at their level and giving them the scaffolding and foundation they need to eventually do grade level work (if they aren't on grade level). If a student is a high achiever, you wouldn't differentiate on a test by giving them more questions or answer choices, but you'd instruct them at a higher level to push them. They would still take the grade level test (and probably do really well) but that's what makes everything a little more "standardized".

    I would say, for your low achievers, you instruct them where they need it, but they should still be held accountable for the grade level work. At least, that's the philosophy of our school.

    Does that make sense? I hope I don't sound preachy because I'm totally not trying to be, just giving my opinion. It sounds like you know what's right in your heart, there just may be some conflicting opinions around you? Because, you are right- how would another school/teacher know how that child achieved those grades?

    As upper grade teachers we struggle because if things have been modified for a non IEP student and then they get to our class and we don't make those same modifications, their grades go down and then parents get upset. I believe in truth in grading and their ability should be reflected in their grades for grade level material. We still teach them at their level to close the gap, but they are accountable for grade level material, after all.

    It's good to reflect as teachers. It's how we grow! I can tell you are a very caring teacher, with great concern for her students!! I'm interested to see how others weigh in!

    Collaboration Cuties

  2. As a Special Education teacher (who was General Ed for the first 9 years of teaching), differentiated instruction is my passion and always has been. I ask myself, "What can I do that will help this student grasp this concept the way the standards ask them to?"

    To me, I have always worked with my students to do the same end product. They may not do as many problems as the others overall but I can pretty much se if a student has a concept down after a few problems rather than 50.

    I do a lot of hands-on and interactive type learning in my classroom for both my GenEd and SpEd classes and that is what sticks. Informal Learning Style Quizzes are great to give to see where the needs of your learners are.

    Treating each student as if they have their own IEP is how I have always looked at it because we all do have our own ways of learning as well as different needs to be met. Just because Johnny is able to solve a problem by seeing the numbers doesn't mean that Susie can. She might need the "story" of a word problem to visualize it in her mind actually happening.

    I have always done a lot of open-ended instruction in my classroom where students are able to "prove" what they know in their own words, visuals, etc. I actually prefer assignments like this as I can see growth over time in the way they communicate themselves.

    I have written numerous blog posts on differentiation, modifications, accommodations and just interactive learning in general and how they engage the student. I think if we all took time as teachers to find out what would engage our students and build our lessons around that rather than worrying about the varying levels, our students will buy into it.

    When you engage a mind, you create a learner!


  3. I just did a blog post about differentiated instruction. Warning, it's pic heavy and kind of long.

    I'll be honest. This is something I have an issue with as well. I think it's me wanting my students to be successful and feel successful. I have a group of boys this year (about 4 or 5) that seem to struggle so serverly in all of their classes. It is so discouraging to see them keep failing and not grasping or retaining information. Students, Parents and Teachers all become very frustrated. I don't think you're alone in this boat:)

  4. I read your post and I love how you differentiate your reading / language arts lessons. I do something similar in my math groups. Thanks for your comment it is much appreciated:)



Thanks for the comments. I LOVE comments.