Sharing Question: Differentiation
In a current course I’m teaching, a fifth grade math teacher reminds me that differentiating isn’t all that simple. He has students who don’t know the second or third grade level of number and operations. He uses small group differentiated work in his classroom, but time is limited. This is a perennial issue with math, and any content area. We’d be interested in solutions anyone knows of for this question of how we can bring more struggling students up to speed within the group of the range of abilities in one classroom, beyond the usual attempts for after-school or before school extra tutoring. Weston middle school created supplementary math classes meeting within the school day, and with a different math teacher, to address needs of more struggling students, a brilliant solution that worked well. Any other thoughts would be most appreciated!
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From Jenna, EL teacher:
One thing that I’ve found with differentiated instruction and working with teachers teaching English as a Second Language students is to
1) not try to do everything at once and
2) be persistent/have endurance in differentiating!
I teach a regular English class and I was given a fantastic curriculum by a senior English teacher, but almost every handout created by said teacher was completely inaccessible to my ESL students, because they were in words too advanced for my students (think SAT words!).
So I would pick one or two handouts a week that I would redo and type up in simple words for my ESL students, and over 2 or 3 years, I was able to get almost every document. I also prioritized documents that students would look at a lot without my direct instruction, like assignment sheets and instructions for complex essays, or grammar rules reminder sheet.
My first year I also picked and used a few great strategies for any struggling learner–more frequent check-ins, write every direction/important thing you say on the board, pick 1 task for students to do well rather than trying to do 3 or 4 in not enough time and rushing, etc. Once I had those tools in my toolbox, it was easier to expand them in future years and keep adding new techniques for differentiation.
I think the biggest problem is that we so quickly forget to keep adding to our differentiation–not because we don’t care, but because we are also trying to care about other things. I think that if teachers can persist and persevere, keeping up the realistic progress in differentiating they started for a second or third year, it will seem less onerous and daunting than the first year they attempted to differentiate their curriculum.
This is hugely comforting to think of over time modifying material and encouraging to think of continuously “adding on.”