Reflections on Differentiating
“My class is doing a project, they are all working. Imagine a light and airy room, one wall light lime green (not a good description) maybe a sort of light lime/avocado, anyway the other walls are white. Edged in Tasmanian oak. Tables spread about the room. Groups of four students. Laptops, poster paper, scissors, glue sticks some drawing, some writing, others researching. No one group doing the same, some outside the room in the main library area reading. Outside it is raining, raining, raining! Inside a quiet hum of busyness, activity, students engaged discussing latest world news as they look at the floods in Queensland, the bush fires in Perth, Japan. Someone is asking how much money they collected for the flood, someone else is trying to find the final death toll in NZ. I am enjoying their company. Especially when it is like this.
Actually, I was a little late to class, when I walked in they were already working – a teacher’s dream! Better than the nightmare I had a few nights ago – literally, of this same class, out of control. I woke up and laughed, hadn’t had that one for years!
How do you go from the beginning of the year to this space with your students. And this business did not mask a lack of engagement, but interest. The hum of activity did not mask dis-interest or of-task behaviours, but learning. I come back to my earlier question, how do you ‘do differentiation’.
One step at a time. In my previous post I left you with an understanding of the needs of the class, and this can get very overwhelming, especially to a beginning teacher who may consider they have to do it all – at once! But in fact you don’t and shouldn’t try, as you will be setting yourself up for failure.
Begin by identifying the areas where you are comfortable making changes. Begin with small changes. Have you ever watched a road being built? Road builders often begin with the places where it is easy to build the road, so they can show progress. You can do this too in your classroom, photocopying bigger type, preparing worksheets in a bigger font, creating an assessment task at two levels, these all are small changes to make and help build success in your classroom, for the students but also for you!
Meanwhile road builders will also have a crew beginning on the harder places, the ones where they have to build the bridge. Those areas of the road take longer to build and often need extensive preparation. You must think of this in your classroom. Some changes, accommodations, modifications or adaptations will be easy to do, but others will require extensive planning, support and (horror) may even require you to do some research. Hmmm, which leads me to a different thought …