This is my go-to Informal Reading Inventory. If you are looking for a good one, I recommend this one!
The Basics of Differentiated Instruction
In college, I was standing in line, waiting for a fresh slice of pizza that had just come out of the oven. There was a lady holding a rather large pizza knife just above the pizza, but much to my dismay was not cutting anything. I waited while she pondered over how to cut it.
My impatience turned to amusement when she called her coworker over and asked how to cut a pizza into six slices. I sliced the pizza in my mind and waited for the coworker to show her the same so I could eat a slice of pizza. The coworker scratched her head and went over a few scenarios that involved first cutting the pizza into fourths—this was getting ridiculous.
After striking out, both coworkers called a third coworker over to help, to my dismay all three of them together could not figure out how to cut a pizza into six pieces. Not wanting the entire kitchen staff to stop what they were doing to figure this out, I stepped in and drew lines in the air above the pizza where she would have to cut it. This was not enough! She had me almost take the knife from her hands to demonstrate a second and third time where she would have to make the three cuts to make sixths!
I finally got a slice of pizza but also received a shocking reminder that everyone relies on different types of intelligences to get through the day. Obviously these ladies were not spatially or mathematically gifted but their intelligences instead lay deep in another realm.
It is for this very reason that we have to be careful about how we present material, lessons, and techniques to children in our classrooms. Something might come so second nature to us that we breeze through it as if all children understood it the same way we do. This is not the case however, teachers need to teach using a variety of methods and from different angles in order for all of their students to thrive; this method of teaching is most commonly known as differentiated instruction.
In differentiated instruction, teachers approach material through many different intelligences, modalities, and learning styles. For instance, a math teacher using differentiated instruction to teach the concept of multiplication through arrays, might one day present the class with a paper and pencil array, the next day he might give each student a pile of manipulatives and instruct them to make their own arrays. On another day he might take his students outside and allow them to make arrays with acorns. He might have one-on-one discussions with students about arrays and he might allow them to discuss them amongst themselves in a small group setting. His focus is to hit arrays from many different directions so as to appeal to as many students as possible.
Differentiated instruction may seem like a very time consuming task. While it does take more time than simply teaching a concept once through your favorite modality, it may actually save time when you consider how many times you will have to reteach the concept when you just use one method and your students don't get it the first time.
The smart teacher will also use differentiated instruction on an "as needed" basis. It is not necessary to give students 18 different ways to write a word—unless that student needs it! You, as the teacher should be constantly gauging students' understanding of a concept so you know whether you need more time for that concept or if you are ready to move on. Once you feel that students have a good understanding, it is usually safe to move on.
Using differentiated instruction in the classroom is a powerful way to reach all of your students. If you are stuck in a rut and it feels like students are not grasping a concept, try teaching it a different way, or try asking that question a different way, just keep trying!
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