We all know that in any classroom at any given time, there are many different types of learners and they are all at many different places in their education. We may have one classroom filled with students of the same relative age and grade level, but they are all different. Each student has strengths and weaknesses in how they receive instruction and in the actual subjects being taught. As teachers, we need to explore those strengths and utilize them in our teaching.
Research shows differentiated instruction is highly effective. It shows that students take more responsibility for their learning and become more engaged with the assignment. When students have a different assignment than their neighbor, something that is tailored to their strengths, they feel important and understood. You have set them up for success.
Students have different learning styles. Visual learners learn best by observing things. Auditory learners learn best by hearing things. Physical or kinesthetic learners learn best by physically having their hands on something to connect to the lesson. These are the main learning styles, but there are always variations of each and each student is different within these styles. While teaching your classroom full of students, the more you can cater to individual learning styles, the more effective a lesson will be for all of your students. When you can’t differentiate each specific lesson, because sometimes you can’t make a reading lesson very kinesthetic, make sure that you are at least providing different types of lessons throughout the day. If you have lessons geared toward listening all day, you will lose your visual and kinesthetic learners.
Some students learn more from their peers, while others may learn more by themselves. Make sure to include group learning time as well as time to work independently. Your students will thrive from the different styles incorporated into the same lesson. By utilizing group work, your students can experience others’ strengths in that setting and learn how to improve themselves for the next group activity. The same goes for those students who would prefer to work in a group, they can exercise and grow their ability to work independently.
In addition to different learning styles, your class will be at different ability levels even though they are probably around the same age and grade level. Provide the same information at different ability levels. You may all be reading about American Indians, but the teacher will provide books at different reading levels. The students will all read and discuss the same subject. They will even be able to work on projects together and feel that they can all contribute equally to the discussion.
Differentiation in the classroom is important so that all different types of learners have the opportunity to learn in a way that works best for them. It is important that students are presented with information at their learning level so that they do not feel overwhelmed on one end of the spectrum or bored with information that is below their level on the other. You know your students best, help them learn to the best of their ability.