Gibson, V.(n.d.). Differentiating Instruction: Making it happen in classrooms.
This article provides a procedural model for differentiating instruction and how to implement it successfully in classrooms.
Differentiating instruction means teaching differently, using an instruction management system that creates classrooms and teaching behaviors that support whole class and small- group lessons, collaborative learning, and independent practice AFTER students receive sufficient instruction and have participated in guided practices BEFORE they are expected to work independently.
Simply grouping students for instruction is not necessarily differentiating instruction either. Grouping itself is only a procedural change. Teachers must select materials that are academically profitable, not just busy work or time fillers.
Changing delivery involves grouping for instruction so that opportunities for explicit, skills- focused teaching in small-groups increase. Teaching in small-groups is not differentiated when all students receive the same instruction or use the same content, materials, and activities. Specifically, teachers need to know how to:
－ Change instructional delivery, managing whole-class and small-group instruction;
－ Collect and use data to align content, or what is taught, to student needs, and
－ Improve instructional effectiveness, enhancing the quality of the instruction.
Ideally, teachers should alternate time periods for whole-class lessons (used to introduce content, model expectations, or review previously taught content) and small-group, teacher-led lessons (providing opportunities for more student engagement in explicit, skills-focused instruction with constructive feedback).
To initiate the implementation of differentiated instruction, below is an instruction management system that includes 4 steps:
Prepare the physical environment to create learning centers or workstations where students can complete assignments or projects either working in small-groups, with a partner, or independently. Tables may be used for small-group activities, forming a Teaching Table for teacher-led lessons, workstations for collaborative practice, and a worktable used for homework practice. Collaboration in small-groups and peer tutoring are encouraged to enhance learning without interrupting the teacher, who may be working with another group.
Divide students into smaller groups using either homogeneous (by similar skill) or heterogeneous (mixed skill) groupings. Memberships change flexibly according to student progress and achievement, type of activity, or resources (time, equipment, personnel).
Teachers usually create three to four small-groups with approximately 4–8 students per group. Smaller groups are preferred to allow more opportunities for participation, questions, and corrective feedback. Explicit instruction may be more efficient and effective conducted with similar skills groupings, whereas mixed-skill groups work better for practice activities so students can assist each other.
Manage resources such as instructional time, pacing, and student work. Teachers adjust their daily schedules to alternate time periods for whole-class and small-group instruction. Most daily schedules begin with a 10- to 15-minute overview used by teachers to introduce or review vocabulary words, or model, teach, and clarify expectations for performance. After the overview, a 20-minute time period for small-group work begins.
Assigned curricula and activities are based on needs identified by assessments. Students participate in practice activities using Work Contracts to help organize their work, monitor their progress, and complete assignments. One small-group works with the teacher who provides skills-focused instruction specific to need, i.e., differentiated instruction. Other students attend workstations participating as study groups and completing guided practice activities, or a worktable used to begin homework assignments with support, or complete tasks independently at desks.
Create a rotation chart that identifies small-group memberships and communicates how the groups will participate at the workstations, worktable, or teaching table. Teachers construct the rotation chart to reflect how many small-groups will be formed and what activities are available. Most rotation charts include an area for small-group skills instruction with the teacher, workstations for small-group practice activities or homework, and a worktable for partner or independent practice. Computers, language and literacy centers, and writing and spelling workstations are commonly used for small-group practice activities.
After each small group has attended a session with the teacher, a whole-group activity may be used for quick lesson or review or to summarize the day, connect experiences, review vocabulary and key concepts, and answer questions. Depending on time schedules, small-group time periods may be used consecutively, one small-group activity following another.
Often, teachers group within a large group by assigning or using partners to repeat information, restate for clarification, or ask a question to monitor comprehension. Based on observations in whole- and small- groups, teachers determine what additional instruction is needed. Memberships for small- groups may need modification to accommodate changing needs for compatibility or skill development.
In summary, differentiating instruction includes:
－ Changing the behaviors of teaching and instructional delivery to address student variance.
－ Implementing data-informed whole-class and small-group instruction.
－ Using leveled curricula that enhance student learning and achievement.
－ Using flexible grouping patterns that are sensitive to student progress.
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Reference: Gibson, V. (n.d.). Differentiating Instruction: Making it happen in classrooms. Retrieved from http://macmillanmh.com/LAUSD_econsultant/rla/assets/papers/diff_inst_vickie_gibson.pdf