How do teachers differentiate instruction?
Page 6: Differentiate Process
When teachers differentiate process, they teach the same concept or skill to each student; however, the manner in which each student makes sense of the topic or skill can vary. Therefore, teachers should vary the activities students use to master the concepts or skills. They can decide how best to do this by taking into account their students’ readiness levels, interests, or learning profiles. Teachers can break the students into groups or pairs to work on different activities or might assign individual tasks. The table below suggests several strategies for differentiating process. Click on each link for detailed information about implementing these strategies.
Another way to differentiate process is to vary the length of time students have to complete a task. This allows struggling students more time to grasp the concept and permits advanced students more time to delve deeper into a topic.
Watch the video below to learn how one teacher differentiates process in her classroom. In particular, she discusses the use of manipulatives and learning centers (time: 4:21).
Narrator: Welcome to Organizing for Differentiation in the Core Classroom.
Lorie Bowman: My name is Lorie Bowman, and I am a second-grade teacher here at Cornell Elementary, in the Saydel School District.
We were subtracting one-digit numbers from double-digit numbers, and it was the second time they have been exposed to that process. Before this we had been subtracting just the tens, and they did fairly well with that concept, and now we are moving into regrouping and not regrouping. And what I was trying to accomplish with this was just giving them the opportunity to work with some concrete materials and use those manipulatives to see what they are actually doing so it’s not such a foreign concept of just trading and regrouping. Get them some practice with that, and after we are done with that as we are walking around trying to see who was grasping the concept and who wasn’t, and then having some small-group practice time.
At the beginning when we started the lesson, I was just doing a group think-aloud and we really wanted to think about have kids demonstrate and be able to explain what they were doing when they were trying to solve those math problems. And all mental math at that point, but then also liking to show the concrete example on the whiteboard of what exactly they were thinking and to show other students that there are other ways to answer problems; there is not one set way. As we move, we try to do lots of different examples of hands-on activities and paper-pencil tasks.
Eighty percent of their time is spent whole group, and then twenty percent either individual or small group. I really enjoy working with the small groups, though, because I really can give those students that immediate feedback whether they are doing the right thing or not, and it’s different every time. A lot of times, it might be the same exact thing that we are doing as whole group, but just in a small-group setting. Other times we were getting manipulatives out that maybe we didn’t use last time and just other techniques and processes that we are trying to help them key in to understanding what I am wanting them to know.
I would also like to have them get the whiteboards out and let them actually try to do the algorithm with the dry-erase marker and just practice that, because I am not sure that they fully understand the regrouping concept yet and why we are regrouping. And I notice that, even with my small group, they were still struggling, where those ten ones were coming from.
I am trying to plan and help for the reteaching. I usually try to pass some activities that are ready for that chapter or that topic, and I like to do them on the spot if I notice that lot of the class is struggling with whatever topic we are covering. I think it’s important to do it right away and help those kids so they don’t practice the wrong thing. We are going to redo parts of this lesson again just to help give students a boost on what we are expecting, because the next thing that we are moving into is double-digit subtraction, and I really want them to feel comfortable and be able to do this automatically before we move on to that next step.
I just really enjoy having the opportunity to let them go to centers, and they can review extra things that we maybe were struggling with before and I think we need a review on. And it also gives a chance for those students that have already mastered the concept that we are working on to be challenged a little bit to have some of those extra centers that are getting them thinking and pushing them a little bit, too. We go over the different strategies throughout our lessons and then I usually incorporate them into our centers as well. Right now, they are really struggling with sevens and eights, and so I have started putting that into a center where they can partner up and quiz each other on the different flash cards.
At this point, we have our new curriculum. It does build in some different differentiation kinds of ideas. So I always have that available if I need it, but a lot of it happens just when we are going through the lesson. And it’s just having things ready to go, whether it will be extra manipulatives or whiteboards or extra things to work with, because just you never know how many are going to understand it or how many are not, and just it changes all the time.