“Kids of the same age aren’t all alike when it comes to learning any more than they are alike in terms of size, hobbies, personality, or food preferences” (Tomlinson, 2017. p. 1).
I love this quote from the book, How to Differentiate Instruction! Have you read a more accurate statement? I mean, why do we expect our students to all learn the same way? I have three sons and none of them are alike in favorite foods, clothes, or personality nor do any of them excel in the same subjects in school!
As educators, we come to know our students and their strengths and weaknesses. A student may excel at math but struggle in language arts. Yet, when we are creating our lesson plans for the week, we seem to dismiss these variations as non-factors. In research conducted by Hatixhe Ismajli and Ilirjana Imami-Morina, in which 30 instructors were surveyed, 27.50% responded that lesson planning based on learners’ interests is not very important (Ismajli & Imami-Morina, 2018). Additional research reveals a majority of teachers perceive differentiated instruction to be time-consuming, individualized, and unrealistic for a class of 30 plus students (Tomlinson, 2017).
The idea of differentiated instruction completely intrigues me. I am a person who likes to live outside the box and color outside the lines. I dislike routine so much that I don’t even get ready the same way every morning! God made each one of us unique and we need to celebrate and acknowledge our individuality! But, as much fun as it is to celebrate individuality, we also must adhere to state and federal guidelines. We have standards, assessments and requirements we must accomplish in order to evidence our productivity in the classroom. The misconception of state standards is that differentiated instruction detracts from meeting the requirements because it is not the same for all students; quite the contrary. Many states expect teachers to differentiate within their teaching profession to meet the needs of their elementary and secondary students (Jackson & Evans, 2017).
Differentiated instruction considers different learning styles and levels of readiness before creating lesson plans (Tomlinson, 2017). Click on the video below.
So, next time you sit down to create your lesson plans for the week, consider your students and their individuality! Make a list of students’ names and next to each name write a few characteristics for each of them in relation to your observations in the classroom. Consider how you can tap into their strengths and interests to engage with the subject matter. Think about areas of improvement for each of them and one thing, just one thing, you can do in one lesson to help each of them. It is scary; I get it! But we need to change our instruction in order to change our students’ results.
I don’t know about you, but I feel being a teacher is not for the faint of heart. Its hard work and requires us to wear many hats. But remember why you chose education as your profession. For me, it was because there is nothing like watching a young mind struggle to understand something new and then watching that cute face light up and seeing a big smile appear and at that point I know….yeah, she got it!
Free2Care. (2010). Learning styles. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQYW6vYSGXs.
Ismajli, H., & Imami-Morina, I. (2018). Differentiated instruction: Understanding and applying interactive strategies to meet the needs of all the students. International Journal of Instruction,11(3), 207-218. doi:10.12973/iji.2018.11315a
Jackson, N., & Evans, L. (2017). Self-reflections on differentiation: Understanding how we teach in higher education. Networks: An Online Journal for Teacher Research,19(1). doi:10.4148/2470-6353.1012
Tomlinson, C. A. (2017). How to differentiate instruction in academically diverse classrooms. Alexandria, Va: ASCD.
Images obtained from the following sources: