What are some of the things I already do in my teaching to meet the elements of differentiated instruction?
I do differentiate in many areas but I’ll choose reading to describe some of what I do.
I have first graders in my classroom who are nonreaders and first graders who are reading at second grade level and beyond so much differentiation is necessary. In addition to the variety of readers, reading instruction has many, many pieces at the first grade level. With some students, there is work to be done on knowing the alphabet and on phonemic awareness. Many students benefit from word work such as word families and phonics. Most students will benefit from increasing their sight word bank. Students need strategies for solving unknown words. These can be phonics, content or syntax based. Students learn to understand what they read and to think about why the author wrote the text. Students learn that they can learn from reading. Students learn to enjoy reading. There are many strategies for comprehension that can be taught. Students learn to discuss the text with partners and to retell.
There are multiple presentation formats. Some of these: whole group instruction through word work lessons, shared reading, read alouds and songs, small group instruction for word work or guided reading and one to one conferencing for whatever individual need a student might have.
There are also multiple ways for students to practice (action) and express. We do guided brainstorming, problem solving and work (both oral and written.) We have mini-lessons and guided practice with concepts and strategies. Shared reading provides guided practice with word solving strategies and comprehension strategies. Read alouds provide comprehension and discussion opportunities whole group and in partners. We do lots of partner work with sight words and with reading. There are individual opportunities for children to read independently each day.
There are multiple options for engagement. As mentioned above, there are many opportunities for children to take part in building reading stamina, ability and enjoyment. I have also provided children with choices in how they engage. We use Reading Street as our core program but the materials are limited and often not motivating or at an appropriate level. In addition to Reading Street materials and lessons, I provide children with a large supply of “just right” books. I also have 5 iPads in my room and have several books available for children to read on their iPad day. They are allowed to choose their own books from leveled tubs and folders on the iPad to read during workshop time. At other times of the day, they can choose from other libraries in the classroom (not leveled but possibly high interest or books read or written together as a class) and they also spend time with Reading Street materials.
I find that choice, success and sharing have a big impact on children and their success in reading.