“A differentiated classroom is a place where the teacher proactively plans and carries out varied approaches to content, process, and product in anticipation of and response to student differences in readiness, interest, and learning needs.” - Carol Ann Tomlinson
The Magical Minds are different. Each one is beautifully unique. They have different interests, different skill levels, different learning styles, different needs.
How do I know this? I talk with the kids, alot. There are small chats scattered across the day. There are reading, writing and math conferences. Sometimes we have special tea dates, which are one-on-one meetings (with tea) designed to assess and address the needs of individual kids. I take notes. I take lots of notes.
When I plan, and when I instruct, I think about these differences. I think about what each of my kids needs to grow and feel successful. As Angela Maiers put it, I think “how can I advance THIS learner?”
I begin with choice. The Magical Minds choose their books, their writing projects, research topics, as well as their means of presentation. The result = kids who are engaged and interested in the work they do. It belongs to them. It stems from them. Part of my job is to help the third graders make good choices. I provide the reflection time, the self-assessment tools and the conversations they need to understand their own interests, learning styles and needs.
I teach independence. I carefully build (and adjust) the structure, routines and expectations that empower these third graders to work with focus, dedication and confidence. Eventually they don’t need me (well, at least not all the time), and I am free to roam the classroom with my camera and my notes.
While the majority of the class is solving a math problem, writing stories or researching an inquiry question, I stop to meet with individuals and/or small groups. During these conferences I provide instruction that is specifically designed for the child/group in front of me.