Differentiated Instruction: A Child Centered Classroom

“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.

Unit Expectations and Anecdotal 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.

Cultivating Self-Awareness

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.

Independent Learners

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.

Conferencing

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3 responses to “Differentiated Instruction: A Child Centered Classroom

  1. Great post Erin! I’ve often thought of differentiated instruction as a way of putting every student “on the edge of improvement.” Your attention to the individual learners needs is impressive. Not everything can or should be differentiated, however, many things can…but we have to willing to create the conditions and ask the right questions. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for recognising children as individuals! I’m glad educators are realising that differentiated instruction is not way more work for them but instead children becoming more engaged and owning their own education, the “education transformation” we hear about all the time will move forward without major reforms…other than somehow convincing people that standardized tests only show that kids know how to take them!

  3. I love the amount of one on one time and conferencing you do. It makes all the difference in learning about your particular learners. To read more about why it makes such a difference check out this blog post

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