The intent of differentiating instruction is to maximize each student’s growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is and assisting in the learning process. – Hall, Strangman, and Meyer, “Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation“
Choice is at the heart of my differentiated classroom. There are times, however, when I limit the amount of choice the kids have. A good example is in TAI Math, which is a math program I use twice a week to supplement my concept-based instruction. TAI Math focuses on operations and solidifying basic facts. It looks like a workbook.
It may not sound differentiated, but every child is working on different material based on their skill level. At the beginning of the year, I assessed which skills the Magical Minds needed help on, and assigned them the appropriate unit in TAI Math. Supported by a well-defined procedure, the Magical Minds progress through the units at their own pace, self-assessing at every step of the way.
Because the third graders can work independently at TAI Math, I spend my time moving around the room, supporting students when they encounter new and confusing concepts/operations. I carry with me a set of place-value blocks, using them to guide students through challenging material.
Sometimes my instruction is geared to a small group of students. For example, yesterday I noticed three kids were struggling with the same concept, and I invited them to work with me at our round table. Not only did we use manipulatives to explore the troublesome topic, we talked about it and drew pictures. As the kids explained their thinking to one another, I saw their eyes light up with understanding.