Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Differentiated instruction is the educational phrase for meeting the needs of all students by communicating ideas in ways that work well for each individual child. Some students have Individualized Educational Plans that are developed with special education professionals and list in detail what changes need to be made to instruction for that student to learn best. Other students have medical needs (hearing, speech, physical or health impairments) that require changes to instruction. Many students have learning differences that aren't identified by a doctor or an educational specialist but are informally identifiable just as well. A final group of students are those that are gifted or talented.
In class the other day I was discussing the fact that no cell is a "typical" cell as it is identified in a textbook; all cells are unique in some way. Likewise, no child is a "typical" child. I was able to give several examples from my extended family of children who are identified as different academically. One student offered up the idea that we are all like snowflakes, unique.
I differentiate instruction in many ways and continue to individualize my instruction as much as possible to meet each child's needs. All students with IEP's are accommodated in the ways listed in that document. I am as discrete as possible when handing out different forms of a test or a different assignment. As much as students want their needs met, they also don't want to be seen as different. Sometimes this results in my overlooking an opportunity to modify an assignment. Please call me if you feel that you (or your child) have not received a necessary modification and are struggling.
While "tracking" by ability isn't truly in place at Columbia Central, some groups exist that have a great similarity in student abilities. Gifted and talented students are given the opportunity to go beyond what is required in class. These students may be bored with the usual assignments but will excel with an alternative. One class may receive most of the instruction at an enriched level and have additional assignments that reflect their advanced ability. This same group may have some review activities eliminated because they have demonstrated, as a group, that they don't need the additional time. Yet another section may have the need for more review and more direct instruction time to understand the work.
Something I consider common to all students is that they are capable of completing and submitting assignments that reflect the best of their individual abilities. All students can and will learn science. I strive to meet each student where they are at academically and do everything possible to rise to the highest level of achievement possible. My expectation is that each student will work to achieve their individual best.
I am thankful for each of the snowflakes (uh, students) in my classes.