Why is it that we always wish or want for life to go back to “normal” or for things to be how they “used” to be? Our life experience no matter how long we’ve lived it, tell us that things are never normal or exactly the same. From day to day, there are countless ways that things are “different” and we can’t recreate yesterday exactly the way it happened. There is the familiar or the ordinary, routine things we do or have, but it’s never exactly the same. That’s very much how I feel about differentiated instruction; I just accept that no two days will be alike and I should plan more than I think I need. I have a general structure and routine but I expect to change my plan throughout the day. Differentiated classrooms have “flexible grouping, which accommodates students who are strong in some areas and weaker in others” (Tomlinson, p. 3). Differentiated instruction is acknowledging the diversity of learners that you have and believing that they add value to your instruction. It means that you incorporate students’ readiness, interests, and learning styles into your instruction (content, process, and product).
It’s interesting to recognize that in the corporate world, these traits and elements of differentiation are vital to the success of a business. Companies devote significant resources to researching interests, behaviors, and preferences of their customers; there are elaborate technologies and teams of employees who constantly analyze data that could help businesses to be more productive and responsive to consumers!
I chose to make my infographic on the student elements of differentiation, based on Smith and Throne’s (2009) Table 2.1 – Definition of Student Traits and Possible Strategies for Differentiation. I wanted to separate the curricular elements and will create an additional illustration for content, process, and product.
For a web view of my infographic, go to https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_XjqxZbYjUuQTl2U2hpdndlYVE&authuser=0
I believe that students (and teachers too) bring diversity to the learning environment; as the teacher, my role is to cultivate an appropriate, supportive, and relevant learning environment for the students.
In my infographic you see three (3) student traits that necessitate differentiated instruction:
In the classroom (black box), students are arranged in general proximity to a white icon that represents an INTEREST area – sports, traveling, gaming, science, YouTube, music, computers, photography, just to name a few. The students are not “categorized by their interest area because at any time throughout the school year, those interest areas can change or students shift to other areas. They can also drift towards the middle of the room, when they seem to have a general lack of interest in what their peers find fascinating, or they are too hesitant to share what they are curious about.
In the yellow oval, we see the students in a lineup with arrows to indicate a range of READINESS, which is how prepared they are to learn and what prior knowledge they have on the content. The shorter icons represent students who are less ready to learn and obviously the larger icons are students who are more prepared for a particular lesson.
In the purple starburst, you see each student icon represented by a different color; this is an illustration of the various learning styles of students. I wanted to keep it simple in the theme of the infographic and not include types of learning styles, so for my purposes, I just wanted to use color to show various styles.
And lastly, on the right of the black box, you see a quote by Carol Ann Tomlinson that I chose because I felt that it was an appropriate fit for my infographic theme (Conklin & Sorrell, 2009).
Conklin, W. and Sorrell, C. (2009). Applying Differentiation Strategies. Shell Education. Retrieved from http://www.teachercreatedmaterials.com/curriculum_files/podcasts/TCM_Episode5_Handout.pdf
Smith, G. E., and Throne, S. (2009). Differentiating Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms. Eugene, OR, USA: ISTE, 2009. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 14 January 2015.
Tomlinson, C.A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2001. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 14 January 2015.