9 Reasons Why Differentiation is Important in Teaching
Ever wonder why differentiation is important in teaching? It’s a common word, but have you ever stopped to think: what is differentiation? Am I differentiating? Why is differentiation important in teaching?
When I first started teaching I was by myself with a Kindergarten class of 18 students whose capabilities varied wildly. Some were reading, while others couldn’t recognize their own name! Like many new teachers, I was lost. How was I supposed to keep everyone engaged, at the same time, when they were in such vastly different places? The answer? I wasn’t. That’s when I became passionate about learning various differentiation strategies that I am sharing with you.
What is Differentiation?
Simply put, differentiation is adapting a lesson or activity to meet the various needs of learners within your classroom. Reading Rockets defines differentiation as: “the efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom”. You probably are differentiating on some level already! Ever rephrase a question? Differentiation. Draw a quick visual? Differentiation! As with most areas of teaching, the more intentional you are with differentiation the easier it is and the more students get out of it. Differentiation allows teachers to meet the needs of an individual and work within a student’s zone of proximal development (thank you Vygotsky). Take a deep dive into differentiation and the difference it can make in the lives of your students here.
How Small Groups Help You Differentiate
Small groups are a key component to help you differentiate in the elementary classroom. Teachers have been meeting in small groups since the one-room schoolhouse days. When meeting in a small group, not only are students more likely to participate but the teacher can more easily adapt the lesson as needed. Small groups can be as complicated as intensive book groups with each group reading its own book, doing its own study, and taking a deep dive. Or, small groups can be as simple as pulling students who didn’t quite get yesterday’s math lesson. Small groups help teachers differentiate because they are responsive and flexible. Here you can learn the numerous ways small groups will help your K-2 classroom soar.
Why is There a Need for Differentiation
The research is overwhelming yet many still ask “Why is there a need for differentiation?”. Teachers need to differentiate because our students are unique individuals who interpret the world in their own way. The curriculum comes in a box. It is a one-size-fits-all attempt at education. As anyone who bought a hat knows, one size fits all does not necessarily fit all. Differentiation is the idea that teachers start with the core curriculum and then enhance or modify it to meet the individual needs of students. Quality differentiation increases student voice and choice. It is a powerful movement within the classroom that encourages students to self-reflect and take charge of their learning. Read more about the effectiveness of differentiated education and strategies to use in your K-2 classroom.
Why Should Teachers Use Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction is not only beneficial for student learning but also for teachers. By tailoring their instruction and materials to meet individual student needs, teachers can create a more engaging and inclusive learning environment. Students are more likely to be motivated and actively participate in their learning when they see that their needs are being catered to.
Differentiated instruction allows teachers to personalize instruction and provide additional support to struggling students while challenging those who are ready for more advanced material. This approach promotes student growth and achievement, as each student receives the appropriate level of challenge and support.
In this article, we will explore the benefits of differentiated instruction for teachers and how it can unlock the full potential of every student in the classroom. Let’s delve into the power of individualized learning and discover how it can enhance both teaching and student success.
Why is Differentiation Important in Primary Education
As you now know, differentiation allows teachers to tailor educational experiences to the individual child. While this is important at any age, differentiation is crucial for our youngest learners where the rate of growth is at its peak. Differentiating education in primary education allows for targeted instruction and intervention while keeping students engaged and motivated. Read on to learn nine reasons why differentiation is important in teaching!
1. differentiation helps kids learn
Maybe it’s too obvious but differentiation helps kids learn! When a teacher provides information from a traditional lesson, a text, a video, a podcast, an image…. It gives students multiple experiences to draw upon and connect regarding a certain topic. Giving multiple modes of representation allows all learners to access the given material. Differentiation also increases engagement as students have a voice in their learning. Dive into the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines and learn more about the various methods you can use to differentiate in your own classroom.
2. Kids Feel Seen
When kids are given voice and choice in the classroom, a key component of differentiation, kids feel seen and cared for in their classroom. Giving open access to materials, regardless if it’s math manipulatives or highlighted paper, tells students they have the tools and the capability to learn.
3. Differentiation Empowers Kids
By offering a variety of choices, differentiation empowers kids to think about themselves as learners and reflect upon the tools that will help them. When a teacher is explicit when differentiating, students are empowered to take charge of their learning.
4. Increasing Growth in All Areas
By modifying or enhancing the curriculum to the individual, differentiation is important in teaching because it increases growth in all academic (and non-academic!) areas. Misunderstandings are cleared up sooner, students have access to the materials they need, and they take ownership of their learning.
5. Kids Feel Accepted
Differentiation is important in teaching because it shows students that their teacher is listening, and cares about them as an individual. By incorporating kids’ culture, academic, and social strengths into the classroom students feel accepted. A feeling of acceptance and safety allows students to take risks that support their overall learning.
6. Differentiation Increases Independence
I’m sure at some point reading this you thought “Well that’s all well and good Rosie but there is no way I have time for this on top of everything else that’s expected.” On the surface, you’re not wrong and by digging deeper differentiation increases student independence therefore creating more time for teachers to do what they love – teaching. Differentiation encourages students to take control of their learning and takes back the teaching from the teacher.
7. Creates a Positive Community
Differentiation is important in teaching because it creates a positive community. Quality differentiation requires teachers to know each individual student allowing the student to feel valued and supported. Differentiation encourages collaboration and connection. While we often think of differentiation from an academic, task-leveling standpoint it also incorporates student cultural perspectives into the classroom environment.
8. Differentiation Helps Kids Learn About Themselves
A wonderful thing about differentiation is students are presented with options and, with guided reflection, they explore their unique learning styles. Are you a reader? Or maybe you prefer a good podcast? Is it possible YouTube or the local news is your go-to method for learning new information? Our students are learning how they process information. The only way this is possible is through exploration and trial and error. Through differentiation and other universal design for learning methods, students learn about themselves setting them up for success and self-motivation as they continue their educational careers.
9. Good Teaching Is Differentiation (re: You’re Probably Already Doing It)
Sometimes, learning can be overwhelming for teachers and students. You now know why differentiation is important in teaching and while, yes, there are always areas to improve on know that you are a good teacher. Differentiation is vast, and you are probably already modifying and adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of your students. So, while you can research more strategies and become more intentional with differentiating your instruction know that great things take time and the first step is to care.
When I first started learning and implementing strategies surrounding differentiating instruction, it made my brain hurt. But, now that you know what differentiated instruction is, you are one step closer to using it effectively in your classroom. If you’re ready to jump in and get started differentiating your instruction I have the guide for you! Build those relationships, get the data, and start meeting your students where they’re at with this complimentary guide: 7-Tips to Effective Small Group Instruction in the K-2 Classroom.
As a bonus: when you get the guide you’ll get exclusive access to me! Send me an email and we can get creative on how to differentiate the instruction in your K-2 classroom!
Check out the research to find more reasons why differentiation is important in teaching!