There’s a good chance you arched an eyebrow upon reading the headline of this article. After all, differentiation can be one of the most stressful and time-consuming parts of a teacher’s life. Tailoring our instruction to meet the specific needs of students can feel like a massive undertaking. Do we consider the learning environment? The content? How do we meet the multiple, diverging needs of numerous students all at once?
These can be intimidating questions, but differentiation doesn’t have to be something educators dread doing. No matter what we teach or how we teach it, students make sense of it in their own unique ways. Once we understand this truth, we can implement simple strategies that allow students to shape the content to their way of thinking.
Here are just a few teacher hacks to help you get started in your own classroom.
Three simple strategies for differentiation
Hack #1 – PEWC: PEWC is an acronym for Project-Based Learning, Engineering, Writing, and Creation.These four areas are perfect for giving students challenges that exercise their curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking.
For starters, they allow students to use what they’re studying to make an impact on the larger world, particularly in the case of project-based learning. Afterwards, they create opportunities for growth and understanding by encouraging students to reflect upon their work.
Hack #2 – IDEAs: IDEAs is another acronym that stands for Innately Differentiated Educational Activities. These are what some educators call “Low Floor, High Ceiling” activities. Even students with a lower level of understanding can participate in them. One example would be a Brain Dump, where students list everything they know about a subject. Another possibility is to encourage your students to come up with alternative explanations or hypotheses to an answer. This challenges them to think more flexibly.
Hack #3 – Assessmental health: By engendering a healthy mindset around assessment, we can teach students how to be curious and approach learning as a lifelong journey. One way is by asking a simple question, “What else do you know?” This question gives students a chance to show off their knowledge in a deeply differentiated way. Another way is by challenging students to teach you something. In return for a new, interesting fact, offer your students one point of extra credit on a test.
If you’re interested in learning about these strategies in more detail, be sure to check out this free resource. Differentiation will always be a challenge for educators, but if we give our students the opportunity to explore these concepts and invest in their own learning, there’s no telling what they can discover.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the prospect of differentiation. The simplest strategies can go a long way in making your lessons memorable, meaningful, and fun!