Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Differentiation in the classroom

A student-led classroom is one where students play an integral part in decision-making. Coming up with essential agreements, deciding what homework to do, and planning the unit of inquiry, are various ways students can take charge. The support  and guidance of their teacher is ofcourse, a critcal factor.

Well then, how about differentiation?

We create pre-assements and formative assessments in order to gauge our students' understanding. What if the assesments are not good enough to gauge where the students are? Knowing that assessments are completely subjective, (however hard we try to be objective), shouldn't the students decide where they are in a continuum, and place themselves in different groups? Many children in my class do not speak English at home.Their inability to understand a maths word problem in English (and thereby getting the sum wrong), can give a false picture of that child's grasp of the concept.

In the video. my students have decided where they are according to a continuum:

The experts were ready to be challenged and stood firmly in their group when the other students asked them whether they were prepared to tackle a tough word problem based on Area and Perimeter.
The ones who needed help, raised their hands. I observed that no one felt embarrased and knew that they felt safe and secure being in this group. The ones in the middle group knew exactly where they needed help, or simply did not have enough confidence in themselves. So this factor needed to be addressed. What was stopping them from joining the expert group?

In the video, I asked the experts to help the ones who needed help. I encouraged the middle group to figure out what was bothering them. This is the group I will sit with in the next 15 minutes.
I will eventually give them an exit slip to fill. The results will help them decide whether they want to move on from their group.


Often different cultural habits and behaviours can come in the way of a teacher however good his or her intention. The children know best where they stand. Do they feel secure? Are they ready to be challenged? They can tell you if you let them. Stand back and embrace their ideas the next time you want to differentiate. It is infinitely rewarding. How do you differentiate in the classroom? Do share.

1 comment:

  1. Great idea, Naini. We spend a great deal of time discussing ways in which to empower students and encourage them to have a voice in their learning. This seems like a natural extension of the idea. Love your post ~ it has me thinking!

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