The Differentiated Classroom
Differentiated instruction is a practical and highly successful strategy for responding to the learning needs of children. By differentiating the curriculum a teacher can make curricular modifications, extend learning opportunities, and adjust assignments to match the learning needs of a diverse population of students. There are no predetermined ways to differentiate the curriculum for gifted students; the possibilities are endless. Differentiating instruction involves three steps: assessing the needs of the students, designing activities to address those needs, and assessing the results.
What the Teacher Does
- The teacher identifies essential content (knowledge, concepts, skills) that he or she wants everyone in the class to master.
- The teacher assesses student readiness with a variety of tools, e.g. pre-tests, observations, previous performance.
- The teacher adjusts content, process, and products in response to students' readiness, strengths, area of weakness, and interests.
- The teacher employs a range of strategies for differentiating such as learning centers, curriculum compacting, tiered instruction, cluster groups, and so forth.
- The teacher maintains a high level of flexibility in modifying aspects of the curriculum to create maximum growth and learning for each child.
- The teacher assesses individual student achievement and the effectiveness of the differentiated material and instruction.
What the Students Do
- Students move flexibly from one level of complexity to the next.
- Students actively participate in their own learning and make choices within structured activities and assignments.
- Students focus more on their own growth and work, rather than on how they compare to other students.
- Students become knowledgeable about how they learn, what they do well, and where they need more practice.
Examples of Differentiated Strategies
Below are some examples of what a teacher might do to respond to the learning needs of gifted students.
Needs of the Child Strategy Activity Example Accelerated Pace Compacting A child who demonstrates mastery of simple addition can move on to more difficult or more complex problems. More Cognitive Challenge Higher Level Thinking Based on the analysis of historical facts, a child explores all the steps for establishing a pilgrim village and designs a new village. Problem Solving Clustering A child collaborates with others who have similar talent and ability to solve complex problems. More Depth Independent Study A child with a strong desire to investigate and learn more about a topic, with teacher guidance, designs and completes a project with goals, objectives, and a time line.