A place for teachers and other providers of special education services to support each other, share information, and discuss topics, including assessment.

differentiated instruction

Erin Funwela

Hello everybody,
I was wondering if your school districts are requiring you to differentiate instruction. Any tips on how you collaborate with your team would be great. Having time to plan seems to be the biggest issue. Any thought would be great!

Thanks,
Erin

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I'm sorry that I don't have

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I'm sorry that I don't have any helpful tips, but just want to say that I can relate! I have a class of 3-7 graders all at different levels. There is just no humanly possible way to write them each a comprehensive lesson plan. I write all their curriculum and do my best to cover them all in the one plan. And yes, there's not much time for it!

6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Requiring is a little strong but...

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Our district strongly encourages us to differentiate. They produce a really great strategies guide that has tons of suggestions categorized by area. Unfortunately, I don't think many teachers know about it. I didn't find out about it until last year and I'm a Special Education Teacher!

They offer PD's on it. I think its success is school by school; classroom by classroom. You really need to get the buy-in from teachers to make it work. It can also be overwhelming for some teachers to think about differentiation. I know when I talk to some teachers, they think they have to make separate plans for each student. Or they don't know where to begin. Another issues is that some teachers think this is something that Special Educators do.

You're right, time to plan is essential! But as important, and maybe more so, is buy-in. We use to have a weekly community meeting but differentiation was never a topic. Teacher's just weren't on the same page. It can be tough.

They would definitely like to see it at our school - see it in our lesson plans. Some teachers are more successful than others. I'd like to do more but our co-teaching situation is still in the early stages!

No Sweat! If you have an aide...

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Differentiating is nothing more than separating your students into groups. You're probably doing it and not even realizing it. If you have reading groups, you differentiate. If you require more of some kiddos than you do of others with different abiities, you differentiate. If you have aides or parents who come in, have them take a group!

Middle school teacher-librarian in the Bronx, NY

Ways of differentiating

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Many teachers resist differentiating because they think it means creating different assignments for each group. Not so.

My school requires teachers to differentiate and suggests two ways to do it. The first method, as Shelley suggests, is in the way you use groups. You can give each group different tasks or, as I did when I used to teach math, give different groups different tools. For example, when I taught fractions, my lowest group got fraction towers to compare equivalencies, my two middle groups got small bars of different lengths to create equivalencies (each set of bars was one whole and the bars were divided up into fractional lengths). My highest group gets almost no support.

The other method of differentiating is scaling. Design a task and create an assignment for your middle group. Add complexity, abstraction, or reduce the time to complete for your high level group and do the opposite for your low level group.

Strategies from a SpEd teacher (Bklyn, NY)

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Teachers can differentiate product, process, or content. A simple way of differentiating for beginners is to differentiate the product. Students can be given a choice of activities to assess learning (formative) such as a letter to the President/politician, a story book, a picture book, a song/poem, a time-line, answer the review questions, or create a cartoon. For math, it can be as simple as given a different number of problems to students based on their instructional levels. All of these are forms of differentiation. Using the Interrnet is also a valuable tool to differentiate, especially for students who prefer this mode of learning. Just be creative. I hope this helps. For more information just complete an Internet search for differentiation strategies.

Elementary Special Education Teacher, Self-Contained (K-5)

DI

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Wow, the idea is great and if some teachers would visit a special ed, self-contained class they could see it in action. It requires you to have activities going on that are not all the same. To Housecat, I am required to do a lesson plan and If I could download it I would. It is very comprehensive and I miss thematic units. As far as differentiated instruction, Deven has a great example and it is not hard. I agree, districts talk about it, offer PD on it, but do not follow up on whether or not it is done. I also agree that teachers resit it cause they think it is more work when in all actuality, they would probably have less strugglers and be more in tuned with what their students know.

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As staffing shifts(&cuts) are created by lack of funding(unfunded mandates) more and more exeptional learners are being placed in gen.ed. classes. By exceptional learners I do not mean just special needs students, but bilingual, ESOL, Section 504, and other groups outside the 'norm'. In order to justify this political/educational/social conundrum we have emphasized differentiation. As good as a teacher can be there are human restraints on how many rings in the circus they can manage, and still be successful at delivering instruction. All to often differentiation has become a ticket to dump kids into general education classes and hold the teacher responsible for an impossible task!! I fear that untill educators are allowed to have serious input into the educational process we will continue to be controlled by politicians that may very well do the same thing to our field as they did to criminal justice and mental health (or lack of). The last batch of federal laws that have now created an atmosphere of high stakes testing has not helped our profession. The serious erosioning of public faith in our public schools have not been good for us either.

Are you willing to share the strategies?

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I work with teachers in 3 different disciplines and would love to be able to share strategies with them to work on when I can't be in class with them (especially in math)

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any helpful ideas for differentation instruction with autism preschoolers

Cross Categorical/self-contained - Teacher

Alice, You touched on what I

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Alice, You touched on what I have been saying for years. Come and spend a few days in my class and you can see how we (Our Team TAs and I)provide for all levels. I have the opportunity to go into GE to support some of the students and have discovered that there are a significant # of kids (3-5) who have not been identified. I have been trying for years to tell people that the earlier the identification and interventions then the gap will not be as big later on requireing more interventions than are humanly possible with the regular ed curriculum. The other part is; what worked 20 - 30 years ago still works, the only difference is adding technology to provide more practice and 21st Century skills. So now we teach how to use technology to organize and present material. Heck I am still trying to figure out how to make graphs and show that the kids I serve are making progress even though they don't show it on standarized tests that are given at their grade level. An absurdity since they are all functioning at least 2 years below grade level. Now due to cuts we no longer have interventionists or testing coordinators. Talk about leaving children behind??! Hopefully, President Obama will see the insanity of it all.

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