What is differentiated instruction?

14 02 2013

DI pic
What comes to mind when you hear “differentiated instruction (DI)?
Can you explain DI in simple terms?

Teachers and college students are required to do extensive reading on the subject. Thorough research only seems to cloud the issue. Understanding the concept is easy. Implementing it is difficult, to say the least.

A colleague asked me to meet with her for one hour. She wanted me to explain, in just sixty minutes, how to apply DI. First, I had to figure out how to sift out the most practical strategies and best practices. I challenged myself to identify key concepts and explain each in one sentence.

Here’s what I came up with.
Summary of DI

Check out the Prezi I created for a teacher-training workshop.
http://prezi.com/vzg2n9gwurl3/charlie-browns-differentiated-instruction/

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Triumph Over Dreaded Math Facts

11 04 2012

For some, multiplication facts arouse a sick queasy feeling. Others fear.

That’s just the parents.

For some students, just the word ‘multiplication’ conjures up thoughts of torture. A mountain of memorizing too great to climb.

Mastering basic math facts can have powerful results. Performance will improve. Math test scores will rise. Confidence will soar.

My experiences helping students have resulted in all those benefits. Several cases were even more astonishing.

One student no longer needed special education for math as a result of strengthening his math facts.

Another student began volunteering answers during math lessons.

Visit my community to find an effective strategy called Hands-On Multiplication). That approach will become a valuable tool in your teaching kit.





Is it OK to emphasize learning styles?

17 01 2012

Focusing on learning styles has become controversial. Learning is much more complex than simply discovering the best method of teaching for a student.

Many factors impact academic performance. When a student is struggling to succeed, there are many things to consider. All of the following elements contribute to school success.

  • The teaching methods (There are countless categories of learning styles.)
  • The environment (physical factors and the atmosphere)
  • The student (gender, age, culture, health, development, self-awareness, motivation, pace, etc.)
  • The teacher (training, experience, etc.)
  • The process of learning (constructing knowledge based on the context, reflection and closure – fitting it into related information previously learned)
  • The system (support services, resources, etc.)
  • The parent (ability to support child, own past experiences, current life stressors)
  • The content (information to be learned) – Types of knowledge:
  1. Procedural (knowing how), declarative (knowing what), connective (knowing who – knowledge of and by the connections that exist in the world), experiential
  2. Separate (learned through explicit instruction) vs. connective (learned through empathy)

The secret to success in school can’t be as simple as a single learning style. It would be wrong to say that each person learns from one specific method of teaching. Learning is enhanced when information is presented in different ways.

Teaching methods, learning environment, the student, the teacher, the content, the system, and the parent all affect academic performance.

But…

We admit everyone has strengths and needs. Some things are easy to learn; some are harder.

Specific strategies can help tremendously.

Math comes easy for me. It’s harder for me to memorize important dates in history. I’ve found that if I draw a picture of an important event and include the date, I’m more likely to remember the date. This realization that I learn difficult things using illustrations has helped me throughout school.

I once taught a student who was legally blind and mildly mentally retarded. He was a gifted musician. Learning to spell correctly was hard for him. I challenged him to make a rap out of his weekly spelling words. His spelling tests were very entertaining. His performance soared!

So, should we abandon all emphasis on learning styles? Certainly not.

Helping a struggling learner is detective work. It’s a systematic search for what works.

It’s important to keep in mind all factors: teaching methods, learning environment, the student, the teacher, the content, the system, and the parent.

One component of optimal differentiated instruction for a particular student may be a teaching method which has promoted progress or success.

Students can develop strategies which are in accordance with their strengths and preferred learning styles. Those strategies become their tool box for learning. Educators can certainly identify accommodations which would yield improvements for a student.

Visit my ‘Equipping the Saints’ website to find a learning styles ppt. I developed.

Click on the Learning Styles ppt. for more information.