Simon says, "Class, take out your math book." Simon says, "Class, turn to page twelve." Simon says, "Class, complete problems one through ten." Simon says, "Class, sharpen your pencil and clear your desk for the unit test in math." In a traditional classroom, the class does what Simon Says whether they are ready or not. There is no flexibility in ability and interest, no modification to the curriculum, no assessments to check readiness, and whole group instruction and learning is a constant. The Simon Says approach to teaching is just not acceptable anymore. Teaching to the norm, to the average, to the grade level standards is not meeting the needs and cultivating the love of learning in the children who cross our threshold day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year! "Over the past 20 years research and practice has concluded that learners come in many varieties. The different types include auditory, visual, and kinesthetic, as well as, left and right hemispheric dominant" (Conyers & Wilson, 2000, p. 5). Also, blend into this, gender differences in learning and the learner's personality style. With all of the research on the differences in our learners, how can Simon continue to say the same thing to the entire class? In what follows I will
present why it is important to differentiate instruction in the classroom. I will explore what I believe to be the most important aspects of differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all of my learners along with the research that supports my beliefs. Additionally, I will explain the performance activities that I have used in the past and new activities I have implemented that promote learning within
my students in a differentiated setting. Then, looking at the professional standards, I will provide connections to them and the practice of differentiation in the classroom. No More Simon Says!
A fundamental question is posed. "Why is it important to differentiate instruction in the classroom?" The answer is simply stated, "Every student has his or her own best way of learning" (Wilson & Conyers, 2005, p. 146). The words "every student" in this statement are powerful words. These are words that an effective educator needs to consider when planning to maximize learning for "every student." The Simon Says approach can stifle one child and frustrate another all within the same four walls Children have learning preferences that dominate the way in which they learn, create connections and internalize relevance. Because of this "teachers must be ready to engage students in instruction through different learning modalities, by appealing to different interests and by using varied rates of instruction along with varied degrees of complexity" (Tomlinson, 1999, p. 2). It is important to get to know your students beyond last year's test scores when entering your classroom for the first time. A major part of differentiating instruction is getting acquainted with the whole child. Knowing their interests will prompt activities that will draw meaning, knowing their ability and readiness will create success with the induction of challenge, knowing their learning style will eliminate frustration, and knowing their personality style will aid in communication and interaction. After answering the question, "Why is it important to differentiate instruction in the classroom?" I am reminded of the philosophy I stated in my reflection paper at the beginning of this term. "My philosophy about individual needs and teaching in a differentiated classroom is to respect and cultivate differences in personality and learning styles, as well as, develop choices that are conducive to each child's readiness, interest, and ability." I continue to feel panic and motivation as I "live" by this statement. The positive outcomes and the responsiveness of the students remain undeniable. It is extremely important to differentiate instruction to meet the many...
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