Observing Differentiation and Meeting Students’ Learning Needs

Within my classroom, my CT differentiates to incorporate instruction for an EC student, an ELL, and students performing at an advanced level. The differentiated instruction occurs in many different components of the day, but two specific areas I will highlight in detail are the read alouds and the literacy centers. For the EC student, Ms. Blum has provided a way for one student to participate in literacy centers when she joins the classroom on occasion throughout the week. With her folder and activities, she is able to participate in the same work as the other students in her group while having the complete one-on-one assistance of the teacher pushing-in with her. The more frequent and evident examples of differentiation occur for the student in the class who is an ELL and for the students who are advanced.

With both the ELL and students who struggle with behavior, Ms. Blum makes sure that they sit right in front of her for every read aloud so that the illustrations are clear and the text is close so that they can engage and stay focused. This is critical for the ELL because pictures are an important part of learning vocabulary implicitly through immersion and English reading. That said, the actual differentiation of the instruction has been a role Ms. Blum asked me to take on this semester by providing support for the ELL during centers and whole group activities. For reading and writing, this has included reading her texts together, practicing sight words, and assisting with spelling key words on a dry erase board for her to copy after she has expressed ideas orally. For math, I will draw out visual representations to accompany word problems, help her identify words that signal addition or subtraction, and develop additional practice problems for problem areas. For the students who are performing far above the expected Kindergarten reading levels, Ms. Blum differentiates her guided reading groups and activities to provide texts and comprehension questions at the appropriate MClass level (or one above). This allows for those students to develop, articulate, and write about deeper understandings within the books or passages they read.

In addition to specific differentiation for the two types of students mentioned above, Ms. Blum addresses the varied levels in the class as a whole by selecting specific center work for students to complete. At the library literacy center, she has selected texts at students’ reading levels that they pull from a bag with their name on it each week. This ensures that even if the comprehension activity is the same, the books that individual students are reading include ideas and vocabulary at their level. She has also incorporated multiple activities into centers, both for literacy and math, where some students can move on to a more challenging approach to the center activity if they feel confident in their first attempt. Overall, Ms. Blum’s use of centers as a time for differentiated instruction maximizes chances to challenge students at their individual levels while focusing on similar content and learning targets.

The example Ms. Blum has set shows the importance of using small group times, both centers and guided reading groups, to differentiate instruction, but I think I would take it even further if more than one student was performing at a significantly lower or higher reading level than the rest of the class. I think certain worksheets or writing assignments could be adapted so that if there was not a teacher assistant or intern in the room, students who need to write more or less independently could do so with the prompt or structure of the worksheet itself. Though just a small example, in a class of students generally learning and performing at similar levels there is not a significant need for further differentiation. As these students continue beyond kindergarten I am sure greater differences will arise, but considering that they are in the lowest level of elementary school Ms. Blum is doing a great job of teaching them to engage with different subjects and skills in a formal setting for what is most often the first time.


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