“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Henry David Thoreau

 As teachers, each year we get a new set of drummers that walk into our classroom while we are marching to our own drums.  The biggest challenge all teachers have is finding a way to get the drums to work in harmony through differentiation.  Each student has their own set of talents and weakness.  Students will naturally gravitate towards their talents and things they are good at.  The teachers fill the gaps in their weaknesses.  Unfortunately, in a class of 20 students there are often 20 different areas for teachers to support.  So creating a large tool box to support your students is where differentiation comes into play.  Sometimes differentiation is changing the number of problems assigned when other times it is having a note-taker for a student.  The key to differentiation is finding ways to support your students so they can be successful, adapting to their needs as an individual.  Differentiation can be as easy as allowing a student to use a calculator in class

When I think of differentiation, I think of literature groups and math groups based on various ability levels.   But differentiation goes beyond just creating groups it is also finding ways to make all of the materials accessible to the students.  Addressing the various learning styles within each lesson, offering multiple instruction mediums and adapting activities for students are all part of the differentiation process.  One of the strategies that jumps out to me is to using multiple mediums to present the same topic like having students write their vocabulary words, act them out and sing them is one way to support student learning.  I love the tutorials that have been created for this class and that I have found on youtube while exploring during assignments.  This has inspired me to want to create my own video tutorials to support student learning.  While I still have to explore sites like screencast-o-matic and storify, these would be a great way to differentiate a lesson.  Audio books and student recordings are other ways to differentiate our classrooms.  Students who struggle with reading can listen to the books while reading along in an eBook.  Students who struggle with writing can take a test by answering in an audio file and using a dictation device to write their stories.  It all boils down to adapting the activities to meet the students where they are while still challenging them.

My favorite part of teaching is finding ways to differentiate for my students.  The first place I always start is talking to my special education teacher.  They are full of tricks we often forget about or never knew.  The only problem is it can get very tiring trying to keep up and do it with every assignment.  But in the many years I have been teaching differentiation has evolved.  We have moved beyond tape recorders and transparencies (I think I still have a case of recorders and cassettes hidden in my storage that have been replaced new technology) into the digital world of technology.  There are so many new tools for us to use that makes the world of differentiation easier. 

Take the time to check out this week’s pinterest for tools to support differentiation within the classroom.   I had to stop at 20 because there is so much out there to support differentiation.  The Twitter sessions and Connectivist List gave me even more sources this week.  I have a list of 16 other sites still to explore recommended by my peers. 

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