Differentiation really comes down to knowing your students, which is an essential part of teaching. As I saw from my cooperating teacher over pre-internship, if you know who your learners are, you can connect with them, they will enjoy your classes, and respect you because you have built a positive relationship.
‘Get to Know You’ surveys could help me find out the interests of my students at the beginning of the year and allow me to involve their interests in teaching the math curriculum. This could be done through example problems that connect with their real life experiences as a start. For my internship, I need to think about this further. I will have more time to observe and understand my students’ skill levels during internship which will assist me in differentiating my instruction for my students.
The Student Opinion Survey that I asked my students to fill out in pre-internship was a great way to get feedback on my teaching practice as well as a way to understand how the students liked to learn. Some would have preferred to move through the content at a faster pace while others appreciated how I checked for understanding and made sure that everyone felt comfortable with the concepts before moving on.
In the article, A Teacher’s Guide to Differentiated Instruction, an example is given for small group instruction in literacy: “small groups can be arranged by achievement level, but they also can be grouped by a common interest in the subject matter even if materials at varying reading levels are used”. Small group instruction is something that you could do to differentiate for the learning styles of all students. Using non-homogenous groupings is something that I had not thought of before and although these varied groupings may take a bit more time to plan for, they would also challenge and benefit students by learning from one another.
This video, illustrates an elementary math instruction method called Explore +4 in a Gr. 8 classroom. It would be interesting to employ some of these strategies in a high school math class as well to differentiate my instruction and match the students’ various levels of understanding and learning styles.