INCORPORATE CENTERS INTO YOUR ROUTINE.
Learning centers are common in the lower grades. If you teach pre-k through second grade, chances are that you’re already using centers.
But what if you teach older students? Is it appropriate to use centers with older students? My answer is…YES.
How you use centers will depend on what is appropriate for your group’s age, interests, and the subject you teach. If I was able to utilize centers while teaching a college course, then I’m confident that you can make it work in your classroom too!
What I mean by the word “centers” though is really just more than one activity going on at one time. Instead of completing tasks one by one as a whole group, try doing them in small rotating groups.
Here’s an example of center activities:
Group 1: Direct instruction with the teacher
Group 2: Independent work at desks
Group 3: Research for an upcoming project on computers in back of the room
Breaking into smaller groups gives you the opportunity to more accurately tailor the assignment to your students’ needs.
USE FLEXIBLE GROUPING.
Grouping students by ability level can help you to provide a lesson better suited to their needs. It’s important to switch up the groups often if you use this approach. Periodically mix the groups up by interest, learning style, personal choice, or even randomly so that no one feels “stuck” in any one group.
My groups changed weekly and were different according to subject level. Whatever group students were in for reading had nothing to do with their math group. We switched it up regularly so there really wasn’t any one “high” or “low” group.
The students seemed to enjoy mixing it up and it kept things fresh and interesting for everyone. Give it a try… It isn’t as hard as you think!
OFFER CHOICES WHEN POSSIBLE.
Give students choices in how they want to learn. This allows them to become more motivated. A motivated student is an engaged student.
Provide a variety of assignments that meet the content standard you’re working on. Allow students to choose their lesson task.
Our job as teachers is to coach them in the right direction. We challenge them, provide assistance if necessary, and encourage them to push further in their learning.
DESIGN TIERED ASSIGNMENTS.
Tiered instruction goes naturally with centers and student choice. A tiered assignment is basically the same lesson or standard taught with different tasks.
When working on the Days of the Week and Months of the Year with my self- contained students, I used different activities to address my objective.
In addition to our daily circle time activities, I also had my students practice writing the Days and Months as a morning independent work task. Some students cut and paste the letters, some stamped, and some traced, while others were able to just copy the words without help.
All of the students were working on the same standard, but the lesson was modified for their individual needs.
These activities can be found in my TPT shop. These activities are no-prep and great to have on hand for morning work, early finishers, sub plans, and even homework. You can get my Days of the Week Sample for FREE and try them out!
It’s essential to differentiate activities in the classroom, especially in special education. Our students are unique people with individual needs. Some may have sensory issues while others have autism or other special needs. It can become exhausting for teachers, but there are tricks to make it easier.
I hope you’ve found my tips on differentiating instruction helpful. If you decide to try one out, I would love to hear how it went in the comments below. If you have any additional tips that might help a novice teacher, please share it with us!
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Keep teaching. Keep learning.
– Christy from Exceptional Thinkers