# What Parents Need To Know About Differentiated Instruction?

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## What Is Differentiated Instruction?

The teacher in a differentiated classroom realizes that individual students have different needs. Because of this, the teacher proactively plans a variety of methods to get students to express learning. Where a traditional lesson changes reactively when learning is not occurring as planned, a differentiated lesson is proactively planned so that individual needs are addressed before the lesson occurs.

Differentiated instruction is not the amount of work given to students but rather putting students in a learning environment in which students can achieve learning. For example, a student who has already mastered a concept in math should not be given more problems, but should stop practicing that skill and more on to a subsequent skill. In addition, giving a student who is struggling less examples is less effective. This student may need more assistance or an alternative way to express knowledge.

During instruction, teachers are conscious of three elements, content (what students learn), process (how students make sense of content) , and product (how students demonstrate what they have learned). When using the differentiated approach in the classroom, teachers can offer different approaches in what students learn, how they learn it, and how they demonstrate what they have learned.

A differentiated classroom is one that allows the student to think for his or her self. The teacher does not tell the students everything but rather allows the student to discover concepts independently growing at his or her pace. Lessons are designed to engage growth in all students. Lessons are neither too difficult or too easy for the individual student, but challenging.

In a differentiated classroom, students receive types of instruction, whole - class, group, and individual instruction. When working together these types of instruction as a whole increase student learning. During whole class instruction students gain a feeling of community and common understanding. After whole - class instruction, students may move into group or individual instruction and conclude by sharing what they have learned in a whole - class setting.

## What Differentiated Instruction Is Not?

In a differentiated classroom students are engaged in meaningful movement and discussion. Students are not out of control, misbehaving. Teachers of a differentiated instruction classroom manage many activities simultaneously, correcting any misbehaviors.

In a tradition classroom setting students are in homogenous groups. For example, students may have been divided into the following reading groups, the bluebirds, cardinals, or buzzards. The problem with this grouping is that students are always interacting with the same students, working on similar skills. Student growth is hindered because of this. In a differentiated classroom students are grouped in a variety of ways. Over time, students get a chance to work in many groups with students of all abilities.

**This page was adapted from "How To Differentiate Instruction In Mixed - Ability Classrooms" - Tomlinson 2001**