Every teacher would love to have a classroom full of students who are all on the same level, learn and progress at the same rate. In the Utopian world this classroom does exist, however in the real world classrooms are filled with children who learn and progress at different rates. The real world scenario could not be more evident than inside of my 1st grade classroom.
I have a large 1st grade class with 5 different reading groups with different reading levels in each group. The reading abilities of the students range from non-readers to students who read 1 year above grade level. Academically my class is an instructional nightmare because there are so many students at different instructional levels. As I sifted through the students quantitative data from iStation and district snap shots, I decided that I needed some qualitative data. This data would come from my classroom observations and daily classwork. The classwork that I gave was differentiated work that I created and Pre-k work that I got from a teacher that teaches Pre-k.
Each student’s instructional level is identified is identified by red, yellow, green or blue. Blue is tier 3 or 2 or more years below grade level, red is 1 year below grade level, yellow is tier 2 or slightly below grade level with accommodations, and green is tier 1 or on grade/above grade level. I know some of you all are shaking your heads and asking how do you keep up with this? There’s a method to this differentiation madness! The students help keep the folders organized. Even though they are in 1st grade they are required to keep track of their morning work and independent practice (small group work) in their colored coded folders. Also, their center work folders are colored coded.
I took over this first grade class in December and I have noticed that my lowest student, who by the way, is a non-reader talks and bothers students less because she has work that she can do that is at her grade level. Also, the the others students have become more engaged during independent work because the work that they are doing is tailored to their individual instructional level.
Differentiation can take on many forms, it can be done during the modeling of a concept through front loading or during the independent practice. No matter how your instruction is differentiated your method must match the madness or shall I say the student’s needs.