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Why You Should be Differentiating in Your Classroom

Differentiated instruction is such an important aspect of a successful classroom. In any grade, there is always a range of students’ capabilities. Some students flourish in some areas and need support during others. Some students need hand-holding throughout all subjects and others need a challenge. Differentiation can give students the extra support or challenge they need to never stop learning and never give up.

Do you have students ranging in levels and capabilities? You need to start differentiating in your classroom. Read here to find out why.

Differentiation: An Overview

By definition, differentiation is the “development from the one to the many, the simple to the complex” – Merriam Webster dictionary.

When teachers differentiate instruction, they tailor the lesson to the students’ needs by taking a concept they want their students to learn and providing support to lower students or a challenge to higher students.

Helping your Struggling Students

Your struggling students benefit a ton when you differentiate instruction because they are the ones who need extra help. They’re the kids who seem to be lost, don’t know the instructions, or guess to try to get by. There’s nothing wrong with this type of student, they just need you to hand-hold a little more.

How to help your lower students

  1. Model more than you would for the average student
  2. Do more examples together
  3. Work in a small group (with students at a similar level)
  4. Take the content and make it simpler
  5. Make it hands on

Differentiating in the Classroom

Challenging your High Students

Your high students can greatly benefit from differentiating instruction because they need a challenge to continue to grow. These are the kids who are raising their hands, know what to do before you tell them and could easily get bored because they already know everything you’re going to say. These kiddos need a push to reach a higher level.

How to challenge your high students

  1. Give higher level thinking assignments
  2. Talk less, model less, give less examples – set them free to work on their own
  3. Work in a small group (with students at a similar level)
  4. Let them be helpers to students who have trouble – sometimes students learn more from peers
  5. Make it hands on

Differentiating in the Classroom

When to Differentiate

Differentiating is tough, I’m not gonna lie. Taking a concept and splitting it up so it’s taught at all students’ levels seems like a lot of work and honestly, it is. That’s why I’ve chosen to focus on differentiating during reading and math.

 

My lower school team uses guided reading as a way to teach reading. I learned this teaching strategy when I got my credential so I was familiar and comfortable when I started teaching kindergarten. If you have a strong program (we use Fountas and Pinnel) and materials then it’ll be simple enough. Now, guided math is a different beast. This is my first year using guided math and I am just starting to get the hang of it. (That’ll be another post for another time.) What I’m learning this year while using a guided math is to differentiate by tweaking the curriculum program we have so I’m not making more work for myself.

 

Differentiating is such a magical tool that can really help students grow and flourish if you put the time in to set up a system, create the lessons and work with your kiddos in small group settings.

 

Do you differentiate in your classrooms? What tips would you give a beginning differentiator?

Differentiating in the Classroom

Similar Posts

Guided Reading: The Ins and Outs

Guided Reading Groups: How to Set up Your Groups in the Beginning of the Year

Classroom DIY: Guided Reading Caddies

More to come on Guided Math!

 

Projects: An Alternative to Homework

Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class.

Calling all teachers: do you give homework? I’ve been giving weekly packets since I became a kindergarten teacher 4 year ago. I do like that while students are doing their homework, they are practicing what we’ve been learning in class and are given an opportunity to show their parents what they’ve learned or what they struggle with. However, I feel that students should be exploring the world and using their hands to learn instead of completing worksheet after worksheet. That’s why this year, I’m sending home monthly projects.

Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class.

Monthly Projects

Monthly projects are given in place of one of my weekly homework packets. They are designed to reinforce certain skills or concepts we’re learning but in a hands on way and so parents get involved. After each project, students present to their classmates about what they did and what they learned. It’s so precious to see kindergarten students get excited about their learning and put on their grown up voices to share what they did with their friends.

Projects By Theme

I created these projects to go along with a theme depending on which month the project is assigned in. For example, this September, my students completed an “All About Me” project so we could get to know each other on a deeper level.

This chart shows the name of the project, theme and what content area students are working on while doing the project.

Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class.

Projects and Family Involvement

What I love most about projects is that they involve my students’ families. In our “All About Me” project, parents helped their child by finding pictures of them as a baby or as a family. During the “Great Candy Investigation”, families worked with their child on different activities revolving around candy. This type of “homework” is more engaging than the typical pencil and paper work. It’s something students will remember as they grow older. They won’t remember the worksheet, they’ll remember the activity.

Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class.

Resources

My Monthly Projects Resource is a growing bundle, meaning if you purchase now, you get a deal because it’s priced low and as I add more projects to the resource, the price goes up. Check out my Monthly Projects Resource here.

Or check out the Monthly Projects I’ve already created through clicking the pictures!

Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class. Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class. Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class. Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class.

Do you send home projects in your classroom? What types of projects would you and your students enjoy?

The Benefits of Morning Work

Each morning after circle time, my students go to their tables for morning work. I believe making time for morning work each day is so important in kindergarten because it serves as routine, reinforces weekly learning and promotes independence.

Benefits of Morning Work

1. Routine

Having a solid routine gives students the ability to be successful because they know what to expect. Every single day, students in my room know that we will begin at the carpet for our morning circle, then we’ll go to our tables and complete the morning work. Our morning work focuses on language arts and math skills that we have learned earlier in the week or in the prior week. Although the worksheets and skills change, the directions and activities stay the same. This creates routine in the worksheet and promotes independence.

2. Independence

Believe it or not, kindergarten students can be independent. By creating an expected routine and modeling the different activities on the morning work, students learn exactly what they need to do. Before you know it, they don’t need you to model or read the directions! Morning work can give students the confidence to feel independent in other subjects and in other areas of the classroom.

Benefits of Morning Work

3. Reinforce Learning

The biggest and most important aspect of morning work is that it reinforces weekly learning. The morning work that my students complete follow along with the skills we learn in our language arts program as well as skills learned in math. In the beginning of the year, students work on finding and matching letters, sounding out words and counting. By the end of the year, they are circling nouns, correcting sentences and adding and subtracting. Morning work is a great opportunity to see how your students are retaining the skills learned in language arts and math.

Kindergarten Morning Work Bundle

Check out my Kindergarten Morning Work Bundle that you can use for your entire school year! This bundle comes with six units, which is broken down into six-weeks per unit, one sheet of morning work per day.

Morning Work Bundle

What benefits do you find in having students begin the day with morning work?

Circle Time: What does it look like in kindergarten?

Each morning, the first thing we do is come to the rug for circle time. I find that starting with circle is a great way to start the day because it is a routine that students know well and sets our day up right away for the learning ahead.

Circle Time Routine:

As students come into the classroom and put their stuff away, I play a good morning song. Students know that once the song ends, they need to be at the carpet ready for circle.

Calendar

To begin, we start with the months of the year song. We discuss what month we are currently in, which month it was before and what month it will be after.

Then, we sing the days of the week song. After the song ends, I choose a student to tell us what day it is today. Next, we discuss the date and I put the calendar piece on the calendar. Students repeat the full date (example: Today is January 25, 2017).

The calendar helper comes up and moves around the days of the week cards. The calendar helper is the leader during this part of circle and says what day it is, what yesterday was and what tomorrow will be. The rest of the class repeats after the calendar helper.

Example:

Calendar Helper: “Today is Wednesday”
Class Repeats: “Today is Wednesday”

Calendar Helper: “Yesterday was Tuesday”
Class Repeats: “Yesterday was Tuesday”

Calendar Helper: “Tomorrow will be Thursday”
Class Repeats: “Tomorrow will be Thursday”

    

Place Value

After calendar is over, our place value helper comes up and adds one straw to our place value chart. This helper also changes the days in school card and announces what day we are on in kindergarten. I love this portion of circle because it reinforces place value and we discuss making bundles. Students love when we get to make a BIG bundle on the 100th day of school!

Weather

Once we’ve discussed what day of school it is, we sing a weather song. After the song is over, the weather monitor comes up and changes the weather and temperature cards. They announce to the class what the weather is today.

Letter of the Day (Beginning of the year)

In the beginning of the year, we have a letter of the day. During this time, I introduce the letter and we watch the Zoophonics video (just that letter and the previous letters we’ve learned). I like the Zoophonics program because it discusses the letter, sound and makes a movement for students to kinesthetically connect to the letter.

Circle Time Materials

Songs

In the above sections, I’ve linked the songs I play. I put these on a SmartBoard lesson with a picture and we sing them as we get to that part in our circle time.

Circle Time Set

I’ve created a circle time set of the posters and all the cards you’ll need to set up your own circle time. There are three versions: a bright colors theme, jungle theme and a black and white ink saver.

What circle time routines do you have in your classroom?