Students are unique! Okay, so this may not be the most revolutionary idea out there. So why do our minds go blank when the time comes to walk the walk?
After chatting with a fellow teacher the other day about “differentiated instruction” I was felt sudden panic. How was I “modifying” lesson plans? Was I writing extension activities for each lesson? Differentiated instruction seems like such a lofty pedagogy, how do we know when it is actually taking place.
The only way to really know is to strip it down. What is differentiated instruction in its most austere terms: in short, it is the ability to recognize that every student learns differently. Education is not a one size fits all template.
Wait. This sounds A LOT like Multiple Intelligences. Perhaps the key difference is that while Differentiated Instruction asks teachers to create a “tiered” approach to each concept, Multiple Intelligences assume that all students can perform an activity, express a concept, or demonstrate learning through one of eight intelligences. Often I forget about student aptitudes altogether in an MI classroom, concentrating instead on the incredibly unique ways that each student expresses their ideas.
For example, this week students used their music smarts to write a song about the multiples of numbers. One “village-people-esk” group adorned a fedora (rapper), Viking hat (opera singer), cowboy hat (country) and wig (pop) to drive their song home. Very memorable, so say the least.
Other times, an open-ended question, in response to our science work, has brought incredible responses. When asked to design an experiment that would model the “formation of the earth”, one student wrote about the use of magnets and steel filings to demonstrate the push-pull of gravity and polar magnetism.
Another designed a mobile that revealed the stages of Earth’s cooling stages. Yet another used sand and marbles to demonstrate the effect of asteroids and meteors on the formation of the Earth’s surface.
In math, students were given a sticky note and asked to write one work summarizing their Winter Vacation. After placing them on the white board, I asked them how we could categorize the words, to make it easier to interpret (this was in anticipation of our fractions, ratios and percents unit). While I expected students to come up with a simple tally chart, one student came to the board and created a bar graph (68 percent of the class enjoyed their vacation/ 32 percent did not), another created a pie chart. Other wonderful approaches included: an integer line, a beaded necklace pattern (ratios), a word problem, groupings (multiplication) and an integers visual representation.
When it comes to meeting each student’s needs, I draw on the MI planning chart. I try to mix of lessons as often as possible, one day centering a lesson on kinesthetic intelligences, while on another day centering on musical intelligences. As often as possible I try to access these entry points.