Differentiated instruction is an educational term that describes a strategy, or methodology of teaching. According to Guide to Online Schools.com, differentiated instruction "...involves offering meaningful education for students according to their learning needs and preferences." (Reference 1) High school students greatly differ in their abilities and understanding. Using differentiated instruction will help them learn at their own rate, in their own way. There are many ways to differentiate instruction. If you are a newcomer, then start slow. Stick with it and you will soon see the class average climb.
The word "station" refers to an area of the classroom that has a specific activity for students to complete. Set up several different stations for the same lesson. The relative concept of the lesson should remain the same, but the experience at each station should be different. For example, if you are teaching high school students about Electricity and Magnetism, one station could have students making a simple electromagnet, another station could require the student to draw a prediction of resulting electric fields, while yet a different station could require the student to calculate power when given the voltage and current. Each station requires a different way of thinking to solve the problem.
In the past, there have been some negative connotation around the educational term "assigned grouping." However, when it comes to high school assigned grouping based on interest, rather than on student ability, this strategy receives high praise from teachers. For example, hand out a list of book titles to the entire class. Titles such as "The Great Gatsby," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Romeo and Juliet," "The Scarlet Letter," and "Lord of the Flies" are perfect high school reading level choices. Allow each student to pick his or her own title, then group the students together according to title, rather than reading ability. As a group, students will read the story, keep a journal and write a book report.
The 4MAT System is a learning model for differentiated instruction. The creator of 4MAT, Bernice McCarthy, claims there are four major learning styles: If? Why? How? and What? If the teacher uses the system with each lesson, each student has the chance to gain knowledge using their own learning style. For example, a high school lesson on the Industrial Revolution should answer the questions If? Why? How? and What? Talk about these questions in a class discussion, then allow the class to choose their own assignment. Assignment idea's could include: In 300 words or more, predict what could have happened if the steam engine hadn't been invented, or draw a timeline and include major events that took place during the Industrial Revolution.
Technology is a handy learning tool in most classrooms. Using technology to help you differentiate instruction is easy and enjoyable for students. High school students should certainly be comfortable enough to work online. There are many online educational games that students can work on during their down time. If you feel confident enough, you may even choose to create a webquest for students. According to WebQuest.com, "A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web." (Reference 4) The teacher can give a handout to students that gives them step-by-step sites to visit, or create their own online guide by creating a website with links.
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