Friday, May 11, 2012

Two Essential Questions in Differentiation:

What is "fair?"
Does fair always mean "the same?"

“Good afternoon," the receptionist greets you. “We’re preparing for your root canal.” “Oh no,” you quickly reply. “I’m just here to have my teeth cleaned!” “Well, I’m sorry but today is our root canal day. Everyone who comes in the office today gets a root canal. That’s only fair!”

It seems many people have the impression that ‘fair’ most assuredly means ‘the same.’ When needs are different, however, fairness has quite a different interpretation.

The idea of fairness is embedded deeply in our culture. Most people interpret being fair as doing the same thing in the same way for everyone. However, in a differentiated classroom being fair doesn’t always mean "the same." Fairness in school does not mean giving everyone the same assignment to complete within the same time period. Instead, it means looking at each student's needs and learning goals, and planning ways to meet those goals in a way that is most appropriate for that student.
You, your students, their parents, and the administrators at your school must all believe in this concept of fairness in order for differentiation to be successful. Because our students and their various learning needs are so different, the necessity for differentiation is obvious. All teachers would like to accommodate each child and meet the diverse needs they have. On a practical level, teachers look for workable strategies that can help them differentiate instruction in a variety of classroom settings.

There is no one magic strategy that works for every teacher in every school with every child. Successful Teaching in the Differentiated Classroom, by Carolyn Coil, focuses on specific practical strategies that you can use to differentiate the curriculum, instruction, and assessments in your classroom. Take a look at the book, decide which strategies and techniques will work best in your classroom with your students. 

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