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5 differentiation strategies for teaching young students

Kimber PierichFebruary 14, 2023

5 differentiation strategies for teaching young students

Differentiation is an important teaching strategy for ensuring that you’re engaging the diverse range of students within your classroom. It is well known that learners in the early years learn in different ways and at different paces, but with differentiated learning it’s possible to tap into this and make learning relevant and interesting. There are a number of strategies that teachers can use to differentiate their lessons.

Allow for student choice

When it comes to differentiation, students are often the most willing teachers. They know what they like and will often be honest about what they need in order for them to learn. This is why allowing for choice is one of the best ways to differentiate instruction in a classroom.

It allows you as a teacher to provide a more personalized learning experience and gives students an opportunity to express themselves through their choices. It also makes them more engaged in what you are teaching. 

One great example of this is choice boards. This is a perfect way to differentiate instruction by providing students with different resources, texts and activities that they can choose from when learning about a specific topic or unit. You can create this board as an entire class activity or allow individual students to make their own choice boards based on what they are learning in your classroom.

Vary the learning environment

One of the most important things a teacher can do to help their students learn is to provide multiple opportunities for them to engage in different types of learning environments. It’s no secret that each student learns differently, so it’s important that you provide different types of learning environments for them. This can be done by providing multiple opportunities for students to interact with subject matter and content in different ways, such as through discussions or hands-on activities. By providing these kinds of opportunities, you will help your students learn more effectively because they’ll be able to focus on which type of learning environment works best for them at a given time.

Provide ongoing feedback

One of the best ways to differentiate for your students is by providing ongoing feedback. Feedback is different from grading, which you can use as a way to provide feedback as well.

Feedback should be specific, relevant, meaningful and useful for the student. If it’s not, then it might not have any impact on their learning or motivation levels.

The following are some tips on how you can effectively provide ongoing feedback:

  • Don’t wait until the end of the course to provide feedback. It’s important to provide students with feedback as soon as they finish an assignment or activity so they can learn from it and apply that knowledge in future activities.
  • Provide specific feedback. For example, say that a student’s essay is about three paragraphs too long instead of just saying it needs to be shorter. This will help students know exactly what changes need to be made so they can improve their work in the future.

Use a tiered assignment format

When assigning tasks, use a tiered assignment format. Tiered assignments allow students to work at their own pace. They also allow you to differentiate your lesson based on individual student proficiency levels. Tiered assignments can be used as a formative assessment in which the student is given an opportunity for feedback and remediation before completing the final task or project.

Encourage peer teaching

If you’re teaching a group of students and they are all at the same level, try to encourage peer teaching. This can be done in various ways. One way is to provide resources for them to share with each other. For example, if you’re teaching an introduction to algebra class, you might provide each student with 10 problems from previous years’ tests so they can look over their solutions with each other and compare notes on the concepts they struggled with most. 

Another option is to allow them time at the end of class where they can ask questions about something that was confusing or that they didn’t understand well enough during instruction. Students who know more than others about a particular topic can take turns helping those who need help understanding it better. This allows everyone’s learning process to advance at its own pace!

Try these differentiation strategies and watch your students thrive

As you can see, there are a variety of different ways for you to differentiate learning for your young students. When children are engaged in their learning and feel like they have some control over it, they’re more likely to become lifelong learners. Try these strategies in your classroom and watch as every student thrives!

Photo credit: Google Education

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Classroom Management

Better middle school PBIS begins with better implementations

Download your free PBIS implementation guide to access best practices and an implementation checklist to build a better program in your middle school.

Download the guide now