Dare to Differentiate: Resource Spotlight

I’m 22, fresh out of education school at my first teaching job. My third period English 11 class is about to walk in. In it, I have 31 students. Twenty of them read well below grade level. The other eleven read on grade level. Fifteen of them are English as a second language learners. Six of them weren’t in class yesterday. Half of them won’t have pencil or paper with them. Yet the lesson I have planned includes the same reading passage for all of them. I didn’t have the time, or the knowledge, to plan anything different. 

This reality may be all too familiar for many teachers. How do you meet all students’ needs when there are so many differences among students?

Differentiate to meet individual student needs

A simple definition of differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual student needs. Differentiation allows students to fully engage in their education and learn actively, rather than as passive recipients of content. And many educators agree that differentiation falls into four different categories:

  • content
  • process
  • products, and
  • learning environment 

So differentiation was the answer, right? I just needed to differentiate the content, and possibly the process, for my students. Tada! Mystery solved.    

But how does one vary the level of content for 31 students? Provide a variety of learning environments? Offer different ways for students to show what they’ve learned? When I was teaching, I struggled with how to differentiate effectively. Early on in my career, I needed professional learning on differentiation. I needed someone to model it for me, and provide me with concrete strategies to implement in the classroom. Luckily, I had several fantastic teacher mentors who did just that. 

Free professional learning resources

So, I want to pass my knowledge and experiences onto you and your colleagues. This Grab and Go Professional Learning session, called Dare to Differentiate, invites participants to clarify and deepen their knowledge of what differentiation is and is not, understand why it’s beneficial, and walk away with concrete strategies for how to differentiate in their classrooms. 

The best part? In the session, you and your colleagues experience differentiation. That’s right, the strategies participants will use in the classroom are the strategies used with them in the session!  What better way to understand how to do something than to experience it yourself? And bonus: the session includes time for participants to plan how to differentiate for a lesson they have coming up. They won’t leave feeling like they don’t have time to figure out how to implement what they’ve learned. 

The Dare to Differentiate Session Facilitation Guide (a Google document) has everything you need to plan a professional learning session on differentiation. It includes:

You can facilitate this session any time during the school year, with any number of colleagues. The session can be used as an introduction to differentiation, or as a refresher throughout the year. Your colleagues will likely enter the session with varying levels of understanding of differentiation, and that’s okay. The session can be adapted and modified to meet the needs of each participant; notes for modifications are included in the facilitation guide. Devoting one to two hours to this session will leave you and your colleagues feeling encouraged, and able to tackle differentiation to create a more active, engaged classroom. 

Remember how, early on in my career, I needed all of this? And I was lucky enough to have fantastic teacher mentors who helped me? This is your chance to be that person for your colleagues.  

If you’d like to meet with a Professional Learning specialist to help you craft the perfect session for you and your colleagues, or a series of PL events,  you can contact us at teachers@opportunityeducation.org

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