Thursday, October 25, 2012

The power of differentiation

"Everyone is different” is a well-known proverb. This applies to the young minds in classrooms too. Teaching and learning in the classroom is most effective when there is differentiated instruction. Differentiation basically means providing a learning environment to each student that is best suitable to him/her. This sinks very well with the student centric pedagogy of the PYP. The teacher designs the lessons in such a way that every student's needs are met (Differentiating process). Even the level of teaching differs based on the level of understanding and competence (Differentiating content). Differentiation could also means having different expectations from different students (Differentiating product). 

Here is a simple example: A couple of days back, I asked my students to read an article based on their unit. I gave articles to each student based on their level of understanding of (building) concepts and reading competence. The next day, the students who got the same article sat together and brainstormed the main ideas - simple, yet effective.

When the students were conferring their ideas, I went around making observations. The most interesting part for me was the way the ESL students worked together. There are two of them in my class - each being at a different level. In fact, one of them can barely understand or speak any English. In the video, you can see how the student who has better understanding of the content is trying to explain the same to his companion. It made the partners feel very comfortable with each other. All of a sudden, I could see a flow of confidence in them! As a result, the one who is always too shy to work with others in the class was seen contributing to the mind-map. It was truly a humbling experience for me as a teacher.

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