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How to Make Differentiation Work in Your Classroom

Posted by Hannah Alvarez on April 5, 2018 at 12:59 PM

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Today’s classrooms are increasingly academically diverse.

According to a survey of 20,000 public school teachers by Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

  • 73% of teachers report that their classrooms have students with reading levels that span four or more grade levels
  • 72% have SpEd students in the general classroom
  • 69% have students working 2 or more levels below grade level
  • 60% have students working significantly above grade level
  • 52% have English Language Learners in the classroom.

As a result, it’s extremely difficult for teachers to reach every student effectively. With such a wide range of needs in the classroom, students above grade level often get bored while students below grade level get left even further behind.

That’s exactly why differentiating instruction has been growing in popularity in recent years. It’s hard not to love the idea of teaching every student at their own level! In a perfect world, every student would be able to learn and practice material at an appropriate challenge level and in the way that works for them.

However, it’s a major challenge for many schools and districts to successfully implement differentiation. Teachers, who already work an average of 50+ hours per week, simply don’t have enough time in the day to manually prepare individual lessons for every level of learner.

In order for differentiation to realistically work, teachers need the right resources and support.

The tool for the job: a differentiation platform

Software like Front Row can take the additional work of creating individual lessons out of the equation. Instead of manually preparing lessons for each level, a differentiation platform makes it easy to deliver the right lesson to each student. Front Row automatically calculates each student’s level in reading and math so they can practice and grow at their own level—without the teacher needing to do any additional work!

Teachers have the ability to effortlessly align the differentiation platform with the school’s curriculum standards. Instead of teachers having to search for lessons that not only challenge students appropriately and match curriculum standards, Front Row automatically aligns with the school’s state standards.

Finally, Front Row provides plenty of data so teachers and administrators can pinpoint areas of need at the class and individual levels. As students make progress, educators can track growth at a glance. Teachers never need to do manual work to determine how their class is doing—all of the information they need is right in their dashboard.

The next step: support from administrators

While individual teachers can absolutely differentiate instruction all alone, it’s most effective when all classrooms in the school (or the district!) are on the same page with differentiation. This requires a bit of coordination and communication, but schools and districts that fully buy into differentiation find that it makes a huge difference.

The secret ingredients for success are openness to technology and a training plan.

While different schools naturally have different technological capabilities, you don’t need a very high-tech classroom to use a differentiation platform. In fact, the only things that are needed are a few laptops or iPads in the classroom in order in order to use Front Row!

For the differentiation plan to work across multiple classes or schools, all teacher should learn the basics of using the differentiation platform. Some schools host PD training days, whereas others attend Front Row training webinars or have experienced teachers train their peers. No matter how the training happens or how formal it is, it’s important for administrators to align expectations with teachers so that everyone is on the same page.

Extra resources to help you make differentiation a reality

To give you some extra support, here are some resources to check out!

 


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