Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Differentiated Instruction: What Is It?

08/22/2016 | Published by: Kelly Mastin

Everyone is talking about differentiated instruction (or DI). What is all the hype? Is DI really that big of a deal? Does it offer a more flexible and successful way for our children with disabilities to learn and retain information?

It is and it can.

DI sometimes makes the difference in whether a student learns and remembers the material or doesn’t. It is often DI that causes learning to take place in the classroom.

Many special education circles are discussing the importance of DI in the classroom.  DI is an approach to instruction where the curriculum and presentation of information is tailored to the student rather than the student trying to match the curriculum.

Picture the typical class lesson as maybe including some lecture, note taking, some short answer responses, and an essay. The typical exam includes 20 multiple choice questions and a few short answer questions.

In contrast, a teacher who is differentiating instruction would have a class that varies greatly from the lecture/answer questions class lesson structure. A teacher utilizing DI would include some role play one day. Another day, the class might create a comic strip. One student might be making an interactive presentation. Another group of students might be working on a painting or writing poetry to show understanding. Some days would be group work. Some would be working in pairs.

A classroom that utilizes differentiated instruction looks different each day. The idea of DI recognizes that different students learn in different ways. The idea of DI also recognizes that differentiating the classroom activities involve different parts of the brain and different emotions of the students. DI allows students to interact creatively with the curriculum, which leads to longer retention and better understanding. A classroom that uses DI also more easily includes students of all abilities.

Some students learn better by putting the material to song. Others learn while dancing or moving around the room. Some students need to build whatever it is they are learning about. Still others will learn best by researching topics and discovering the answers on their own. The idea of differentiated instruction recognizes each of these learning styles as legitimate.

Teachers are required to use differentiated Instruction techniques and attend training on DI each school year. They are encouraged to utilize these strategies more and more. DI is often written into the IEP.

If you have a child who struggles in classrooms that are heavy on lecture, then maybe request more differentiated instruction. Request that it be written into your child’s IEP. It might lead to some success.

A parent can also keep in mind the strategies and reasoning of differentiated instruction at home. If your child isn’t responding to your lecturing and instruction, then maybe try approaching your child in a different way. Being creative with instruction may bring a more desired result. Differentiating your communication with your child might open doors to more cooperation and success.

For more on DI, go to the Arc of Texas’ website. For additional information on education, go to the Education and Schools section of this website.


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