Differentiated Instruction Research Paper

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Differentiated Instruction

Guided Reading

Differentiation defined

Students enter classrooms today with a range of abilities. Additionally, pressures from accountability standards and high-stakes testing have forced teachers to find new ways to reach all of their students. Ankrum & Bean (2008) report that exemplary instructors employ differentiated instruction to meet the needs of their students, stating "teaching was very different in the most effective classrooms from student to student and from occasion to occasion" (p. 136).

According to Anderson (2007) differentiation is not at all a new concept. Citing the example of the one-room schoolhouse, Anderson (2007) explains that differentiated instruction stems from the belief about differences among learners, how students learn, differences in learning preferences, and individual interests. By its nature, differentiation implies that the purpose of schools should be to maximize the capabilities of all students. Anderson states "Differentiated instruction integrates what we know about constructivist learning theory, learning styles, and brain development with empirical research on influencing factors of learner readiness, interest, and intelligence preferences toward students' motivation, engagement, and academic growth within schools." (p. 50).

Elements of Differentiation

Ankrum & Bean (2008) outline points to consider when planning differentiated instruction. These include:


Grouping Formats

Classroom Management


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Length and Frequency of Instruction

Lesson Focus

TOPIC: Research Paper on Differentiated Instruction Assignment

Ankrum & Bean (2008) assert that "The primary consideration in reading instruction should be for the needs and strengths of each child" (p. 138). Assessment is the crucial element to inform instruction specific to students' abilities. Assessment tools that are used to inform instruction should be comprehensive, on-going, classroom based, and easy to administer and interpret. Additionally, teachers should evaluate both word-level and higher-level strategies. Moreover, assessment should be on-going, not a one-shot measure used at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. Finally, Ankrum & Bean (2008) explain that these assessments should be easy to administer and interpret so it is more likely that the busy classroom teacher will conduct the assessment and then use the results to plan instruction.

Small group instruction that varies with the skill being taught is the key to the success of differentiated instruction. Ankrum & Bean (2008) explain that a variety of grouping formats throughout the instructional block, including whole-class, small group, and opportunities for individualized instruction should be employed throughout the literacy block. Curriculum-based, grade-level appropriate skills, and strategies can be introduced to the whole class, ensuring that all children gain the needed exposure to this material. Ankrum & Bean (2008) assert "It is with homogenous, needs-based groups that the teacher can create lessons based on the evidence provided by assessments. Groups may change based on skill or strategy need." (p. 139). However, Ankrum & Bean (2008) add that it is not the grouping arrangement that matters; it is what the teacher does with each group of children that makes the difference.

One of the challenges facing teaching when trying to implement differentiated instruction is Classroom Management. Ankrum & Bean (2008) explain "Management issues create the largest barrier to this model of teaching. It is imperative that teachers find methods to keep all children actively engaged in meaningful literacy learning, while meeting with small groups of individual learners" (p. 140). They provide several approaches to assist teachers in meeting this challenge:

Literacy Centers -- This popular spin-off of learning centers requires children to work independently or in small groups on literacy related activities.

Independent Reading -- Some teachers require their students to read independently as they work with small groups of students.

Independent Response -- It is not uncommon for teachers to require students to practice reading skills or strategies independently through written responses to reading (p. 140).

With regard to materials Ankrum & Bean (2008) provide that the materials used in a reading lesson should be based on the instructional reading level of the students in the group.

An additional point to consider is the length and frequency of instruction. "All students should receive daily instruction in the whole-class lesson. However, struggling students may need to be instructed more frequently than other students in a small group in order to make accelerated progress. Students reading above grade level may benefit from opportunities for independent practice, so they may not need to work with the teacher as frequently. On the other hand, students experiencing difficulties may require additional time and the teacher may need to work in very small two or three person group or one-on-one with them" (Ankrum & Bean, 2008, p. 142).

Ankrum & Bean's (2008) final point to consider is the lesson focus. This involves teachers juggling state standards, local curriculum requirements, as well as meeting the individual needs of their students. "Teachers must attend to the state standards for their grade level, which inform their district's curriculum. Teachers must also weave the required curricular components into their whole group, small group, and individual lessons" (Ankrum & Bean, 2008, p. 143). Teachers must be able to accelerate struggling readers, increase the ability of average readers, and continue to challenge the students who read above grade level.

According to Anderson (2007), "Most important to differentiated instruction are the elements of choice, flexibility, on-going assessment, and creativity resulting in differentiating the content being taught" (p. 50). Teachers determine at the onset of their planning what their students should know and what each child should be able to do at the conclusion of the lesson or unit. When differentiating the content aspect of a lesson, teachers may adapt what they plan for the students to learn or how the students will gain access to the desired knowledge, understanding, and skills. Teachers may differentiate the content by using texts, novels, or short stories of varying reading levels. The teachers may choose to differentiate the content by using flexible grouping, affording students to work in homogenous groups using books on tape or the Internet as a means for developing understanding and knowledge of the topic or concept. Other ways to differentiate the process aspect of a lesson include providing tiers of independent work activities, learning centers, and individualized homework enrichment projects.

Anderson (2007) adds "Differentiating the performance measure or product component of a lesson means affording students various ways of demonstrating what they have learned from the lesson or unit of study. Differentiation of assessments or products may be constructed in various ways by the teacher such as choice boards (with predetermined options), or the use of open-ended lists of potential product option from which students select or contract for their final product. The purpose of the product (regardless of its format) is for the students to recall what they have learned in the lesson or unit. Differentiated products challenge students at all levels to make decisions, be responsible for their own learning, as well as affording them opportunities to demonstrate what they know through products that are representative of their unique learning preferences, interests, and strengths." (p. 51).

Anderson (2007) suggests starting differentiation with the creation of learning profiles which are simple profiles of each student containing pertinent information specific to learning preferences, family structure, favorite hobbies and interests, and other aspects of interests. Teachers may use these individual student profiles to plan flexible groupings and build tiered lessons that address the unique talents and abilities of their students without sacrificing rigorous curriculum standards and performance expectations.

Lewis & Batts (2005) present the following guiding principles of differentiated instruction:

Ongoing assessment

Multiple teaching strategies

Varying group configuration

Emphasis on student strengths

Recognition of learning modalities

Consideration of student interests

Clear criteria (p. 30).

Lewis & Batts (2005) provide the following examples of ways to differentiate instruction:

Flexible grouping -- Teachers group students based on readiness, interests, or learning styles and plan lessons designed to match these students' attributes.

Learning centers -- Centers are stations with a collection of materials that learners use to explore topics or practice skills and can be used at all grade levels.

Independent contracts -- Independent or learning contracts are agreements between a student and a teacher that serve as a guide for what the student needs to learn, process, and do.

Adjusting questions -- Teachers adjust questions in class, on quizzes, tests, and homework based on particular students' readiness.

Thematic units -- Teachers use units that incorporate information from various disciplines integrated into a broad-based theme.

Compacting -- Teachers modify or streamline the regular curriculum so that students do not have to repeat previously mastered material and are allowed to work on more challenging activities.

Independent study -- Students who have mastered content and have a special interest may contract with the teacher for a self-directed project.

Tiered assignments -- Tiered assignments are assignments designed at different levels of complexity according to students' readiness level (p. 28-29).

Guided Reading

According to Iaquinta (2006) one in three children experiences difficulty in learning to read. As reading is an essential skill for academic success, it is important for teachers to meet the needs of all these learners. Guided reading is an approach that incorporates the elements of differentiated instruction in order… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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