Reading Response #2
Rick Wormeli’s article “Busting Myths about Differentiated Instruction” explores many of the myths that people have regarding differentiated instruction. Wormeli challenges these myths by explaining how differentiated instruction works and how it benefits each student by giving them the greatest opportunity to succeed in school. I chose this article because I was curious about the title, I have heard many opinions about differentiated instruction and I was interested in seeing which ones were “myths” and which ones were actually true. The importance of differentiated instruction is emphasized by many of my professors and I absolutely agree that it is important to have in classrooms; however, I still find it hard to decide how and when to use differentiated instruction, I have always been taught through direct instruction and I want to find a way to move out of this tradition way of teaching. Something that really stood out to me while reading this article was how teachers can use formative assessment to help guide them to differentiated instruction.
Using assessment to guide differentiated instruction means that a teacher can use formative assessment to see where his or her students are needing more help, if the students aren’t understanding something the first time around, the teacher needs to find ways to teach the material differently so that students can see it through a different perspective. This way of developing differentiated instruction is meaningful because it gives teachers a starting point, it allows teachers to look at what their students’ needs are and to base those needs around the way they deliver and teach a lesson.
I think that my biggest problem with differentiated instruction is that I don’t know how to use it; I have a hard time grasping how to instruct in a way that isn’t direct, because I have never really been exposed to any other ways. I remember in my ECS 300 field study, I would always have trouble planning a lesson that wasn’t taught through direct instruction, one day I was forced to change the way I taught because some of my students could not understand what I was teaching. My coop teacher explained to me that I needed to do some revising to the way I carried out the lesson so that it met the learning needs of more of my students, she showed me how to do this by including visuals and allowing for group discussion and hands on learning. Looking back I realize now that she was able to help me because she knew what worked and what didn’t work for her students, she knew their learning styles and how to accommodate them into a lesson.
I believe that the best way to move away from direct instruction is to try and get to know the learning styles and needs of each student and then to form lessons around those learning styles. I plan to use formative assessment to help me differentiate my instruction by always planning for several different ways of assessing my students. If I am constantly assessing my students, then I will be aware of whether or not my students understand what is being taught, if they don’t understand, I will change the way I am teaching something, and then keep that change in mind when planning for another lesson.
We often talk about including and incorporating First Nations perspectives into the classroom and how a teacher who may not know much about the First Nations culture can have a really difficult time doing this. We also talked about how it’s not so much about teaching the culture as it is about using the culture. For example, instead of teaching students that First Nations people use to pass down knowledge through storytelling and oral speaking, we should actually teach our students through storytelling and oral speaking. This article helped me realize that even just by assessing your students’ backgrounds and the ways they might learn at home a teacher can provide more effective ways of teaching. Storytelling and oral speaking are really just other forms of instruction, yet, they complement the First Nations traditional way of passing down knowledge and I think this is really important in both including First Nations perspectives and in including differentiated instruction.
This article really showed me that effective teaching takes a lot of trial and error. A teacher constantly has to revise lessons to better fit the learning styles of his or her students. They need to be able to quickly notice if students aren’t grasping ideas, and they need to be able to make the necessary changes in order for students to understand. This article helped show me that differentiated instruction is a necessity for an inclusive classroom, we are told that now more than ever before, our classrooms will be full of diversity and it is up to us as teachers to teach to each and every student;. Differentiated instruction is a way that a teacher can be sure that all students are being given an equal chance to learn and succeed in the classroom.
Through writing this reading response I have come to realize that differentiated instruction is a lot more than just trying to teach in a different way, it takes knowing your students and how they learn and also what will engage them into becoming active learners. There are many ways a teacher can incorporate differentiated instruction, but for those teachers who are having a hard time with it a good starting point is through the use of formative assessment. A question that I have developed as I read this article was that if we know students learn best through several different forms of instruction why do we see so many teachers and even professors using direct instruction as their main strategy? I plan to read and learn more about differentiated instruction so that I can feel more comfortable using different instructional methods in my own classroom. It’s hard to get away from the traditional classroom and way of teaching so I plan to think outside of the box during my pre internship and really try to explore different instructional methods.