Saturday, March 08, 2014

Differentiated Instruction in Reading: Something for Everyone

No two children learn the same way. Some like a quiet environment while others prefer a buzz. Some can sit still for a long time while others need to move around. Some prefer group work while others prefer partner work and others prefer to work alone. Howard Gardner sums this up well in his theory of Multiple Intelligences.

If you apply the same teaching strategy over and over again, you can be assured that you will be meeting the needs of a handful of students all the time. If you change it up and offer variety in your teaching strategies, you can be assured that you will reach all of your students at least some of the time. And you will have their attention because they will always be wondering what exciting activity is coming up next.

Differentiated reading instruction just makes sense. In any classroom you will find a group of kids who are interested in different kinds of books, who read at different levels, and who respond to books in different ways. Some have mastered a wide range of reading comprehension strategies, while others struggle to make meaning from what they read.

So what is the point of teaching them all the same thing? Some need explicit instruction and guidance in reading and others need very little direction before they settle into the cozy book nook and read independently. As children move along the gradual release of responsibility continuum, they start to need less modeling, less guided reading, and more time to read and respond to different texts. This frees up the teacher to focus on the ones who need more structured reading instruction, which could take the form of shared or guided reading or even group work.

A great example of this differentiation can be found in a teacher's guided reading program. She may have five groups that she sees each week, but she may schedule more time with the groups that need more consistent instruction in specific strategies. If she sees two groups per day, her breakdown might look something like this for a ten day cycle:

Group 1: 10 times/cycle (daily)
Group 2: 5 times/cycleGroup 3: 2 times/cyckeGroup 4: 2 times/cycleGroup 5: 1 time/cycle

Other ways to differentiate reading instruction include:
  • offering a wide variety of books in the classroom library (levels, fiction vs, non-fiction, authors, themes, book lengths, etc.).
  • providing choice for responses (journals, skits, letters, etc.).
  • incorporating technology into classroom activities (listening centres, recording devices, blogs, etc.).
  • varying the groups for centre activities.

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