The contemporary classroom is significantly more diverse than the traditional one-room schoolhouse. We live in an age where mental abilities, disabilities and learning preferences are increasingly documented and analyzed, making it possible to cater to individual needs. The key to running a successful classroom of diverse learners is "differentiation"—a pedagogy in which teaching reflects student needs and caters to all types of learners. Reading Levels Regular reading assessments help teachers keep track of progress and choose books that are appropriate for each student. If you are teaching your class how to "find the main idea and key details" in a text, you would first introduce the concept with whole-class, direct instruction, and then provide passages at various levels for different students to practice the skill. Using individualized material that is both challenging and appropriate leads to better retention, deeper understanding and the opportunity for growth. Classroom Groups and Centers Many classrooms utilize small groups, cooperative pairs and centers based on students' levels and abilities. This collaborative dynamic leads to discussion and positive interdependence. Literacy centers and math groups with tactile activities leave room for more authentic and personalized assessments. Moreover, group processing and division of tasks can be beneficial for students with all different strengths, and this supports a culture of teamwork in an inclusion classroom. Visual Aids in the Classroom Using images in anything from a social studies article to a science experiment adds another layer of context and makes grade-level content more accessible to different learning preferences. When reading a story, portray the words on the board and provide students with copies to read at their desks while you read aloud. Or, when starting a new unit, display applicable media and videos to accompany the text and lesson. This is particularly helpful for students with attention and processing disorders. Lesson Plan Adjustments Making strategic adjustments in your lesson plans can potentially help a greater number of students. When teaching writing, incorporate multiple graphic organizers and templates. When teaching multiplication, discuss arrays, skip counting, distributive property, standard method and the lattice method instead of just one method. When teaching about animals in the winter, conduct a preview of words that may appear in the text, such as "features," "warmth," "temperature," "hibernation" and "adaptation." Leave the definitions and images on the board while reading the chapter. These little adjustments provide a necessary flexibility and the chance to work toward independence without the overwhelming expectations of standard education.
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