This reading response paper will discuss the article I read titled “Meeting the Needs of All Students through Differentiated Instruction: Helping Every Child Reach and Exceed Standards” by Holli M. Levy. I chose this article because the title of the piece stood out to me. I feel as though many teachers don’t push their students to exceed the standards; they often encourage them to simply meet the standards. Since my minor is Special Education, I feel confident with the idea of differentiated instruction although I am worried in the classroom this might look quite different than what I have been taught. I feel as though I have benefitted greatly by learning about Special Education and hope my fellow students will also benefit from their one Special Education class they are to take. I am confident as to how to include my new knowledge into every classroom I am in to facilitate a better outcome for all of my students.
The main idea of the article was that differentiated instruction is easier than one would think. One quote I loved was “the mountain she has to climb is not insurmountable”. Throughout my education journey I have learned that nothing is impossible, as teachers we will have our friends, family and most importantly other classmates or colleagues to go to for support. One idea of the article that I liked was that many teachers have lower standards for their students with special needs. I appreciated that being recognized because I feel that is very true. Perhaps it is because many teachers feel unsure of what their expectations should be and unclear on how to “deal” with a student with special needs. Hopefully with time teachers will have higher expectations of their students with exceptionalities and encourage them to go above their expectations.
By allowing children choice in their activities or assessment we are already differentiating instruction in a way. By allowing them the opportunity to learn in a way that fits them best or by encouraging them to show case their work in a variety of ways we are telling our students it is okay to be who you are. School shouldn’t be conforming students to a norm or assimilating them. One quote from the article I loved was “Why would we want to limit them to the confines of the curriculum and standards when they can go much further?” I question how we can continue with curriculum and let teachable moments pass by. Hopefully as my career progresses I will be able to understand which teachable moments should be over looked or came back to a different time. Another quote that stood out to me was “We have to adjust our teaching style to reflect the needs of our students.” Amen! Although it may be a challenge at times, I hope as a teacher I will be able to acknowledge that and teach my students in a way that is meaningful and relevant to them.
My ECS 410 class is focused on assessment and I feel assessment is one area of teaching I don’t have a great grasp on. Hopefully by the end of this semester I will feel more confident in assessment and evaluation. This article said “If we do not know where we are, how can we get to where we are going?” and in my ECS 410 class the instructor says “If you don’t know where you want to go, how will you get there”. Essentially they both are dealing with the same thing, one is dealing with pre assessment and one with the goal of assessment. Relating back to pre assessment, I realized as I wrote this reader response, many of my teachers or university instructors have used many pre assessment techniques with me such as KWL, what I know, what I want to know, what I learned, without me even understanding what or why they were doing it. It is comforting that pre assessment can be so laid back and unnoticeable.
The article also provided examples of how to group students for instruction. The examples were through special needs, learning styles, interests of heterogeneous grouping. My only concern is regarding grouping students with special needs. I feel that isn’t very inclusive and it creates a barrier between the mainstream students and students with special needs. In my opinion, I would feel much more comfortable grouping students heterogeneously then to a small group if needed. I believe through grouping students with special needs, you are risking the possibility of lowering your expectations of these students. When I reflect back on high school, I remember a time where my grade 12 English teacher allowed us to choose the book we wanted to study and do that in a small group. I appreciated her creativeness and the opportunity she gave us to explore something that was of interest to us. Even though we had this choice, we were still able to follow the curriculum and we were much more interested and willing to learn.
One “ah-ha” moment I had during this piece was thinking about differentiated learning for students who are gifted. I tend to only think about differentiated instruction for those students that are struggling in school. I don’t think often enough about those students who need a challenge and who will be very successful in school. I understand the importance of equitable education and ensuring all students are reaching their potential.
In conclusion, as a teacher I believe it is my job to take a student as far as they can go with their learning. Differentiated instruction is one way to ensure all students are learning in a way that they want to be taught. Differentiated instruction can be quite simple when it is done correctly. By having a variety of assignment options or a variety of assessment tools, we are better able to understand our students and facilitate learning. Through differentiated instruction, we are also able to encourage inquiry and encourage our students to grow and develop as lifelong learners. Throughout this semester, I hope to have more tools to use in the classroom on differentiated instruction and also assessment strategies. As a whole, I feel I have reflected on this article and this article has brought new ideas. This piece has also shown me strategies I can use in my future classroom and how I can create an equitable learning environment for all my students.
****Reflection & Commentary****
Q How might you address your own need to learn more and gain confidence in assessment?
Throughout this semester I have taken a course called ECS 410 Assessment and Evaluation. I believe I have grown substantially after taking the course. I will post my final portfolio for viewing. As a whole, I believe I feel much more comfortable with assessment once I had a better grasp on terms. I still have many questions as seen in the portfolio but I believe that I will grow professionally throughout my first new years teaching and understand how to make assessment and evaluation my own.