As part of the requirements of my EDU 4250 course, I was asked to write two lesson plans that were purposefully, thoughtfully differentiated. “Differentiation” refers to Tomlinson’s model of DI (Differentiated Instruction), a model focusing on adapting a lesson’s content, process, and product in order to better adhere to the growing diversity in classrooms around the United States. The three main components of DI are flexible grouping, continuous assessment, and student readiness– all elements I intentionally reflected upon and implemented into my lesson plan. My two differentiated lesson plans were created for 12th grade World Literature students, but their targets and strengths are undoubtedly different. The first lesson, centering on exploring symbolism in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, emphasizes thoughtful engagement, kinesthetic activities, collaborative learning experiences, and linguistic reflection in order to address the individual needs of my students. The second lesson also draws attention to the significance of student engagement in the learning process, but focuses more on real-life application of the lesson’s content, the educational power of communal reading, and ongoing, self assessment.
To put it simply, differentiation is time-consuming, arduous, and incredibly complicated. It took me hours to revise my lesson plans in such a way as to meet the individual, specific needs of my students. It took me countless attempts to create and establish classroom modes that would appropriately assess student readiness, as well as provide adequate opportunity to modify my lesson–in the midst of teaching– so that it would adhere to the varying levels of readiness. On top of all this, the process of differentiation also forced me to think, rethink, and rethink several more times the purpose and value of each and every one of my lesson’s learning experiences. I painstakingly examined and altered every detail I could think of so as to effectively reach my respected students. Yet, I enjoyed every minute of it! I loved the fact that differentiation puts students before teachers, before curriculum, and before everything else. Differentiation, at least in my minimal experience, is the truest form of student-based teaching. Every thought and decision made in the preparation of lessons is intentionally, systematically executed in the light of the students the lesson will teach. And with the growing diversity–whether religious, economic, cultural, or sexual– of the modern day classroom, differentiation is a necessity! We as teachers must be aware of the individual needs of each and every one of our students, and appropriately construct our curriculum in such a way as to fulfill those needs. We must treat every student with the amount of respect, appreciation, and love they deserve. Only when we do this will we be able to confidently call ourselves successful teachers.
As you will be able to discover when reading the rationales at the bottom of both lesson plans, I have spent a great deal of time and effort reflecting on several standards. However, I will select one in particular for the purposes of this rationale. This artifact demonstrates my competency of Principle H1, which states, “Teacher-candidates plan and/or adapt learner-centered curricula that engage students in a variety of culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies.” This is because the process of differentiation, at least the process of DI I went through with these lesson plans, is the clearest form of “learner-centered curricula” that one may achieve. Differentiation takes into account EVERY student’s specific needs, levels of readiness, and capacity for academic achievement so as to produce the most effective teaching practices possible. The revisions I completed on my lesson plans were all part of my ongoing attempt to engage students in “culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies” for learning.