“Differentiated learning describes a set of principles that enable you to meet the broad range of readiness, interests, abilities, talents, and skills in your classroom,” (Kronowitz, 338). All students are different: from what they wear, how they look, and even how they learn. Howard Gardner suggested that all students do not have one intelligence by which they learn, but there are actually eight intelligences that students have and use:
- Visual/spatial: Students excel at spatial relationships and learn visually
- Verbal/linguistic: Students learn best through language arts
- Mathematical/logical: Students demonstrate skill with numbers and problem solving, they think abstractly and analytically, and they do well when instruction is logically sequenced
- Bodily/kinesthetic: Students have good motor skills, are coordinated, and learn best through hands-on activities
- Musical/rhythmic: Students learn through songs, patterns, rhythms, instruments, chants, listening to music, and other forms of musical expression
- Intrapersonal: Students are introspective and in touch with their feelings, values, and beliefs. They need time along to reflect on their learning and how it relates to them
- Interpersonal: Students are outgoing, sociable, people-oriented, and they learn best by working in groups or interacting with others
- Naturalist: Students demonstrate ability to find patterns in the natural world and the plant and animal life therein
- (Kronowitz, 333-335)
Teachers need to get to know their students both on a personal level and how it relates to school. It is the teacher’s job to figure out the way that each student learns best. This does not mean that the teacher must incorporate all eight intelligences into every lesson, but the teacher needs to make sure that all their lessons are not formatted the same way every time. Each lesson should contain at least a few intelligences so as to motivate and engage the students all the more.
Strategies like Response to Intervention are another form of differentiated instruction. It “integrates assessment and intervention within a multi-level prevention system to maximize student achievement and to reduce behavior problems,” (Kronowitz, 348). This method identifies students who are at risk for doing poorly as well as students with learning disabilities. It changes the strength of the intervention in response to how the students respond. It also incorporates research-based strategies such as individual, small- and large-group instruction throughout the day.
Making connections and creating a sense of community in the classroom are important to learn about your students. This helps when you are trying to figure out how to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all your students. Making connections with your students gives you the chance to learn as much as you can about you students. “A teacher really needs to talk with the kids, ask them their opinions on things, sit down with them for a minute or two to see how things are going, and listen to them and find out what they are interested in,” (Kronowitz, 340). The more you show an interest in your students and who they are as individuals, the more they will want to learn and feel accepted in class.
In building the connections with your students, you are also working to create a strong sense of community in the classroom. The students will be encouraged to learn more about each other. Kronowitz writes, “It’s really important for kids to come together and understand and appreciate their differences, and to be willing to help one another succeed,” (Kronowitz, 340). They will also learn about the similarities between each other, and through this, they will develop friendships with each other. Each child has a different role in the classroom, and the teacher should recognize this and support it by encouraging each and every student to feel important.
- Kronowitz, Ellen. The Teacher’s Guide to Success. Boston, MA: Pearson Publishers, 2012. Print.
Through reading the research and seeing for myself firsthand about the individuality of children, I know that it is so important to learn about each and every one of my students on an individual and human level. This plays into learning about the ways that each students learn with regards to Howard Gardner's eight intelligences. I know for myself, I work best under the intrapersonal, logical/mathematical, musical, and bodily/kinesthetic intelligences. This is helpful to me because I am able to relate to the students who learn best in this way as well.
I know that it is just not possible to incorporate all eight intelligences in every lesson that I teach. I do believe however that it is important to use at least a few intelligences in each lesson so more students will be able to feel like they are able to get involved and contribute on a higher level. This is also why it is important to know your students so you know the way(s) they learn best. It also adds more interest and motivation for the students when information is presented to them in different ways rather than the same way every lesson.
Like the research said, I believe there is value in varying groups throughout the day. Large group is a great way to teach a whole lesson to the class. Small groups are also a good way to help build community and friends within the classroom. Here, students can work together in pairs or groups of three or four. They are able to build on friendships and brainstorm their ideas within the group. The groups should always be changing so the students get the chance to work with all the other students. If the groups are always separated the same way, barriers will be created. Small and large groups are important to be incorporated on a daily basis so stronger bonds are built between students and the teacher.
All students learn differently. There is no getting around that. We, as teachers need to be able to recognize the differences between each of our students and try to help them as best we can. I believe that it is so important for teachers to be able to incorporate as many of the different intelligences as possible so the students will get the most out of everything that they learn. The earlier of an age that this starts at, the more engaged and enthusiastic students will be as they progress through the schooling years. Students are the number one priority and teachers should give them the best years of their lives in school.