How To Teach All Levels...In The Same Classroom!

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Do you have diverse learners in your classroom? Are some students way ahead of others? Maybe you have students with special needs or limited English. Now what?
Do you have diverse learners in your classroom? Are some students way ahead of others? Maybe you have students with special needs or limited English. Now what?
Trying to accommodate different ability levels and individual student needs at the same time can seem overwhelming, but there are techniques that can make it more manageable. In this post I’ll give you a few tips to handling a variety of needs in the same classroom. If you have any techniques that have helped you in the classroom, I’d love for you to share them in the comments below! Here are a few tricks that helped me as an elementary special education teacher:

INCORPORATE CENTERS INTO YOUR ROUTINE

This is a no- brainer for teachers in the lower grades, so if you teach pre-k through second grade, then chances are that you’re already using centers. But what if you teach older students? Is it appropriate to use centers with older students? My answer is…YES. How you use centers will completely depend on what is appropriate for your group’s age, interests, and subjects being taught. If I was able to utilize centers while teaching at the college level, then I am confident that you can make it work in your classroom too. What I mean by the word “centers” is really just more than one activity going on at one time. For example, you can provide direct instruction with a small group at a table, while another group completes independent work at their desks, while a few other students do research for an upcoming project on computers in back of the room. Breaking the class down into smaller groups gives you the opportunity to more accurately tailor the assignment to their needs.

 USE FLEXIBLE GROUPING

Grouping students by ability level can help you to provide a lesson better suited to their needs, but it is important to switch up the groups often. Periodically try mixing the groups up by interest, learning style, personal choice, or even randomly so that no student feels “stuck” in any one group. My groups changed weekly and were different according to subject level. In other words, whatever group students were in for reading had nothing to do with their math group. We switched it up regularly so there really wasn’t any one high or low group. The students seemed to enjoy mixing it up and it kept things fresh and interesting for everyone. Give it a try… It isn’t as hard as you think!



OFFER CHOICES

Giving students choices in how they want to learn, allows them to become more motivated and more engaged in the work involved. Provide a variety of assignments that meet the content standard you’re working on. Once students have chosen their lesson task, our job as teachers is to coach them in the right direction. We challenge them, provide assistance if necessary, and encourage them to push further in their learning. 
Do you have diverse learners in your classroom? Are some students way ahead of others? Maybe you have students with special needs or limited English. Now what?



DESIGN TIERED ASSIGNMENTS

Tiered instruction goes hand in hand with centers and student choice. A tiered assignment is basically the same lesson or standard taught with different tasks. When I taught my self- contained students the days of the week and months of the year, I used different activities to address my objective. In addition to our daily circle time activities, I also had my students practice writing the days and months as a morning independent work task. Some students cut and paste the letters, some stamped, and some traced, while others were able to just copy the words without help. All of the students were working on the same standard, but the lesson was modified for their individual needs. 
Do you have diverse learners in your classroom? Are some students way ahead of others? Maybe you have students with special needs or limited English. Now what?
This is just a tiny sample of what is included in my resource. As you can see, I adapted it to fit my students needs. There are also other versions and themes available in my TpT store so check it out and find something that suits your classroom.


All of these activities (including those seen in the photos) are included in my Fine Motor OT Activities: Days of the Week & Months of the Year (NO PREP) Bundle. I also offer a FREE downloadable DAYS OF THE WEEK Cut & Paste Fine Motor Activity SAMPLE chocked full of activities that are ready to go, no prep necessary. Use these resources for independent activities, Do-Now assignments, sub plans, early finisher tasks, daily practice, homework, and more. The activities are already tiered for multiple ability levels and as you can see from my photos, I used them in a variety of ways to suit my student’ needs.
Students will practice fine motor and language arts skills as they cut, paste, trace, match, spell, and write to spell out the days of the week and months of the year. Activities are modified to accommodate a variety of ability levels...perfect for special education or classrooms with diverse learners!

I hope you’ve found my tips on differentiating instruction helpful. If you decide to try one out, I would love to hear how it went in the comments below. If you have any additional tips that might help a novice teacher, please share it with us! Don’t forget to follow my TpT Store for more great resources. You can also find Exceptional Thinkers on Facebook, Pinterest, and of course here on Conversations From the Classroom.

Keep teaching. Keep learning.

- Christy D. from Exceptional Thinkers

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Exceptional Thinkers

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2 comments

  1. Great post!! I have so many different levels in my small group classes and it's definitely a challenge! I often use centers (even with just 5 kids in my groups!) so that I can give each student more individualized instruction.

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  2. Thank you! I think breaking the class into groups makes things so much easier. Once you get the routine in place, the centers practically run themselves and get to focus in on the students more closely. Thank you for sharing your ideas! It sounds like you're doing a wonderful job.

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