I feel that I am pretty fortunate when it comes to differentiating in my classroom because I have good relationships with the parents of my students. I have met all the parents of my students and we communicate on a regular basis through Class Dojo, texting, face-to-face meetings, and emails. I agree with Crowe (2004) when she wrote, “The school-home connection is a two-way street. It’s just as important for me to know parents as it is for parents to know our classroom and my teaching approach. I teach in a large school in a busy community where it can be hard to establish tight connections with families.” I teach in one of many schools in Las Vegas. Many of the parents of my students do not speak English, so I have talked to a parent about teaching me Spanish.
One thing I would like my parents to know and understand is that “a differentiated lesson assigned by a teacher reflects the teacher’s current best understanding of what a child needs to grow in understanding and skill. That understanding is evolutionary and will change as the year goes on, as the child grows, and as parents contribute to the understanding” (Tomlinson, 2001). Like most teachers, I have students who are above grade level, at grade level, and below grade level in my classroom. My above grade level parents want to know how I am extending the learning of their child and my below grade level parents want to know how I am going to give their child the boost needed to get them to be at grade level. This is where explaining differentiation is key. I tell parents that “when learning tasks are consistently too hard, students become anxious and frustrated. When tasks are consistently too easy, boredom results. Both boredom and anxiety inhibit a student’s motivation to learn, and — eventually — harm achievement as well. Differentiated instruction helps teachers avoid student anxiety and boredom that can be evident in one-size-fits-all curriculum” (Foucault, 2008). I think that in the future, I will share the article by Edutopia (2012) with parents. I believe the “Ten Tips To Bring 21st Century Skills Home” would be something many parents are interested in, based on the conferences I had with parents. Many asked what they could do at home to help their child succeed in school. Many of the suggestions foster creativity and higher order thinking, which will help students in school as well.
I think one of the best ways to explain differentiation is to use the example by Stephens (2015) about a one size fits all shirt. Sure, it will fit people who are of average size, but it won’t fit people who are above or below average in size. She states, “Let’s say that I create a practice geared toward proficiency — maybe for students with a B. This practice might be useful for students with B’s or C’s. Clearly, this practice is too easy for students with an A and too difficult for students with a D. By assigning this “one size fits some” practice, I just ignored the needs of the advanced and struggling students” (Stephens, 2015). I think about this mindset and how frustrating it must be for both parents and students. I also believe that it takes a village to raise a child and I will do all that I can to help parents so that their child will be successful in school.
What’s So Good about Public Education in America?.
Retreived January 31, 2016, from Blogspot.com: http://whatssogoodaboutpubliceducation.blogspot.com/2014/03/teachers-and-parents-working-together.html
Crowe, C. (2004, November 01). Wonderful Wednesdays. Retrieved February 03, 2016, from Responsive Classroom: https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/wonderful-wednesdays/
Edutopia.org. (2012). A Parent’s Guide to 21st Century Learning. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from Edutopia.org: http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/guides/edutopia-parents-guide-21st-century-learning.pdf
Foucault, A.-M. (2008). Differentiation Tips for Parents. Retrieved February 03, 2016, from Reading Rockets: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/differentiation-tips-parents
Stephens, C. (2015, September 15). Levels of Understanding: Learning That Fits All. Retrieved February 04, 2016, from Edutopia: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/levels-of-understanding-learning-fits-all-charity-stephens
Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. Alexandria: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD).