Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Differentiated Instruction and Multiple Intelligences

Your students will bring their personal experiences, backgrounds, and distinct personalities with them every day of the school year. This means that in one classroom, you will be trying to meet a broad range of learning needs, and to successfully integrate individuals within one collective unit. Talk about rigor! Understanding the meaning and implications of Differentiated Instruction can serve you extremely well as you seek and utilize ways to incorporate it. In Differentiated Instruction, a teacher varies the content (what), process (how), or product (demonstration of learning) of instruction to enhance student understanding.

So, when we introduce content to our students, we provide the same information, but we then vary the methods and tools for building students’ understanding based on what we know about their personal experiences, backgrounds, and personalities. We want to reach each learner in the most effective manner possible. This does not mean that we deny anyone the opportunity to see something a certain way; rather, we use what they already know and in what they are interested as starting blocks for engaging learners and encouraging their growth.

One way to differentiate instruction is by incorporating Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences within planning, instruction, and assessment. Gardner’s theory essentially suggests that everyone has given strengths pertaining to how they function most successfully as learners. These strengths may be a result of prior experiences, background knowledge, or interests—further supporting the importance of getting to know each one of your students well. By creating lessons that touch upon diverse learning styles, you make material more accessible to all of your students.

This doesn't mean you have to create 36 different lessons for 36 students. One of my favorite strategies is to use a tic-tac-toe grid for an instructional unit. I create a variety of activities geared toward multiple intelligences, and students choose three to create tic-tac-toe. Instant differentiation and the personal choice builds ownership!

Were you already familiar with this information? What do you think about it? Do you ever use it in your classroom? If this information is new to you, what are your thoughts, based upon your experiences and your students?

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