A classroom full of 20 or more students most probably requires differentiated instruction, but a class of 1 might need differentiated instruction too..
How and why? Well, we cannot expect a child (or person for that matter) to learn every concept in the same way. Let’s say you teach a child to add using beads. You place one bead on the paper and write “1”, draw a plus sign “+”, place 2 more beads on the other side of the plus sign and write “2”, draw an equal sign, then she scoots them all down below the equal sign and says “equals 3” and writes “3”. Correct. Next time she places 1 bead plus 3 more beads but instead of scooting them all together in a pile, she picks up 4 more beads and says “equals 4”. She has added correctly but uses the beads differently. In the first example, she compiled the beads. In the second example, she retrieved new beads to represent the total.
When the same child mentioned above learns subtraction, the beads may not work at all. She might have to use M&Ms and eat the subtracted amount to understand that the amount subtracted is no longer part of the total.
The answer to providing differentiated instruction is to provide some student freedom and choice. If we forced all of the kids in the math class to learn to add using the first bead method, they may not all pick up on the concept of combining to amounts to gain a new total. If we allow the kids to choose how to use the beads and we model a few unique methods, we are enabling the students to learn to add. Moreover, if we pull struggling students aside and allow them to count using their bodies instead of beads, we may reach even more students. See, the big picture is the concept of combining to get a new total, not to get an addition problem correct. When we focus on the concept, application, and value of the learning we will naturally differentiate for our students.
Here at CrossCutting Concepts, we strive to meet the needs of diverse learners in much the same method. We encourage students to collaborate to solve unique problems using STEM. Although the materials we provide are mostly concrete by nature of providing you a kit, students do have freedom in how to apply the given materials to solve a problem.
We have differentiated completely with our new drone kits, challenging students to take control of their own design and learn how to apply math, physical science, and biology to meet the needs of the challenge by allowing the students to design unique drone challenges for themselves and for their classmates.
We fully believe students are capable of achieving great scientific advancements, and we provide the opportunities for students to build skill sets to achieve just that with our STEM kits.