March 4

Baby Steps

babysteps We have all been to workshops and conferences where the speaker gives a glorious, revival-style  presentation on differentiated instruction. We sit there thinking, “Wow, this is fantastic!” Then, we  imagine how in the world we were going to differentiate for 25 – 30 students, six times a day, and  we say, “Wow, this is a fantasy!”

My classmates in UNE’s Differentiation Theory and Strategies course said the same thing at first.  “Overwhelming,” was the most frequent response. I have only 30 students in my special education  classes, but the whole idea of differentiated instruction seemed like a major life change–more  daunting than dieting and exercise.

Two weeks into the course, we saw the light. While reading the introduction to Differentiated Assessment Strategies: One Tool Doesn’t Fit All (Chapman and King, 2005), we discovered that it’s O.K., even encouraged, to “Begin on a limited basis and expand your use of the tools as you grow more comfortable.” Do one unit or one class only, the authors advise. That seems obvious now, but after a good three or four days total of my life have been spent in professional development, this is the first I’d heard of taking it easy.

One step at a time? My colleagues and I assumed that differentiated instruction was all or nothing. The only ones who did differentiate at my school were the type-A, super-teachers, the ones who are so highly organized they can see the tops of their desks at all times. This is not me. I forget what color my desk is painted. But, one step at a time, maybe I can do this–one differentiated instructional day at a time.

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Posted March 4, 2009 by Deborah Kerwood in category Differentiated Instruction, Lesson Plans

About the Author

Currently I am an intervention specialist for grades 9-12 in a small, rural school district. I created a learning center during my first five years. Then I taught for two years in Cairo, Egypt. Now, I am back in my first classroom, and the learning center continues to grow. In addition to the students who have individual education plans, I serve students who are at risk of failing or dropping out. I have focused my professional development studies on educational technology and phonics instruction.

3 thoughts on “Baby Steps

  1. mrraines

    Thank you for this blog! It is so easy to get overwhelmed with so many resources, but taking one step at a time is the key to success!

  2. mari nosal

    “one step at a time” – a strategy all educators should use. Like everything else, differentiated instruction is trial and error, and time consuming. Differentiated instruction techniques must be modified for new groups of students as non come to the classroom with a handbook and each child will have different temeraments and needs. Differentiated instruction must be modified as the class’s learning needs change throughout the year as well. Many individuals have the misnomer that differentiated instruction means differentiating for certain students. The idea is to differentiate so every child in the room has an equal opportunity to learn a subject taking their individual learning styles and needs into account. Work is NEVER dumbed down. Considering the outcome and goals – differentiated instruction is well worth the time and effort.


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