My Inspiration for Differentiation
When I began my teaching career, students with special needs were not mainstreamed. Back in 1999, in South Africa, there were schools for children with specific educational needs and that is where they went. Teachers were not trained to differentiate and they were definitely not expected to differentiate. More than sixteen years later times have changed. For over eight years I taught mainstream classes with a variety of needs and I was trained in how to differentiate and how to make accommodations for every student in my class. Technology has now become an additional tool, that if used correctly, can help ensure that every single student is able to access the curriculum successfully. If used correctly technology can become an extension of the educator and it was during my research that I discovered a variety of ways of how to do this.
In classrooms today, around the world, we have a huge diversity within the student communities, this diversity includes different cultures, religions, economic backgrounds, as well as different learning abilities. Where one student might excel in the Mathematics curriculum he/she may lag behind in the English Language Curriculum. Today there are students in the classroom that have Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and a number of other learning differences. Each of these students needs to be able to access the curriculum. A student with dyslexia cannot read and write as well as other students and therefore teachers need to put actions/plans in place to address their difficulties.
In one classroom you can have such a large difference in levels in reading but yet you have to ensure that those students who are above grade level are being challenged, and that the students at grade level are making progress, and that those students who are below grade level are receiving the support they need. The same is evident in a Math classroom, sometimes the ‘achievement gap’ can be even greater in a curriculum area which requires analytical thinking skills.