Cultivating excellence

Since 1960

Differentiating, a dynamic practice!

To teach is to quickly become aware of the uniqueness of the thirty or so pairs of big eyes that are in front of us day after day. Each morning, our students arrive with their day’s learning tools, their interests, their strengths and challenges, smiling, ready to dive in and follow us, armed with their pencils and their motivation. But how do we keep them smiling and curious at the same time? This is the quest of every teacher who cares about the well-being and learning of their students. Like an orchestra conductor, the teacher must mobilize resources, approaches and varied expectations with the sole aim of enabling their students to learn, to achieve, to surpass themselves, but above all, to find their own music, their own rhythm. This is pedagogical differentiation. 
Differentiated instruction
In education, there are many paths to learning! Teaching in sub-groups, reading interviews, large group modeling, collaborative work, flipped classroom, etc. The teacher will base their approach on the learning content, on the learner profiles or on the observations they wish to make in order to orient the task or their teaching method. Regardless of which approach is chosen, the teacher will need to consider the range of possible obstacles their students will encounter and determine what support is necessary and appropriate. Not everyone needs the same presence or the same clues to arrive at a mathematical solution, for example. The first few weeks of the school year are therefore crucial for getting to know our students through diagnostic activities and situational exercises to observe personalities and determine similar and compatible profiles.  As you can see, differentiated instruction requires a lot of thought and planning on the part of the teacher, but also a touch of creativity and flexibility. The teacher will be better able to provide students with a variety of sensory objects, tools that promote concentration for the curious, extra learning resources to consolidate, practice further and perhaps even allow the smart ones to go a little further to get their fill. He will also be able to group his students according to different criteria (homogeneous groups that go at a similar pace, groups of compatible strengths and challenges so that everyone finds something to do, etc). They will also know how to use the appropriate media (interactive course, audio recording, multimedia project, etc.) according to the productions and evaluation objectives. 

For a differentiated spelling test!

Let’s now look at how instructional differentiation could be applied within an assessment activity that we have all experienced: the spelling test. 
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Traditionally, the spelling test is read aloud by the teacher and the students write the dictated text (or words) in their notebooks. This method requires that the children all adopt the same rhythm of writing and that they save the rereading for the end. However, one only has to attend a spelling test to see that there are as many writing rhythms as there are students in the class! Although the teacher reads SLOWLY and articulates carefully, their reading will inevitably be interrupted by raised hands asking to repeat what has not yet been said or asking to wait for a few latecomers who are still only at the stage of writing the date. In short, not everyone follows the same rhythm.    In the context of differentiated instruction, the teacher, aware that the needs of their students vary, will offer the opportunity to write and listen to the dictation at their own pace. For expert and fully autonomous students, the teacher may, for example, make an audio recording of the spelling test available for the students to listen to, slow down, rewind and repeat as many times as they need to before turning in their work. During this time, the teacher will have the opportunity to sit aside with a small group of students with similar pace and/or difficulties in order to give them a personalized reading. If they deem it appropriate, they can reduce the number of sentences or words or guide their revision by giving them correction assignments. In this way, the teacher will be able to make a clear judgment on the students’ competence that goes beyond the simple number of correctly spelled words.
This is just one example. Differentiation applies to all subjects, to all academic areas and, as with the conductor, borrows the musicality and colors of the teacher!     What they say on the internet:    http://www.education.gouv.qc.ca/fileadmin/site_web/documents/education/jeunes/pfeq/differenciation-pedago.pdf)
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A few 4th and 5th grade places still available for the 2023-24 school year