To develop an inclusive classroom, differentiation must occur. Differentiation is the concept of responding to the needs of every student by integrating different levels in a lesson plan. A classroom is filled with diverse learners, where no two students will learn in the exact same way. Stevens-Smith (2020) explains that every aspect of instruction is able to be modified, Stevens-Smith also adds that the variations in learning from an individual or group perspective are exceptionally complex. Although differentiation is necessary for student success, responding to the large range of needs of a classroom of mixed-ability students has been one of the biggest challenges for teachers (Konstantinou-Katzi et al., 2013). Differentiation is crucial in every classroom to avoid poor outcomes and school failure (Konstantinou-Katzi et al.). Understanding that my classroom will be filled with mixed-ability students that are all working at different levels is key for achieving an inclusive environment. I have purposely planned for different levels of work, helping to scaffold students since some are working well above or below the grade level according to the curriculum. By acknowledging the wide range of student needs that are present, my students can feel confident that no matter what level they may be at, their learning is being targeted.
Since diversity is inevitable in education, it is essential that educators attempt to plan for the range of learners they will teach. A way in which a teacher can do this is to acknowledge the different learning styles children encompass. From one student to another, their learning style will look completely different and as explained by Churchill et al., (2018), individual learning styles should be taken into consideration when planning. It is not possible to target every learning style in every lesson, however it is still important to incorporate a range of activities that aim to benefit all students. Motivated by this, I have made sure both of my lessons provide a variety of learning tasks that target different learning styles to provide each learner with an opportunity to excel. In both lessons, teacher instructions are both verbal and written for the aural and visual leaners, and in lesson one the main activity is student choice, providing more options for students to work in the manner that suits them best.
Alongside this, incorporating collaborative tasks as well as individual work is another way to improve student learning. Collaborative learning is the use of combining mixed gender, age and ability students in a group to complete a learning activity. Moreover, it has been identified as one of the High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) to support teaching and student learning (Department of Education and Training, Victoria 2017). With this in mind, I have incorporated elements of cooperative learning in my lessons, as I believe it maximises learning when implemented properly and at the right time. Specifically, I have used ‘think, pair share’ moments in each lesson, and a group activity to enhance socialisation, and to practice giving and receiving constructive feedback and being a good team member.
Children often have a range of physical environment needs that should be met in order for their learning to flourish. In fact, Tomlinson (2014) believes that the learning environment directly impacts student achievement. Typically, an optimal physical learning environment comprises of lots of colour and visual aids around the room, minimal noise during working and thinking times, and a safe and nurturing atmosphere with appropriate resources. As Churchill et al. (2018) explains, “before learning can take place, students’ basic needs must be met” (p. 279), highlighting the importance of a child’s learning environment to their schooling outcomes. Many students learn best when movement is part of their routine and so allowing students opportunities to engage in physical classroom activities and moving around the room can be beneficial to their learning. Similar to a child’s environment, they should also be exposed to diverse resources. Students need to participate in different activities that require a range of resources to inspire, engage and support them in their learning journey. In lesson plan one, I have incorporated technology by having students complete a research project where they have the freedom to explore the internet for quality information, images and videos on a chosen country. Resources such as digital technologies are excellent in developing engagement for students and building technology and creativity skills.
Ultimately, creating an inclusive classroom is vital in supporting students and helping them reach success. As explained by Carolan & Guinn (2007), “diversity is a gold mine” (p. 44). Carolan & Guinn (2007) also add that the best way to see diversity thrive is to match teaching to student needs. Differentiation, although difficult for educators to implement at times (Konstantinou-Katzi et al., 2013), is key to supporting diversity and ensuring needs of every child is being met. Through a range of strategies like the ones aforementioned, I can assist students in achieving their own individual goals in ways that works best for them. By respecting the multitude of differences of learners in the classroom, I have the best opportunity of tailoring the learning environment to see diversity thrive and build an inclusive classroom.
To demonstrate my understanding of differentiation, I have created two lessons for a grade 3 classroom that underpin inclusivity and modify tasks to meet learner needs. Below are the curriculum areas, learning intentions and success criteria chosen.
|Geography / Levels 3 and 4 Geographical Knowledge: Diversity and significance of places and environments
|-We are learning to research a chosen country of interest to us. -We are learning to discover where other countries are in relation to Australia. -We will be able to share our findings in a chosen format (poster, PowerPoint, oral presentation or diorama).
|-I can locate my chosen country on a map or globe and describe 3-5 facts about this country. -I can use my time wisely so I can present my information by the deadline.
|English / Level 3 Literature: Examining literature
|-We are exploring what an adjective is and what they do. – We will discover quality adjectives and create a classroom list. -We are learning how to use adjectives to describe nouns (events, people, places, things and settings).
|-I can explain what an adjective is and identify them in different texts. -I can work respectfully in a group and contribute to classroom discussions.
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