Do you make sure you help all of your students each school year? Are there students so low in your class that you think there’s no point? Do you have special education students that you think get all the help they need from the Sped teacher? While I think most of us would answer no to the last two questions, some of us would say yes. I know differentiation is hard work, but if you’re in it for the kiddos, then there’s no other way to teach. There are numerous reasons why meeting the needs of all your students is crucial; here’s my top four.
It Prevents Students From Falling Behind
Each year I get students who are behind at least two or three grade levels. Sometimes four. How is this possible? It is because not every teacher is differentiating their instruction. Let’s be honest and real. There’s no way all teachers are differentiating for all their students, and the students are still severely behind.
Some of us are doing a great disservice to our kiddos by not giving them what they need. Just one teacher making choice not to meet every student in their classroom’s needs can put that child grade levels behind. Now, making it a situation where their future teachers have to make up for the loss and try to catch them up. Just imagine if this child has two teachers in a row that doesn’t differentiate. This is how students get behind.
The only way we can prevent this is meeting students where they are when they arrive in our classrooms.
It is Best Practice
The days of spending the whole class period in front of the class lecturing are over. Giving students only one type of instruction does not ensure that all kids are learning. We know all students are different. Not only do students learn differently, but they also have different interests and different personalities.
As teachers, we have to understand that and make sure that every student is supported. I’m still surprised when I hear teachers complain about differentiating their lessons or centers. Yes, it is a lot of work meeting each kiddo on their level, but nobody ever said teaching was easy.
It is the Only Way to See Consistent Growth
We all love to see students grow! If you want to see growth every month, you have to meet students where they are. If you teach 3rd-grade but have kids on a 1st-grade level, when you meet with them during small group, their work should be on a 1st-grade level. The only way they will be successful in 3rd-grade is if they master 1st-grade.
Your kiddos that are on grade level or above will take more time to see growth, but those who are below level should be growing much faster.
It Benefits the Whole Class
When students start growing, they become more independent. The closer they get to grade level, the easier things become from them, and depending on how low they were, the less they’ll need extra support from you.
For example, one year, I had to write out everything on the board because over half of my students were behind two grade levels. They could barely read, so I had to read instructions everything. Because I was providing so much additional support, we never had time for anything extra. I would use every ounce of time in my schedule on remedial tasks.
The next school year was the complete opposite. I was able to give my students extension projects weekly because there were only one or two students who were below grade level. It made my class more engaging. I didn’t feel the pressure of playing the catch-up game. I could spend time expanding on their interests instead of worrying about how I was going to get kids to grow three grade levels in one year.
Some of us have to do a better job of meeting our students where they are. Initially, it is incredibly time-consuming to plan your instruction so you can focus on everyone, but once it becomes a habit, you’ll be able to do it in your sleep. If you are an educator resistant to this idea, think about how you would feel if you had a child that needed extra support, and their teachers didn’t want to put in the effort to help them grow. For those differentiating kings and queens, encourage a resistant teammate to do better!
Check out the Class Goal Setting Guide to help you and your students make tremendous growth this school year!