PSI employees were energized again in an afternoon session led by PSI Fall Meeting keynote speaker William J. DeMeo. This time, DeMeo presented on differentiating instruction in the classroom.
Leading off with an engaging introduction video, participants were left with some mportant messages, including the need to look beyond classroom walls to see what awaits our students and that teachers need to be the innovator, motivator, and facilitator of learning.
Attendees then participated in activities lead by DeMeo, including active learning activities like think-pair-share discussion and silent partner writing. With think-pair-share, learners are able to think for themselves, share their ideas with a partner, and ultimately discuss with the entire group. Silent partner writing involves writing down thoughts and questions about a picture, quotation, or discussion question. Partners pass the paper they write on back and forth and engage in a conversation without using spoken words.
DeMeo also stressed the importance of flexible grouping in the classroom. Flexible grouping allows teachers to group their students by three group types: flexible, which includes readiness and learning style; ability/aptitude groups; and cooperative groups. Flexible groupings can be done with the whole class or just half of the class, in teams, in student-led small groups, and with partners.
As with many activities in the classroom, some students will finish their work ahead of their peers. The same can hold true with flexible groupings, and DeMeo says that teachers can provide anch
or activities an learning stations for students to complete when the assigned task is complete. Anchor activities provide meaningful work for students when they are finished with an assigned task or when they are stumped and waiting for teacher assistance. Anchor activities also provide ongoing tasks that tie to content and instruction. Some examples of anchor activities include investigations, vocabulary work, magazine articles with generic questions, journals and learning logs, silent reading, activity boxes, and learning packets.
While DeMeo left participants with a variety of classroom activities to try out with their students, he also asked them why differentiate? He discussed with participants that the student population is not the same as it was 50 years ago, and that families have also changed over time. Passive learning, like lectures, reading, and even audiovisual are not as effective with today’s students. The current student population learns best by teaching others and using their learning immediately, practicing by doing, and having group discussions.
Individualizing student instruction will allow students to reach their full potential. DeMeo left participants with a question to ponder: Will one size fits all curriculum be effective (if it ever was)?