Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Differentiation in Kindergarten

One of my favorite things to do is read. Each summer, I usually have a stack of books by my bed to read. While some of these are novels (I love historical romance books), many of them are professional development books. Summer is such a great time to think about how you can do things differently next year.

On the way to Disney, I started reading Differentiating Instruction in Kindergarten by Cindy Middendorf. If you are overwhelmed by the idea of differentiating instruction or if you are new to kindergarten, this is the book for you. This book would also be very beneficial for pre-K and first grade teachers as many of the ideas presented would easily span the grades.

The book began with a discussion on the difference between learning modalities and intelligence. A modality of learning is a way in which we process and understand information.  There are four main ways (or modalities) that we process information:  visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic. The author made a point that the kinesthetic and tactile modalities overlap. The main difference between these two is that strictly tactile learners need hands-on learning.  Truly kinesthetic learners want their whole body in motion. As a teacher, we must provide opportunities for all learners through all modalities. However, providing every child opportunities to learn through all avenues enriches each child’s learning experience. One point that the author made that I spent a lot of time reflecting over was that most teachers present materials in way that makes sense to us and our own personal learning modality. In doing so, we can shortchange our students. My personal goal this year is to better differentiate my instruction time to include all learning modalities. So am I going to stress on finding each child’s strongest modality for learning? Nope. Instead of asking, “What is this child’s strongest modality for learning?” my question will be “Am I incorporating a wide range of activities to serve all learning modalities?” This will provide very learner an opportunity to learn with their strongest modality but also experience learning through the other avenues.  The author, Cindy Middendorf, had some ideas for engaging all types of learners. I’ve listed this list below.  

Ways to engage visual learners
·      Use highlighting tape in text
·      Make reference to posters and visuals in the room
·      Point to the map or anchor chart when referencing it
·      Show video clips
·      Diagram a story
·      Use expressive body language
·      Point out details in photos, illustrations, and books
·      Display word walls for themes and units, sights words, and names

Ways to engage auditory learners
·      Read aloud often
·      Provide students with listening center opportunities (tape/cd player, iPads and iPods)
·      Teach rhymes for making numbers and letters
·      Sing to learn skills
·      Vary pitch and tone of voice when teaching
·      Encourage retelling
·      Provide Reader’s Theater experiences
·      Provide puppets for your students- what a great retelling opportunity
·      Demonstrate use of phonics phones

Ways to engage kinesthetic and tactile learners
·      Model role-playing and acting it out
·      Use gross motor activities to reinforce concepts
·      Plan for students to participate in experiments and demonstrations
·      Provide props for story retelling
·      Encourage standing when answering questions
·      Practice writing in cornmeal, sand, salt, and pudding
·      Make music, rhythm, and keeping the beat
·      Supply clay and white boards

An intelligence is a talent or strength. These help us demonstrate our understanding of the world and organize the information from our senses. While I know each of us had to study these in college, I am listing them below as a reference. The multiple intelligences are
1.      Verbal-Linguistic
2.     Bodily-Kinesthetic
3.     Logical-Mathematic
4.     Intrapersonal
5.     Interpersonal
6.     Visual-Spatial
7.     Musical
8.     Naturalist
In a traditional classroom, children who are verbal-linguistic or logical-mathematic have the greatest advantage. So how can we use this knowledge to give every child and every intelligence an advantage?

As the book continued, Cindy Middendorf listed assessment tools, management strategist, and multi-leveled center ideas and activities to help any teacher differentiate. I highly recommend this book to all early childhood teachers. It was an easy but informative read.

So, how do you differentiate learning in your classroom?

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