Elementary Classrooms as Children Are Term Paper

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In all classrooms, teachers deal with at least three curricular elements: (1) content - input, what students learn; (2) process - how students go about making sense of ideas and information, and (3) product - output, how students demonstrate what they have learned." (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 4) Understanding these concepts on a macro level enables teachers to see the concepts that must be addressed. Additional techniques and approaches that are helpful in implementing a differentiated curriculum are included in Table 1.

Curricular element


Differentiation considerations

Content standards

Performance standards

Opportunity to learn

Specific benchmarks should be reviewed and adapted as necessary

Identify optimum levels of proficiency necessary to master content

Ensure that adequate materials and hands-on activities exist to support content

Instructional strategies

Content standards

Performance standards

Opportunity to learn

Identify strategies that facilitate mastery and generalization of content

Consider compatibility between teaching and learning styles used

Ensure that strategies used facilitate effective use of materials/resources

Instructional settings

Content standards

Performance standards

Opportunity to learn

Determine which setting(s) best facilitate mastery of content

Ensure that the setting(s) facilitate mastery and generalization of skills

Setting(s) must allow for quality and effective learning to occur

Student behaviors

Content standards

Performance standards

Opportunity to learn

Student behaviors must help learners acquire and master content

Acceptable levels of self-management should be identified and monitored

Overall class management must facilitate safe/effective learning environment

Table 1: Adapting Standards with Curricular Elements (Hoover and Patton, 2004, p. 77)

Table 1 displays the various levels at which specific content and strategies should be considered prior to implementation of a differentiated instruction plan. As each element of the table is considered, a corresponding factor for differentiation must also be taken into account and planned for accordingly. Each of the individual strategies that are components of differentiation provide the teacher with the steps that they can take to both divide the class into varying skill levels and determine what planning must be done to support the objective. In other words, the table provides teachers with a macro-view of the plan that they will need to assemble in order to implement differentiation.


Examples of Successful Elementary Differentiated Instruction.

There are a number of different examples that serve as success stories for the application of differentiated instruction. The examples display how schools have demonstrated that meeting the requirements of standardized curricula and providing differentiated instruction do not have to be mutually exclusive. Instead, the fundamental principles involved in differentiation actually support the school's overall objectives and provide a more effective course to the destination that the school and district want to reach.


One sterling example that embodies how differentiation can both support curricular objectives and enhance the learning experience was done in an elementary class working to take advantage of the various learning modalities that children possess. The teachers gave the children the chance to learn idioms by exercising the learning modality that most appealed to the child or groups of children. The students had the option of selecting a modality such as artistic, visual, verbal or kinesthetic and then expressing an idiom through the chosen approach. For example, children could choose "ace in the hole" and then draw two pictures to express the idea. One picture would capture the idiomatic meaning and the other would display the literal meaning of each word.


Another type of differentiation occurred in a first grade class that was studying living and non-living objects. In the class the teacher created learning groups based on various abilities established from observation and interaction. The students were given the instruction to "first classify items as living or nonliving and then to add additional classification criteria such as shape, color and size. The teacher then gave the students in the differing groups additional responsibilities based on ability such as reading about the object, writing additional information about the object or drawing similarly shaped or colored objects. This activity helped improve each student's knowledge within the sphere of development that they were currently at.


Differentiation is one of the most powerful and influential tools available to teachers today who face growing and increasingly difficult circumstances. Developing the ability to accomplish curricular requirements while simultaneously meeting the needs of students with vastly disparate learning abilities and methods is almost out of reach for most teachers. However, with the use of differentiation, that goal becomes a little more manageable and significantly more probable. In the end, teachers that see within the eyes of the students they teach the uniqueness that makes them so spectacularly special will learn to use this and other techniques to help those children reach the potential they have inside.


Hoover, John J. And Patton James R. (2004). Differentiating Standards-Based Education for Students with Diverse Needs. Remedial & Special Education 25: 74

Tomlinson, C.A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed ability classrooms (2nd ed.).

Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

A www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000864788

Voltz, D.L., Brazil, N., & Ford, a. (2001). What Matters Most in Inclusive Education: A Practical Guide for Moving Forward. Intervention in School & Clinic, 37(1), 23.…[continue]

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