Meet the Differentiators: Reflections on Differentiated Instruction from Newsela Educators
A 2018 study by the U.S. Department of Education showed that nearly half of teachers felt underprepared to differentiate instruction in their classrooms. Curious about this statistic, we went back to former educators on our own team to revisit their experiences differentiating in disparate classroom environments. Their responses shed some light on why many teachers may feel apprehensive about differentiating for their students - and offered some solutions on what strategies worked best for them.
Demystifying Strategies for Differentiated Instruction
Liz Crowley, Partnerships Manager at Newsela, is passionate about differentiating in the ELA classroom: “In a very general sense, reading is such an emotional experience for children. The shame associated with not being able to read is a serious epidemic in schools and can be so disengaging and demotivating. Overcoming that using differentiated instruction was a big win. The students who came in feeling they couldn’t read or contribute, now feeling like they can contribute in a meaningful way that they had not previously had access to, was incredibly gratifying.”
Creating a Culture of Understanding With Differentiated Instruction
Christina Pirzada, Product Manager at Newsela, talked the importance of differentiated instruction for creating a positive classroom culture. “I think a big component of differentiated instruction is mindset. I would spend the first week of the school year talking with students about how everyone is unique, and everyone has different previous experiences. I’d explain that my job as their teacher was to hold everyone to the same high expectations and help them learn all that year’s material, but the way that we each get there is going to look a little different. And I kept talking about this - weekly, if not daily.”
Differentiating Instruction for English Language Learners
Emily Lepkowski, Manager of Teaching and Learning at Newsela, discussed her experience differentiating instruction for her elementary-level English Language Learners. “English language learners need super text-rich, well-chosen resources. I needed to be flexible, in both seating and spaces where students can spend time sitting to learn...I tried to ensure the classroom was set up in a way where students can use those resources, where the setup would be useful and not disruptive.”
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