Differentiating and Anticipating Students Needs

All People have different learning styles, students are no exception. Some students need  little direction and follow up explanation to complete a task while others require additional differentiation to make learning more accessible for them. Effective Educators are ones that are able to use various tools to anticipate student needs and provide prompt lesson modification and differentiated instruction to maximize student engagement and understanding in their lessons.

One group of students where this is the case are the English Language Learners (ELL). With ELL students there are a variety of strategies in which you can differentiate instruction. Based on the type of Formative Assessment (F.A.) you used to assess the students, you could incorporate different components into your differentiated instruction. One strategy would be to add more visual material to your classroom and lesson(s). This will provide ELLs another vehicle is which they can learn the lesson content and provide another process for them to manipulate and understand that content. In addition, you could look ahead to terms and concepts in the lesson that would be difficult to understand and have ready a couple of different explanations at various levels  ready to go.  That way differentiated instruction can be done on the fly during the lesson without too much loss of time synthesizing those explanations during the lesson. Finding content and resources in simplified English and/or the native language is another great strategy to provide differentiated instruction for ELLs.

Some students come into a class with a lower understanding of the topic that other students. These students have a low readiness level compared to the rest of the class. On the flip side there are also students that fall on the other side of that spectrum and have a high readiness and are able to meet your objectives quickly. These students need differentiated instruction to extend the lesson and allow them to deepen their understanding of the concepts.

To accommodate students of varying readiness levels the lesson could be structured so that there would be an Activity Menu. An Activity Menu is a set of a few activities that vary in length and difficulty. They can also differ in they way students will have to interact with that lesson to allow for the students different learning styles. With the menu, students get to choose which activity they will do to engage with the content and develop a greater understanding. It allows the students to reflect on their own readiness and decide for themselves which activity will be appropriate and not overly challenging. Depending on what sort of learners are in the class changes the sort of activities are offered to students. If the class is mostly of one or two learning styles it would make more sense to have the activities vary more in difficulty. If the class is very diverse in learning styles then it would be more appropriate to offer activities that cater to the different learning styles rather that difficulty.  The more likely scenario is that the class is mixed for both so a mix in activity difficulty and style would be most appropriate.

To determine which differentiated instruction and modification to implement you could make and follow a flowchart such as the one Here.

In summary, educators can anticipate students needs through regular formative assessments. Following those assessments educators should be able to identify learner challenges and needs. After those needs are identified then the educator can proceed in using different instructional strategies to provide Differentiated Instruction and Lesson Modification to accommodate the learners needs and enable them to engage with the lesson. These Strategies should also be kept in mind and implemented when conducting future Formative Assessments, Summative Assessments, and Lesson Planning.



McCarthy, J. (2014, July 29). 15 Readiness Resources for Driving Student Success. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-readiness-resources-john-mccarthy
Says, J., Says, A., Says, F. T., Says, L., & Says, N. F. (2017, July 14). Instructional Strategies. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from http://www.fortheteachers.org/instructional_strategies/

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