Differentiated Instruction for Reading

Guest blog by Erica Graves, a 4th-grade ELA teacher at Outley Elementary in Alief ISD.

In the age of 21st-century learners, teachers are forced to engage students on a daily basis. In order to best engage and meet the needs of all students in my classroom, I use differentiated instruction through guided reading.

Differentiated instruction is an approach that recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of diverse learners and requires the teacher to base instructional accommodations on student strengths and weaknesses. Although this approach can benefit students and meet their needs, many teachers resist this approach or implement the approach incorrectly. Differentiated instruction requires teachers to dedicate extended time to create modifications to their original lesson plan. When implemented correctly, differentiated instruction benefits students reading achievement leading to academic success.

In my classroom, I use differentiated instruction during my guided reading (small group time). I pull 2 small groups (groups are made up of 4-5 students) a day for 20 minutes. During this time I am working on a skill that meets the needs of those students. Meeting with students in small groups allows me to make sure their levelled text matches their reading ability to challenge them as readers but also understand the text. As a fourth grade teacher, I have a classroom consisting of students below, on, and beyond grade level. With my below grade level students, I may work on sight words or fluency, while with my beyond grade level students I may have the students in a book study. The ability to differentiate my instruction allows my students to be more successful readers.

When implemented correctly, differentiated instruction benefits students reading achievement leading to academic success. The hardest component of differentiated instruction is coming up with ideas and resources. I have found the following to be very beneficial:

· Sight word games

  • Create sight word rings for your students (I use notecards). Give the students their sight word rings on Monday and quiz them on their words on Friday.

· Fluency Passages

  • Reading A-Z has awesome levelled fluency passages. I have my students read a fluency passage on Monday and they meet with me on Wednesday and Friday to see if they can beat their time from the previous day.

· Book Clubs

  • I create a “Book Club Journal” for my higher students. In their journal, I include a schedule of what chapter should be read by what day, a metacognition page (a page where they can write their predictions, connections, questions, and inferences) a list of reader’s response questions, and lined paper to write a reader’s response. My students are required to write a reader’s response every time before they meet with me.
  • I have “thrown away” the idea of book reports in my classroom. When we finish a book, students have the freedom to create a visual representation of the book, character in the book, theme of the book, etc. however they choose.

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