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Appreciating and Working With the Challenges of a Differentiated Classroom

written by: Olive Estrella Coronado • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/21/2012

In todays' classrooms we knot that each student comes with their own characteristics. In this article, I will describe the characteristics of different types of students that you may face in a classroom.

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    What Characteristics Do Students Bring to Your Classroom?

    We all know that today’s classrooms are a lot different than they used to be. It almost seems as if every student today comes with a label, from ELLs (English Language Learners) to students with SLDs (specific learning disabilities.) As teachers we need to learn the student characteristics in a differentiated classroom and use that to our advantage to establish a positive learning environment for all students.

    Let’s start with the average student. These students will do what they need to get by, get decent grades, will participate in activities and discussions in the classroom, and will probably complete their homework. As teachers, we need to help such students excel. We need to push them even further than the student thinks is possible.

    Gifted and talented students tend to be the overachievers. They will go above and beyond what is required of them to do and may even request extra work from their teachers. These students sometimes make it challenging for teachers because they constantly need to be challenged. Teachers need to make sure that for these students, there is always some sort of extra work for them to do beyond what is required. It is important to challenge their minds with extension and higher order thinking activities.

    Students with special needs are becoming more prevalent in classrooms today because of the movement toward inclusion. Such students bring a wide variety of characteristics to the classroom. They require teachers to make adaptations and modifications to the curriculum in order for them to be successful. Students with special needs can be challenging for teachers; however, with assistance from the special education teachers, their role in the differentiated classroom can be very positive.

    Teachers may also encounter students that are English Language Learners; their characteristics are quite similar to students with special needs because they also require extra attention and time from the teacher. Students from different cultures can bring so much to the table. Take time to speak with them and learn about where they came from and possibly incorporate it into your classroom.

    What about the students who do nothing? It is so easy for teachers to kind of disregard these students and to let them fail, but these students are really crying out for help. Sure, it may be easy to ignore them, but they deserve as much attention as all of the other types of students. Try to learn what motivates them and use that to your advantage. Maybe all they need is someone that is willing to hear them out and really care for them.

    With all of the vast variety of student characteristics in a differentiated classroom, teachers may feel overwhelmed trying to meet all of the students’ needs. Remember, you are not alone and there are many other teachers who are going through the same thing. It never hurts to ask another colleague for help. We do our job as teachers to help every child reach their full potential and as we face many characteristics in our classrooms, we need to focus our attention on meeting the needs of every single student.