Ideas for Differentiating Instruction
Curriculum can be differentiated in many, many ways. Here, you will find a few ideas that can be adapted for any grade level and any subject. I also explain how they appeal to each of Gardner’s multiple intelligences.
- ·Puppet shows—When doing activities such as Reader’s Theater, which are typically scripted rewrites of classic or contemporary works or even fairy tales, allow students to perform their play using puppets they design. These puppets can be made using socks or out of paper sacks. This type of activity will not only appeal to younger students but also to older ones, and it can be used for all subjects areas because of the wide assortment of plays. You can also have the students write their own plays to perform that are based on the content being taught. Allowing the students to use puppets to tell their story is appealing to linguistic, visual, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and spatial learners. Incorporating background music would appeal to musical learners. Allowing the students to collect supplies from outdoors, such as leaves, acorns, pine cones, etc. to decorate their puppets will add a naturalist element to the project.
- Journaling—Have your students keep a journal of their daily happenings or provide them with topics to write about. Topics can be largely varied, depending upon subject. This will appeal to linguistic and intrapersonal learners in particular. Allow your spatial learners to illustrate their journals, allow your musical learners to write song lyrics or a rap instead of a story, and allow your interpersonal learners to share their journal entries with a partner or the class.
- Poetry—When introducing my poetry unit, I always mention that songs are poetry put to music. We then listen to some songs or read popular song lyrics. This appeals to linguistic and musical learners but can be adapted for other intelligences. For logical-mathematical students, have them figure out the meter and attempt to copy it in writing a poem of their own. For spatial learners, have them illustrate the poem, write their own version, and illustrate it. Allow interpersonal students to share if they want, and have your bodily-kinesthetic learners come up with a dance to go along with their poems or to act out their poems. In science, social studies, or math classes, have students read a poem that relates to that subject and create their pictures, dances, or skits from there.
- Literature Circles—Literature circles allow students to choose from a selection of novels and read the novels, answer questions, or create a project over that novel. Typically, they read the novel in small groups of 3-4 students, depending on the number of resources available to the teacher. Three to four copies each of six to ten different novels is recommended; again, it depends on class size and available resources. This activity appeals to interpersonal learners but can be adapted for intrapersonal learners by allowing them to read by themselves and do independent study. Linguistic learners will love the opportunity to read. For spatial learners, appealing projects would be ones that allow them to draw or illustrate. Graphic organizers or programs like Inspiration would be a way to incorporate art. Graphic organizers also appeal to logical-mathematical learners. For naturalists, allow them to read in the courtyard or outside. You can also have them research the setting of their novel or create a brochure advertising the setting of their novel. This type of activity not only appeals to naturalists but also to spatial and bodily-kinesthetic learners.
- PowerPoint—Technology is always a great way to appeal to logical-mathematical and bodily-kinesthetic learners. For research projects, allow the students to choose their project and create a PowerPoint over it. Having students incorporate graphics and music would cater toward spatial and musical learners. To add a naturalist element, allow them to research animals or something that involves nature. Intrapersonal learners may elect to do the project by themselves, while interpersonal learners may thrive when working in a group. And, linguistic learners would love the opportunity to read about their topic and present their final product to the class. For additional ideas on incorporating PowerPoint into your curriculum, I recommend using the Tammy Worcester books.
- Foldables—Every year, I have my sixth grade students create a foldable over the parts of speech. We actually use foldables quite a bit, but I consider the one over the parts of speech to be the most important one we do. Using foldables to record basic information over things like grammar rules, parts of speech, historical time periods, lab rules/procedures, diet and exercise, and vocabulary words can prove very beneficial in any class. Allowing students to decorate them with markers, colored pencils, or crayons appeals to spatial learners and gives the students something they may want to keep all year. My students still have their parts of speech foldables and reference them periodically. Since making a foldable is hands-on, it appeals to bodily-kinesthetic learners. Logical-Mathematical learners also appreciate this type of activity because it involves math skills, such as measuring and geometry. Linguistic students will enjoy the writing involved. Intrapersonal students will like that it is an activity they can do by themselves, whereas interpersonal students will like the freedom to talk and discuss the content in a group.
I am going to be honest when I say that differentiating instruction is not always easy. I am also going to honest in saying that it is absolutely necessary. Since the duty of teaching students from all backgrounds who learn in all sorts of ways falls on every teacher, differentiation of curriculum is a duty that also falls on every teacher. Students will appreciate the variety of lessons taught. I mean, what student doesn’t like to have choices? Be sure to outline your expectations up front and maintain effective classroom management in order to achieve optimal participation in the class. And most of all enjoy what you are doing; enjoy enlightening young minds.
This post is part of the series: Teaching to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Through Differentiation of Instruction
Classrooms are comprised of all types and levels of learners. Teachers must find an effective way to teach each learner present in the classroom. In this series, I combine my personal experiences and the research I’ve conducted to produce effective ways to teach each intelligence and all levels.