Differentiation in Lower Division

How do we meet the individualized needs of students in Lower Division?  Walk down the halls of Lower Division and you will see a variety of activities that appeal to the senses (taste, smell, touch, sight, hearing, and movement).  Students in Room 12 are learning about pollen by taking on the role of the most famous pollinator, the bee.  By “buzzing” around the room and dipping into an assortment of “glitter pollen,”  they develop an understanding of how bees pollinate flowers as part of the plant life cycle. In Room 15, students are making videos to show how energy is transferred through the motion of their balloon-powered boats and cars. Room 14 students are working in pairs to create their own stories using an assortment of eraser characters to demonstrate their understanding of story elements (character, setting, and plot). Fifth graders compare and contrast the properties of various types of matter, including liquids, solids, and gases, as they see, smell, and feel a range of different materials.  This multi-sensory approach to learning is key to meeting the needs of Lower Division students. By providing opportunities for students to move, touch, see, and hear during a lesson, teachers have built differentiation into the learning environment.   

In addition to this multi-sensory approach, Lower Division recognizes the need to differentiate in other ways. For students with ADHD, providing opportunities for movement in the classroom is supported by increasing numbers of experts in the field. Russell A. Barkley, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and an internationally recognized authority on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder says regarding ADHD students,“As a coping device and as something that teachers might wish to consider in the classroom, movement is very consistent with an emerging body of work showing that physical exercise, in general, is beneficial.”  Lower Division classrooms are equipped with opportunities for movement during class discussions or in seat work, including Hokki stools, standing desks, and stability balls.  Regularly scheduled daily breaks provide an opportunity for physical exercise throughout the day.

Differentiation can also be observed through technology support.  Each student in Lower Division is equipped with an iPad that allows students to select the best way to convey thoughts and ideas. For students with reading and writing challenges, students can access Siri, PicCollage, Google Docs, Skitch, and Read&Write Gold, just to name a few.   These technology innovations provide capability, such as speech-to-text features, direct screen touch, and camera options so that students can demonstrate their understanding and convey thoughts and ideas with a range of support.  For example, Read&Write, Gold allows students to hear grade-level reading passages read aloud for a student whose reading ability is not yet at grade a level.  The student can then focus on developing an understanding of the passage content.

No discussion of meeting student needs in Lower Division would be complete without considering the needs of the whole child.   With our co-teaching model, teachers can work with students in small groups or individually throughout the day to pinpoint a specific area of need.  This could mean working with a student to identify the main idea of a content passage, meeting with a student to develop a plan for completing tasks, or supporting a student in developing awareness of expected behavior with peers.  Teachers monitor and revisit student progress in order to continue to address a recognized need.  Meeting the needs of our students is an inherent part of every Lower Division classroom.

Miriam Skapik
Head of Lower Division