Differentiated Instruction – how to Start Where They Are

I am currently running a professional book club with Karen Hume’s book, Start Where They Are (2008). There are many "bon mots" in the book as well as practical ideas for the classroom, but her assertion that curriculum for adolescents must be relevant, challenging, and integrative (p. 117) really hits the mark. BC’s "renewed" curriculum (see curriculum drafts for K-9 at https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum), focusses our instruction on big ideas and essential understandings (BC’s Core Competencies), terms which originated with Wiggins and McTighe (1998). They are now part of universal pedagogical parlance. It’s hard to imagine why a teacher would not want their teaching to be relevant and challenging, but the integrative piece presents more challenges at the secondary level because of the way schools were traditionally built and organized. Elementary students used to integrative units quickly become inured to the idea of cross-curricular integration as their day is organized into 75 minute distinct segments. Curricular combinations have often been limited to the Humanities (English and Social Studies). The huge challenge for today’s teacher – and the focus of most of Karen Hume’s work – is the widening gap in their students’ ability and the consequent need for teachers to plan for differentiation in their classroom instruction (DI). Excellent resources for DI can be found on Alberta Education’s website at http://education.alberta.ca/media/1234045/makingadifference_2010.pdf and a wonderful and evolving site from Ontario http://www.edugains.ca/newsite/di2/index.html. While I am very excited about the new direction BC curriculum is taking, it will not be successful without the teachers’ ability to meet the ever-increasing diverse needs of their classroom. Challenge and engagement for every student involves knowing how to make the learning outcome for the class accessible and relevant for all.


About phansenvsb

I am passionate about teaching reading and writing to a diverse audience from those experiencing challenges in reading and writing to those who seek deep enrichment in literature and its connections to the world in which it was written and to the present day. I also present workshops on assessment for learning, differentiated instruction, literature circles, disciplinary literacy, and inquiry.
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