The First Thirty Days

Teacher with students wearing backpacksPart IV in the Current Series: “Building a Differentiated Classroom”

Every teacher knows that the first month of school sets the tone for the entire year. Here are some tips for establishing a differentiated classroom, where every learner is valued…and reached.

Establish routines, routines, routines.
Begin on day one to start and end each day in the same way. Make expectations clear and have students practice the classroom routines for taking attendance, handing in homework, preparing for lunch, returning to the room after specials, distributing materials, and moving in and out of groups. Efficient transitions save you teaching time!

Set the tone for differentiation.
Use the first month to build the attitude that “it’s okay that we’re working on different things.” On day one, talk the talk of differentiation. Explain to your students, in an age-appropriate manner, how each of us has unique ways of learning, personal strengths, and unique abilities. Clearly state your expectations that they will take responsibility for their own learning.

Teach self-help strategies.
The sooner students learn to be independent, the earlier you will be able to focus on instruction rather than management. Use the first month to establish procedures in your classroom for solving daily problems, such as:

  • Borrowing pencils and other supplies
  • Using peer support while you are working with a small group
  • Locating clean-up supplies
  • Knowing how and whom to ask for help

Complete one differentiated activity.
Consciously target for differentiation during the first month of school. Choose one activity, one learning center, or one unit (if you’re feeling confident!) and design two or three levels of tasks that address different interests, readiness levels, or intelligences. Explain your purpose to your students.

Use groups flexibly and often.
As soon as possible, arrange for students to work in groups. Be crystal clear about what the group is to do and the role of each person in the group. Make sure that the composition of the groups changes often, so that everyone understands they will work with different peers on different days. (Remember to introduce group work in pairs with young students.)

These guidelines will ensure a successful start to your differentiated classroom.

This is part four in a four-part series on differentiated classrooms.

Post Author: This post was submitted by Scholastic and adapted from The Scholastic Differentiated Instruction Plan Book.

What strategies do you employ during the first 30 days of school? Leave a comment to share your ideas! One comment from this four-part series on differentiation will be selected to win a School Box gift card, and another comment will earn a Scholastic book of your choice…so comment away!


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