To play a game, please click on the following link:
Essential question: How do we prepare parents for differentiation in the classroom?
While student learning is the main focus of our profession, there are many pieces to the complex puzzle that help maximize that goal. One of the most important pieces is parent support. Changing the structure of a learning environment from the expected to something which can be perceived as unconventional or even unfair without losing that parental support takes careful planning and execution.
Deanna Soukup, a middle school science teacher, starts the year off right with this letter home to the parents of her students. She does an excellent job of explaining the basics of differentiated instruction, the benefits to all students in her room, and how this instruction might look on any given day. She uses educational vernacular, but clearly defines everything that might be unclear to the non-educator. Ms. Soukup also cites references in her letter which back up the principles and merits of differentiated instruction in the classroom. Most importantly, she encourages feedback and provides contact information for parents who might have questions or concerns, making her letter seem more like a two-way street rather than a directive.
After setting the groundwork with a letter home, encouraging parents to come and experience differentiated instruction along with the class is another way to show how learning is taking place for all students, in ways that maximize their individual learning potential. Caltha Crowe’s article (2004) about her classroom’s Wonderful Wednesdays gives a glimpse at how parents are included in her classroom. Parents are welcome to come and join the class, but they are welcomed as participants, not as helpers. This allows the parents to work alongside the students and experience differentiation firsthand. With some modifications, this idea of having parents be a part of the class could work in many other classroom settings.
In the article A Parent’s Guide to 21st-Century Learning (2012), the “4C’s”, competencies that go beyond basic academic proficiencies, are addressed. They are considered the skills that students will need to possess in order to be successful in the rapidly changing world we live in.
C o l l a b o r a t i o n : Students are able to work effectively with diverse groups and
exercise flexibility in making compromises to achieve common goals.
C r e a t i v i t y : Students are able to generate and improve on original ideas and also
work creatively with others.
C o m m u n i c a t i o n : Students are able to communicate effectively across multiple
media and for various purposes.
C r i t i c a l t h i n k i n g : Students are able to analyze, evaluate, and understand
complex systems and apply strategies to solve problems.
These skills are all skills that can be incorporated into differentiated instruction. Helping parents see the benefit of possessing these skills and where they fall into the natural structure of a differentiated classroom can help some resistant parents see the value in this type of classroom structure.
Parents can be an incredibly valuable tool in building a differentiated classroom. They can provide information about their child that the classroom teacher might not know or see during the regular school day. They are also a great barometer for how thing are going with differentiation. Eidson (2008) encourages parents to talk with their students to see how the differentiated classroom is working for them. As educators, we should make it a priority to exchange information with the parents of our students as another way to gauge the effectiveness of our instruction. This exchange of information will provide the parent with a greater sense of inclusion in the educational process, which in turn will help to create a positive view of the differentiated classroom.
A parent’s guide to 21st-century learning. (2012). Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/guides/edutopia-parents-guide-21st-century-learning.pdf
Crowe, C. (November 1, 2004). Wonderful Wednesdays. Retrieved from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/wonderful-wednesdays/
Eidson, C. (October 3, 2008). What every parent should know about differentiated instruction. Retrieved from https://tip.duke.edu/node/910
Smutny, J. (September, 2004). Differentiated instruction for young gifted children: How parents can help. Retrieved from http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10465.aspx
Soukup, D. (n.d.). Parent letter differentiated instruction. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RcJwQwYfxwYMkqXe-PkRVyx3P8-gv2auPSi6eS85gQU/edit?pref=2&pli=1
Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com