Photo Credit: Lawrence, Julia
I believe in being transparent, and that is especially true with parents. They are entitled to know what their child(ren) experience in school. Tomlinson states “Successful partnering between teacher and parents is based on proactive communication.” (2001) For a teacher that fully utilizes differentiated instruction, it is important for parents to know first of all what that means. For those schools that have open houses at the beginning of the school year, this is a good time to discuss differentiation, and to invite them to the classroom to see first hand how it looks during the school year. Caltha Crowe, 3rd grade teacher, has what is called “Wonderful Wednesdays” where parents participate in classroom activities so she can know the parents and have a better understanding of their kids. (2004). This is a great routine. I am a true believer of routines and I would schedule something similar like “Fantastic Fridays”, or “Manic Mondays”. Those days can be used to profile how differentiation works, and parents need not sign up, just show up during specific time frames during that day.
Ann-Marie Foucault has written a good summary of what differentiated instruction is, what it is not, and what a parent’s role is in her article in Reading Rockets. One role that stood out to me was “Understanding that teachers can not (and should not) differentiate all assignments and materials every day.” (2008) As a teacher, I don’t even think it’s possible to provide differentiation everyday, although I think it would be more feasible if technology was utilized. There are strategies that can be consistently used to provide some element of differentiation, like allowing students to work on either core problems, or challenging problems based on student skill level ability (math). I currently use this method and I think students tend to be more engaged in completing assignments if they feel they are successful, yet can challenge themselves by trying more difficult problems.
Edutopia provides a great parent’s guide to 21st century learning. It describes how parents can get involved in their child’s education. It provides 10 tips, and the one that I feel would get kids and parents fully engaged in is “Build on Your Kids’ Interest in Gaming.” (2012) A website that is dedicated to this area is Massively@jokaydia, it “is designed to provide a playful learning environment for kids aged 4 – 16yrs and their parents. Our aim is to support the development of creative skills and digital literacy in a safe, engaging environment. We encourage parents to join their children in playing and learning within our community.” (2017) As teachers differentiate in the classroom, parents can get involved with their child by actively participating in such websites to further their child’s interest in gaming, thus providing a parent an avenue to assist teachers in differentiation. Other websites can offer learning experiences like coding, or using free downloadable software to develop and create games in a 3D, 2D, or virtual reality environment. The possibilities are truly endless.
A Parent’s Guide to 21st Century Learning. (2012). Edutopia. [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/guides/edutopia-parents-guide-21st-century-learning.pdf
Crowe, Caltha. (2004). Wonderful Wednesdays. Responsive Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/wonderful-wednesdays/
Foucault, Ann-Marie. (2008). Differentiation Tips for Parents. Reading Rockets. Retrieved from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/differentiation-tips-parents
Lawrence, Julia. (2013). Bring Your Parent to School Day. Education News. Retrieved from http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/take-your-parent-to-school-day-bill-signed-into-law-in-il/
Massively @ jokaydia. (2017). Information for Parents and Teachers. Retrieved from http://massively.jokaydia.com/information-for-parents-and-teachers/
Tomlinson, Carol A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.