Differentiation in Preschool
Differentiated instruction enables us to adjust our instruction to meet the specific needs of each student in our class. Is it possible to provide varied learning contexts and challenges to very young children? Is there an excessive amount of extra planning, supplies, or space required?
According to my observations, it is not only possible, but very necessary, to provide these young pupils with the opportunity to fully participate in the learning process. We must provide learning settings, tasks, and activities that are both challenging and engaging for the children in order for them to learn well. We must also establish attainable skill-development objectives so that every child can engage in the learning process with confidence and feel comfortable.
HOW TO BEGIN
In order to determine when and how to differentiate your teaching approach, techniques, and strategies, you must first get to know your students and then build your lessons around their specific needs. Some general guidelines are as follows:
First, decide on the learning setting in which you will be working. For example, will all of the children be in the same place—the playground, the classroom, or the science lab—and will they be interacting with one another? You’ll either need them to sit at tables or on a carpet, or you’ll let them to walk around freely.
Second, pay close attention to the children’s behaviour. Take note of the decisions they make while playing and, if at all possible, inquire as to why they have made a specific decision or chosen a particular option. Take note of how they interact with one another as well. In the case of a child playing with another child, what kind of game are they playing? If not, what is the reason for this? For example, is one child “teaching” the other how to play a certain game? Or are they both gaining knowledge from one another and making decisions in concert? Also, pay attention to how they interact with the learning environment and the materials—if they utilise the items with sufficient care, whether they creatively put the things to new uses—and how they communicate with each other. In addition, pay attention to how they utilise their conversational language and how they react to written language, if it is relevant.
Once you’ve gathered enough information to make an informed decision about how to approach each individual child, you can begin arranging the differentiation process for them.
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2 EXAMPLES OF DIFFERENTIATION
Blocks are being used in the classroom by 3-year-olds: Provide the children with construction blocks and sit back and let them play. As they play, you can ask them questions like these: What is the purpose of your tower construction? How many different kind of blocks have you used? What colours did you choose to use? Why?
Some children will find it difficult to stack more than five blocks together to form a tower. Others may begin assembling a collection of towers to form a massive defensive structure. Allow them to do so, and even provide them with additional materials and toys so that they can incorporate them if they so desire.
Some children may be uninterested in erecting walls or towers for their own amusement. In that scenario, provide them with alternative methods of working with blocks:
Ask the kids to form groups of two, three, four, and so on by counting the number of blocks in each group. See what number they can come up with by combining the blocks together.
Counting and characteristics are discussed in detail below. It is also possible to create a grouping by combining two blocks of the same hue or three blocks of the same size. How do you determine the size of a block, you might wonder. How much larger or smaller is this block compared to the other block? How did you find out?
Storytelling: Begin by telling a storey about a tower you’ve built with a learner, or a small group of learners who appear to be ready for this step—for example, “Many years ago, in this tower lived a (witch, fairy, girl, boy, monster, robot… let the child choose)”—and then provide prompts for them to continue expanding on the storey they’ve started.
You can use the blocks to build beds for dolls, or you can assign the blocks different functions—you can transform them into microphones or mobile phones, or you can even use the blocks to build a family.
5-year-olds using planting materials and tools in the playground or classroom: When starting to research this issue, a useful question to ask yourself is: How can we know if a plant needs to be in a larger container or a larger space to grow? Instruct the students to examine plants in pots in the classroom or on the grounds and determine whether or not the plant needs to be relocated to a larger space. This provides you with the opportunity to learn about the many sections of a plant and their duties, what a plant requires to thrive and why, and what each resource provides the plant with information. You can also educate them about the soil’s texture, smell, and colour, as well as its chemical composition.
It is critical to communicate with the learners as they are walking about and observing the plants in order to differentiate the tasks you provide to them.
Instruct the students who are interested in the topic to touch the plant and identify the many parts that they can see. Afterwards, inquire as to what portion of the plant is in the soil (roots), what those are for, how big they are, and what colour they are (if any).
If a sufficient number of students demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the plant’s parts, ask them to choose a label (that you’ve prepared beforehand) containing the names of each part of the plant and explain how they were able to read the labels, in order to determine whether or not they are aware of the decoding and reading process.
Some children may be uninterested in managing the plant and the soil, but they may be interested in drawing a diagram of the plant or creating a depiction of the plant out of modelling dough or clay instead. Other youngsters who were able to read the labels will later be able to place them on the diagram and demonstrate to their peers how to determine where each label should be placed.
For individuals who may be ready for further in-depth investigation, you can ask them, “What colour is the plant?” What makes you believe this is the case? Create a list of the various hypotheses that the children come up with, and use this list to construct an inquiry-based project from there.
Encourage your students to create a short song that incorporates information such as the parts of a plant, the needs of a plant, and how to take care of a plant. Children enjoy connecting their learning with music.
Differentiating learning experiences in order for children to have an effective and exciting developmental experience demonstrates the school’s and instructors’ dedication to respecting the children and meeting their needs, interests, and skill development in an equitable manner.
While differentiation isn’t as difficult as it appears at first glance, it’s a good idea to start with a modest number of variations. Differentiate the activities or questions based on a task or a section of a task that you choose. Allow yourself the opportunity to learn how to deal with this while working with the youngsters. They will lead you in the right direction. Trust in yourself, and trust in your students.