Imagine you’re attending a class to learn to play the guitar. The students in your class display a wide range of abilities. Some are brand new to the instrument; some know a few chords; and some already play quite well. How would you learn best in this environment? Would it work well for the teacher to instruct the group as a whole for the duration of the class? Or would it make more sense to sometimes break the class into small groups, allowing the beginners to start with the basics while the more advanced students could fine-tune their playing? 

Most people learn best in the latter scenario. You and your fellow students would greatly benefit from splitting into groups in which the instruction is tailored to your needs. The large group could be together for some things, such as a history lesson or a music concert, but in order for each student to work towards mastery of the instrument, a more individualized approach is also necessary.

The same is true for reading instruction. The reading abilities of the students in any given classroom can vary widely—and this is true from the beginning. Some students start elementary school nearly fluent, while others do not yet know the alphabet. In an ideal scenario, the nearly fluent readers would not be bored working below their level, and the pre-literate students would not be frustrated with material that is too challenging. Thus, modifying or supplementing the whole-group instruction by splitting the students into groups to support their individual needs will optimize each student’s learning. This is a best practice known as differentiated instruction. 

Research shows differentiated instruction to be especially effective in reading instruction, because it allows each student to learn at an optimal pace. Teachers who use this method report an increase in student performance and a decrease in behavioral problems. Many resources herald the need for differentiated instruction in reading, but unfortunately, it can be difficult for teachers to know how to implement it. For one thing, a teacher can only be in so many places at once! Furthermore, the teacher must be supported by high-quality resources and professional development, which can be difficult to find.

Read Naturally is here to help. Differentiated instruction is inherent in the process for all Read Naturally reading programs and assessments. Students in Read Naturally programs work at the appropriate level for their reading development. Additionally, Read Naturally offers high-quality professional development that provides educators with the training they need to implement this practice most effectively.

Our website includes an abundance of information on differentiated instruction, including a white paper by education expert Dr. Vicki Gibson. In this paper, Dr. Gibson provides well-researched guidance for teachers who wish to implement high-quality differentiated reading instruction. She delves into various differentiated instruction strategies and explains each of the steps necessary for differentiation in the classroom. These steps include:

  1. Establishing the Environment
  2. Using Data to Inform Practice
  3. Managing Resources
  4. Creating Routines and Procedures
  5. Providing High-Quality Reading Instruction and Practice

We encourage you to read Dr. Gibson’s research and incorporate it into your reading instruction. If you choose to partner with Read Naturally to put these practices into effect, know that our programs: 

  • Provide information on how to differentiate instruction in the teachers’ manuals.
  • Are effective with students of all abilities.
  • Offer materials at a range of levels.
  • Are designed by educators with differentiated instruction as a goal.
  • Employ research-based strategies and best practices.

Click here to learn more about Read Naturally programs and differentiated instruction. We also offer various professional development opportunities to fit your schedule, from a self-paced online course to full-day seminars. Click here to learn about our professional development options. As always, contact us anytime to let us know how we can help you in your efforts to differentiate instruction and support your developing readers as effectively as possible.