Differentiated Instruction

Step 1: Establishing the Environment

This step involves organizing the physical environment to support differentiating instruction and practice. Classroom furniture is arranged to include 4–6 student work areas. One area is for small-group, teacher-led instruction. That area is often called the teaching table, even though the group may not always officially meet and work at a table. The term teaching table simply communicates a performance expectation to the student: participation at the teaching table involves new and more challenging content, and the teacher will lead participation and provide support with constructive feedback. Teacher-led, explicit, student-focused instruction that is differentiated and specific to needs occurs at the teaching table.

Additional areas will be needed for workstations, or designated areas where students gather and work collaboratively. The teacher creates 2–4 small-group/partner work areas in the classroom. The teacher can push desks together to form tabletop workspaces or may simply direct students to an area in the room where they can sit and work on the floor. Dispersing students around the room for guided practice activities invites discussion and cooperation to complete assignments, and it also reduces noise. If students need hard surfaces for writing, they can use notebooks or clipboards.

Teachers use the term worktable to denote a time period when students are expected to work independently, either at their desks or table spaces or in another area specifically designated in the classroom. Because the term is intended to clarify student performance expectations, the worktable may not include a table where students gather to work. Students complete independent assignments during the time period designated as the worktable. Teachers may assess students' work to monitor progress or evaluate achievement. Many teachers allow students to begin homework assignments during worktable time. This ensures that support is accessible at school, if needed, before students attempt to complete assignments at home. All assignments used during worktable have been previously taught and practiced at the teaching table and in workstations.

pointer Next: Step 2: Using Data to Inform Practice


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