The Power of Differentiation
The last two decades have taught us a great deal about how students work and think and the differences between different students and how those differences change the way those students process information and learn. On the surface, as a teacher, it’s easy to say, well I cannot change my curriculum to suit every possible learning disability or quirk of personality. That is the old model of teaching that has been in place for many decades. Students came to a centralized class and the way the lessons were presented was what they got and it was up to the student to adjust to being successful or a failure.
The problem with that model is that it puts the weight of the responsibility to be successful in education on the student. That is all well and good at the college level where the students are essentially adults and they are expected to be ready to bare a larger level of responsibility. But at the elementary level, the burden of assuring that the student not only hears the lesson but understands it lies with the teacher. So in the last few years, a teaching style called “differentiation” has come along that utilizes innovative classroom methods to help all students come away with a solid understanding of the material, not just the few who were able to adjust to the single approach the teaching of the old model.
Differentiation begs the question, “Who is responsible for the education of the children?” The system where the children were exposed to a lecture, given an assignment that may have been cryptic to understand and sent home for the hapless portents to decipher what was expected is at best ineffective and at worst just plain lazy.
Modern approaches to education see the job of the teacher as not just to present information and to correct papers. The job of the teacher is to teach and that teacher is not a success until every student in his or her class has learned the information well and can interact with it to demonstrate that the information has become knowledge that is useful and applicable in daily life. This is a high requirement for teachers but anything short skirts the objectives of the teaching profession entirely.
One difference between students that drastically affects how well the student learns is learning styles. Some students are visual learners meaning they do well when they learn by seeing. Others can absorb and process information audibly whereas others must physically interact with the material to truly grasp it. Differentiation changes the way class time is used so the same information is presented in a variety of teaching methods so all students can use each style to fully grasps the material.
Differentiation may not have been possible before we had so many new teaching tools available via the internet. But with online resources, we can tap the power of video online and utilize online activities so that learning is no longer just listen, write it down and repeat it on a test. Learning now is interactive and repetitive in many different ways to the same information is processed uniquely each time. The outcome is the student not only can learn through the learning style that fits his or her personality but that learning is deeper and longer-lasting.
Adapting your teaching style to fully tap the power of differentiation will take some time. There are new technologies to learn to use and a new approach to the daily lesson plan to understand and learn to work with. But once you are simultaneously teaching many while addressing the individual learning styles and unique characteristics of each child, you will find the outcome of your teaching so much more effective than you will never want to go back.
Teaching With Powerpoint
The software tool, Microsoft PowerPoint is one of the most versatile tools that the huge software giant has given to us. The business has already discovered the power of this amazing tool. But there are a lot of lesson plans that would benefit from the tools and resources that PowerPoint can offer to make your lessons more fun and interesting for your students. But you have to know how to use it for maximum advantage even before you start designing your slide slow.
Almost everybody has seen PowerPoint used and witnessed what a fun and creative presentation tool it is. You can take classes to learn how to use PowerPoint and to tap the power of the amazing animation and graphics tools it has to present information to your students. This is why PowerPoint is such a great tool for teaching. It gives you the chance to supplement what might have been a boring lecture with some colorful and quickly moving slides that will keep your kids riveted throughout your presentation.
PowerPoint is also easy to use. The genius of Microsoft is that they do facilitate us in using this great tool by making it so easy to take advantage of all of PowerPoint’s fantastic tools. In a classroom setting, PowerPoint alone could represent one of the biggest revolutions in how to present information to students in a long time. But it’s a good idea to think through how to use the tool and have some ground rules for how to use it so you get the maximum value from PowerPoint without becoming abusive of its powers.
When designing the way you will use PowerPoint as a teaching tool, don’t give in to the temptation to let the slideshow do all the work of teaching for you. Remember that PowerPoint is great as long as it is a supplement to your lecture or presentation to your students. The best kind of PowerPoint slide presentation uses bullet triggers to take you through your lecture but you do all the work of actually teaching your students. When it comes to putting a large amount of information on a PowerPoint slide, in a word, don’t. This will lead to reading the slide presentation to your students which will become boring causing you to lose the “punch” you hoped PowerPoint would bring to this lesson plan.
Another tip when working with PowerPoint in an educational setting is to never turn your back on your students. You need to have eye contact with them at all times when you are teaching. So know your presentation well so you don’t have to turn and look at the screen during the course of the lesson.
PowerPoint gives you the ability to use a timer fiction so the slides change on their own after a set period of time. This is a slick function but one that few actually use. And in your setting of trying to integrate PowerPoint into your teaching, you should avoid the timer function as well. The only way this function can work is if you are in a teaching situation where there is no chance there will be an interruption or a delay. And since in a classroom setting you can almost guarantee interruptions in your presentation, the timer function then would become your worst enemy rather than a good tool to help you.
Maintain consistency in the design of your PowerPoint slides. This means using one single color or background scheme for the entire show. Consistency also applies to the motion of bulleted lists. There are dozens of presentation styles for bulleted lists that PowerPoint supports. You can have your bullet points fly in from the side, bounce in, or fade in from nothing to something and then fade away again.
Avoid the temptation to use a different effect on each slide. By establishing one text management strategy, you will avoid creating a PowerPoint lesson that is distracting and disjointed. And by using common sense and good advice on how to put together your PowerPoint lesson plan, you will create a resource for that lesson that can be a valuable part of your teaching arsenal for years to come.