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Why You Need to Know About Differentiation in Elementary School

If you are a parent, you have probably heard the word differentiation a thousand times at your child’s school. But did you ever really stop to think about what differentiation means?

Hey there!

Today we wanted to discuss an important educational topic: differentiation.

This is one of the more important words in our field and we think parents should be clued in on all the buzz. Here at EngageBox, we take pride in the differentiation of our products.

What is Differentiation?

If you are a parent, you have probably heard the word “differentiation” a thousand times at your child’s school. But did you ever really stop to think about what differentiation means?

Differentiation is the process educators use to plan activities and lessons that meet the different needs of every learner. It’s how we make sure that every child is learning at their own speed and in a way that works for them.

We don’t just differentiate based on age or aptitude. We need to consider every aspect of a child’s needs, including their preferred learning style, maturity level, motor skills, comprehension, and more. Designing activities starts with finding methods that work for most students, then modifying on an individual basis depending on each student’s unique needs.

Continue reading below, but please check out some of our EngageBoxes:

Why is Differentiation Important? 

Differentiation is a huge buzzword in education because it is so incredibly crucial to the way we teach.

We believe that differentiation shouldn’t stop as kids leave the classroom. It is extremely important that kids are constantly learning in their everyday lives in a way that works for them. This could mean reading books that are at their level. It could mean building STEM projects to test different theories. It could mean putting what they are learning into art. No matter what, we need to meet kids where they are and help them learn in a way that is interesting and accessible to them. 

Educational studies all over the world have shown that differentiation is extremely beneficial to people at all ages. Think about different experiences that you have had learning about things both inside and out of a classroom. Did you learn by reading a book, doing a project, watching a video, or having a discussion? Did you learn with people who were at a similar level to you? All of those things are differentiation. The more learning is geared toward the learner, the better the lesson will go. 

How we differentiate in the classroom

We work with a wide range of skill sets in our classrooms. Every child learns at a different pace and it is up to us as educators to fill in any learning gaps. Most lessons in reading or math begin with whole group instruction. This is where we are teaching the same content to all students. After whole group instruction, we move to centers. While our students are working at various stations, we begin to pull back students to our table for more specific, differentiated instruction. This is called a small group.

For example, we may start with a group that is struggling with short vowel sounds. After this group, we will pull a group of students that are struggling with long vowel sounds. It would not be appropriate to work with the first group on long vowel sounds when they have not yet mastered short vowel sounds. When we work with kids based on where they are, we are able to fill in gaps as we go and bring all the students up to where they need to be. 

Differentiation + EngageBox

So, where does differentiation play into EngageBox? Each EngageBox theme is split into three boxes: Kindergarten/First Grade, Second/Third Grade, and Fourth/Fifth Grade. We created all of the activities while keeping the interests and skills of the different age groups in mind. Something that may be simple to a fourth grader can be complicated to a kindergartener.

While we want the kids to be challenged, we do not want to reach the point of frustration. Creating age-appropriate activities can be a challenge, but we consider it one of our highest priorities. We also use feedback from previous boxes to help us create the activities for our next monthly box. 

In addition to providing age-appropriate projects to your child, we also provide different educational extension activities for each craft. This is another way that we differentiate in our boxes. We look at the educational standards for each grade when creating these activities so that they mirror what your child is learning in school. This ties in to our belief that learning is supposed to be fun!

We hope that when you receive your EngageBox, you’ll notice the subtle but important ways that we specialize each box to match your child’s abilities and needs.

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Co-Founder / Teacher at EngageBox | + posts

Hi, I’m Jess! I am a first grade teacher in Sunrise, FL. I graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2018 with a Bachelors’ Degree in Elementary Education, an Elementary Reading Endorsement, and an English as a Second Language Certification. I have been working with energetic six- and seven-year olds in the most engaging ways possible. I love working with kiddos and hope to encourage every child I meet to become a life-long learner!

Co-Founder / Teacher at EngageBox | + posts

Hey there, I’m Mallory! I am a first grade teacher in Orlando, FL. I graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2016 with a Bachelors’ Degree in Elementary Education, an Elementary Reading Endorsement, and an English as a Second Language Certification. In my teaching career, I have worked with students with all kinds of abilities and needs. One thing that remains constant among all students is the need for an engaging curriculum. It is my hope as an educator to show my students that learning not only can be fun, but is supposed to be fun! I am excited to reach more students through EngageBox!