Social Interaction in a Differentiated Classroom

Carrie Baker

Just as your students have different learning styles, intelligence strengths, preferred tools, and ways to express themselves, they also have preferences about social interaction. All of these preferences can powerfully affect learning. Social Interaction in a Differentiated Classroom

Many students enjoy games and collaborative investigations. Some relish whole-group debates and thrive on the lively exchange that emerges in classroom discussions. Others prefer solitary work and the more focused conversations they can have one-on-one with a classmate or an adult.

To accommodate the variety of interpersonal styles in a single classroom and to ensure instruction is appropriate for the topic at hand, one must balance whole class, small group, partner, and independent activities. Quite the task! Here are some ideas for differentiating instruction in your classroom:

Use whole-group instruction to present information that everyone needs to know or to share strategies that will be valuable to all. Working together as the teacher guides the group allows students to contribute and evaluate diverse ideas in a validating environment. And when classmates share exceptional insights or problem-solving approaches, everyone benefits. Here’s where your carefully planned questions can extend students’ thinking and raise the bar on everyone’s work. In this regard, whole-group work in math is analogous to read aloud time in language arts, when the teacher reads material that is slightly more difficult than what students are capable of reading independently.

Try to build in plenty of small group and partner activities. These activities support more active engagement and interaction, ensuring that all students have the chance to discuss their thinking and challenge one another.

Individual work is also important. It reveals concrete evidence of what each student understands, and it gives more introverted students the time and space to make their own discoveries and come to their own conclusions.

What are some ways that you support different learning styles and preferences for social interaction in your classroom?

Carrie Baker is a curriculum writer and editor for MLC.