Characteristics in successful learning environment:
- Positive Classroom climate.
- Peers should acknowledge each other as all having special talents that contribute to activities within the classroom.
- If peers learn to acknowledge each other’s deficits and strengths positive self-efficacy is built in and students learn to accept peers with varying abilities in a positive view.
- If children feel accepted within their care group they are more apt to exert effort when faced with challenges.
- The teacher is the guiding force in teaching the students problem-solving skills. The end results are students who have been empowered with skills and then label internalizing use in the classroom and every day life.
- Children should always feel comfortable asking for help. No question should be deemed as stupid. The best approach would be to add the statement “good question” in response to a child’s inquiries. Body language is extremely important. When a child is struggling and the teacher grimaces or roles their eyeballs the child will notice. In response the child is made to feel worthless and negative self-efficacy will be the result. Always try to smile, and get down to the child’s eye level.
- Always show excitement when a child accomplishes a new skill. As an educator you are a child’s cheerleader. If they know that you are pleased with the effort they have exerted they will want to accept other challenges. High-five them, tell them that you knew they could do it all along!
- Respect Childrens learning differences. Challenge them slightly. Do not set goals that will surely result in failure. If challenges are achieved in small chunks, the child will feel confident to move on to the next challenge.
- Being fair within the differentiated classroom means making sure the child is having their needs met so they can succeed. It does not mean treating each child the same.
- Collaboration in the classroom is negotiable.
- When creating a positive classroom climate allowing the students to be involved in setting the rules and settling problems are important. I have found within my own class that when children are involved in rule setting, etc. they are more apt to follow those rules.
- Model with characteristics that you want instilled in the students and they will follow your lead. If the teacher models carrying, verbalizing positive attributes, etc. the children will follow the lead. There is no room for the “do as I say and not as I do” mentality within a differentiated classroom.
- Constant observation of students’ behavior within the study group can be the key to eliminating negative self defeating behaviors before they escalate.
- Groups should not be set up so that everyone takes on the same roles. Some examples would be labeling, (the little professor, the ill behaved child, the slow child).
- Attributes should be recognized within each child and utilized with the class. That each child feels like a contributor.
- Always utilize grouping strategies with flexibility in mind. On some occasions children of like skills can be grouped together for a project. On other occasions children should work together and all talents should be utilized for the final goal.
- Always remember that children’s skills can change over time. Always be open to changing goals and expectations for those children.
Group Work Check List
- Students understand task goals; have children demonstrate, verbally repeat instructions, and sign contracts.
- Students understand expectations to make the group work in a cohesive manner; a buddy system, cheering peers on further successes, care reminders when one student is not working up to par. Teacher intervention is sometimes needed to create a cohesive environment.
- The task matches the goal; expectations for goals should match the child’s skill set. Thus, we do not set the child up for failure. If a child is not extremely literate perhaps they could draw pictures and a report versus writing an essay. To challenge the child, the teacher could request that they write a descriptive sentence under each picture.
- Students should find the activity interesting; great way to accomplish this is by feedback. Communicate with the kids, find out what their likes and dislikes are and take those into account when planning a project. An example would be incorporating baseball scores into a math assignment. Use a cardboard pizza to talk about fractions, and taking a class vote on favorite foods works well.
- Every student needs to contribute with a certain project.
- When doing math homework, I have taught the kids who need visual reinforcement to draw circles. For example, if the problem is 12-5 we draw 12 circles. The child crosses out five circles to take away lower number. The child then counts the amount left and they have the answer to the problem.
Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE is a school coordinator, blogger and author. She is certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. She is certified in Community Crisis Intervention by the Community Crisis Intervention Team of Bristol County. As a parent of a son with Asperger’s, she and her son show others how it is possible to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals.Mari on Linkedin Mari on Twitter