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Differentiating Instruction: Environment

Differentiating Instruction: Environment

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson, you will learn strategies for differentiating the learning environment for diverse learners.

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Welcome. I'm Trisha Fyfe. And in today's video lesson, we will be covering the topic of Differentiating Instruction with a Focus on the Environment. As we learn about this topic, we will work toward several learning objectives, and we'll use the following two questions to guide our learning in this video lesson. How can learning environments be differentiated in your classroom? And what might this look like?

Let's start by talking about differentiated instruction. This important framework revolves around the idea that changes must be made in several areas to improve education for each and every student. These changes include changes to the content, or what students are learning, changes to the process of learning, or how the students are learning that content, changes to the products that our students are producing to show their learning, and changes to the learning environment itself.

Student profiles can be a fantastic tool for teachers to really get to know their students. We use these profiles to consider specific needs when we differentiate. We may be thinking about any of the changes that we just discussed as far as differentiating content, process, products, or the learning environment. A student's learning profile can be made up of many different things, including but not limited to, interests of the students, their learning style, their dominant multiple intelligences, their gender, culture, and any other factors that seem important for your class.

In this lesson, we'll focus on differentiation of learning environments, thinking about technology and integrating tools and resources purposely along the way. Let's start by thinking about why we should differentiate the learning environment. The learning environment will support or deter the student's quest for affirmation, contribution, power, purpose, and challenge in the classroom. So it's extremely important for us to learn how to properly differentiate the learning environment.

When considering what elements of a learning environment can be differentiated, there are two main areas to focus on, the physical layout and the feel of the environment. Let's start by talking about the physical layout of the classroom or environment. How is space being used in your classroom? Are there areas for small and large group activities? Are there independent work areas or centers for your students?

What is the lighting like? Is there enough lighting? Are supplies available and organized for students to access on their own and independently? These things are all things we can modify fairly easily as teachers. We also need to consider how flexible our arrangement of our classroom furniture is. If we can rearrange and move furniture easily, we have more opportunities to create flexible grouping situations.

We also need to consider the feel of our classroom. Is this environment welcoming for our students? Is it a risk-free environment where students don't feel intimidated or judged? Does the environmental allow for students to feel like they can put themselves out there, participating and answering questions without fears? We can use tools and procedures that help our classroom run smoothly, where the goal is for each individual student to be and feel successful when they're in the classroom.

Classroom meetings, compliment boxes, group work, and celebration of successes together as a class are great ways to promote welcoming, encouraging, safe environments for your students. When differentiating the learning environment, it's important to consider the following questions. How should I arrange my classrooms so that there are areas for different learning activities and groupings? How can I enhance the feel of my classroom so that it is a safe, positive environment for all students?

How can technology help the students and myself reach the above goals? Remember these are extremely important for you to remember as a teacher when you're differentiating the learning environment of your classroom. So make sure you write these down or take a screenshot.

Let's talk about what we learned today. We looked at the following questions. How can learning environments be differentiated in your classroom, and what might this look like? Today we looked at differentiating learning environments and two elements to consider in your classroom or learning environment, the layout of the classroom and the feel of the learning environment. Both are equally important to consider when looking at differentiating the learning environment.

Now that you're more familiar with these concepts, let's reflect. What are the benefits to differentiating learning environments in your classroom? Can you think of challenges in differentiating learning environments in a diverse classroom? Thanks for joining me today and discussing the lesson Differentiating Instruction with a Focus on the Environment. I hope you found value in this video lesson, and I hope you're able to apply these ideas as you differentiate the environment of your own classroom.

To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the Additional Resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on “Differentiating Instruction: Environment”


(00:00- 00:24) Introduction

(00:25- 00:55) What is Differentiation of Instruction?

(00:56- 01:33) Student Profiles and Differentiation  

(01:34- 02:01) Why Differentiate the Learning Environment?

(02:02- 02:55) Differentiating the Physical Environment

(02:56- 03:38) Differentiating the “Feel” of the Environment

(03:39- 04:11) Differentiating Environments: Questions to Ask

(04:12- 04:38) Recap

(04:39- 05:23) Reflection 

Additional Resources

Differentiating Instruction with Technology in K-5 Classrooms

This excerpt provides an overview of differentiated instruction and reviews the basic tenets. In particular, see table 1.2 ("Nine categories of instructional strategies most likely to help students learn") on page 15; this table crosswalks high-yield instructional strategies with no technology and technology strategies for implementation in the classroom.

Inclusion in the 21st-century classroom: Differentiating with technology

This entry provides practical approaches for teachers to implement differentiation strategies with technology in their instruction. The authors provide strategies for the four types of differentiation: content, process, product, and environment.