A Look at Differentiated Instruction and Family Dinners

 By Jenny LeTempt

 Jenny Entry

            As students and educators we often encounter many technical terms and find their definitions in textbooks in boldface type.  However, what do these terms really mean when you break them down?  How can we apply them to the classroom if we don’t understand them inside and out?  As educators it is our responsibility to know these concepts, apply them, and understand them fully.  That is why I attempted to connect my own experience with my textbook understanding of these terms in order to develop a better understanding of their true meaning.

            First, I looked at the “textbook” definitions.  Differentiated Instruction involves “shaking up” the classroom, so students have lots of options for processing information, understanding concepts, and expressing what they have learned (Price and Nelson, 2014). 

            My son is ten years old.  I have had the opportunity to stay home with him since I started the MIT program at Saint Martin’s.  I find that I can often make connections between my family life and the big ideas that I am learning about education.  For example, the concept of Differentiated Instruction can be applied to our family dinners.  We all eat dinner at the same table and we all eat the same food.  The size portions might vary depending on the individual (universal design).  My husband needs more food than my son and me to stay healthy.  My son likes ketchup, but my husband does not.  By serving the same meal, but making small adjustments, I am utilizing differentiated instruction.  I could also consider how they will consume the food and offer to let them use their hands, knife, spoon, fork, or have their food blended into a liquid (variation in instruction).  During dinner I might mention strategies or model how to eat certain foods like spaghetti (Conspicuous strategies).  If I serve a meal like steak, and my son is unable to cut the meat himself, I will cut it for him and model how to be safe with a knife (mediated scaffolding).  During dinner if someone does not eat a particular dish, I will inform them of how valuable that food is to their diet.  I could also give them specific information of how it affects their body in a positive way, as well as how their body might suffer if they do not have a balanced diet (Strategic integration).  At the end of the meal, I might ask my son to model how to cut steak safely for me (Judicious review).

            Applying these terms to my life experiences helps me garner a deeper level of understanding of their meaning.  It gives me the ability to look at the big picture and how I can use Differentiated Instruction in my classroom.  After all, it is all about shaking things up and giving students lot of options and ways to share what they know and what they have learned. 


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3 Responses to A Look at Differentiated Instruction and Family Dinners

  1. Leslie says:

    I particularly appreciate the “modeling” how to eat spaghetti. A useful and simple metaphor to apply a new concept to something nearly everyone has experienced can be so meaningful. Even if we didn’t all learn to eat noodles the same way with the same strategies, nearly all of us have experiences with noodle-eating of some sort. Thank you for illustrating differentiated instruction in such a practical, and somewhat humorous, way.

  2. Tabitha Ellison says:

    Your analogy helped me to understand those concepts better! It has also motivated me to look up a few of them for my own review! 😉 Love the personal connection to what we are learning, it makes it more digestible. Thanks!

  3. Belinda Hill says:

    Love your thoughts on this. It is so much more helpful for our students if we can get them to talk about it in their experience than if we have them repeat a textbook definition back to us.

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