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Differentiation Sparks Enthusiasm in Young Learners

Jaelyn Johnson and Dulce Moraeles | Photograph by Jamie Bodo Photography

Jaelyn Johnson and Dulce Moraeles

Having more directed attention has taken school from being “just routine” to “more of a highlight” for many students.  See how here.

by Arin Gencer

After a class lesson that went particularly well, New Jersey Conference teacher Dulce Morales asked her second-graders at the Lake Nelson Seventh-day Adventist School in Piscataway how they’d like their accomplishments to be celebrated—an idea she picked up from a Differentiated Instruction (DI) workshop. “It’s kind of like a positive affirmation,’” Morales says.

Some kids chose a cheer. Others a certain sound. Seven-year-old Jaelyn Johnson chose fireworks, a motion that involves moving the hands up while clapping them together, then lowering them down.

Photo by Jamie Bodo Photography

Jayné and Jaelyn Johnson

“It’s fun to do,” Jaelyn says, adding that it makes her feel special. The figurative sparks could reflect her newfound excitement and confidence in Morales’ differentiated classroom.

During parent-teacher conferences last year, Morales explained some of the changes she’d be introducing, says Jayné Johnson, Jaelyn’s mother: She planned to challenge Jaelyn, an avid writer, to advance above grade level.

Having more directed attention has taken school from being “just routine” to “more of a highlight” for her daughter, Johnson says. “Her enthusiasm level for school and her excitement really have soared. … She seems really excited that she’s able to do challenging work.”

Jaelyn also responds well to the varied approaches Morales takes to teaching different subjects—a mix of hands-on activities, group interaction and individual work, Johnson says. She adds, “There’s a more personalized nature to it, to the instruction, that adds value and makes her feel valued in the classroom.”

Read these other articles from the March 2014 Visitor: