Differentiation is something that will never go away. We will always need to differentiate lessons, assessments, and learning styles to meet the needs of the students in our rooms. It can seem like a daunting task however you can set up your classroom to differentiate before you even know your students! These tips and tricks will help you set your room up for success and help you stay organized right off the bat.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, well I believe it takes at least 21 days for you to understand your students. So, by the time you formed the habit of being organized you’ve gotten to know your students and are ready to fully use your classroom!

Here are 3 SIMPLE tips to help you set up a room to differentiate before you even know your students!

Tip #1

Provide each student with a folder and their name or number on it. I personally like to use numbers on their folder. I put numbers on their folder so at the end of the day a student organizes it from 1-25. Gives me another classroom job and allows a student to practice number order.

This is their early finisher folder where you can provide different pages for skills the specific student needs to work on. If a student is struggling with the letter b and d you can provide extra material in their folder. Or if a student struggles in handwriting or math skills you can provide them with extra practice by using these folders.

I know what you are thinking, but I don’t even know my students yet!! No problem! Just place a coloring bookmark page, or simple activities for students to complete at the beginning of the year until you get to know them. Then right off the bat students know when they finish early, they have a folder to work out of. When you start placing differentiated papers in them students have already formed the habit of grabbing them!

Remember how I said I have a student put them in number order at the end of each week? Well it comes in handy for me when I go to add more material into each folder for skills students need.

You can use color coded folders in centers to help differentiate!

Tip #2 Color Coded Folders

When I have centers (math and literacy time) I color code each center activity by once again using simple 10 cent folders from Walmart. I assign each student with a math color and reading color. Then when students arrive to the center they know what color their activity is in.

At the beginning of the year it is important to teach students to learn to work with groups. When I do centers at the beginning of the year they are simple group work activities that are educational and fun. This helps train my students how to interact with others and be apart of a healthy group.

I am not a huge fan of ability grouping for all of the centers because I strongly believe it is important for students to learn to work with everyone and learn from everyone. That’s why I use the color-coded folders for reading and math centers. Although, their work might be different they can still ask each other questions and learn to work with everyone.

At the beginning of the year I assign students a math color and a reading color and tape it to their desk. I just write it on a sticky note. Then students know what color they are to grab work out of when they are at a group. Now I only do this for a couple of my centers not all of them, which I will go into detail in upcoming posts!

Tip #3

These are perfect for differentiation!

I use the rolling carts on wheels to help differentiate my students work and stay organized. Each drawer contains material for each small group meeting I have with students. I write group 1, 2, 3 etc. on each drawer. I put all the materials I need for each small group meeting in it by my round table desk. When I have group meetings and I am working with different groups of students with different educational needs all the materials are right their next to me. I just pull it out and start my lesson!

I do put up to two weeks of material in each drawer. I like to plan ahead to help stay organized.

At the beginning of the year I know you aren’t differentiating yet but you can still hold small group meetings to get to know your students. You can still use the drawers for fun activities to play with your students while you relate to them and get to know them. Then when it is time to put your lessons into full swing, you’re already used to using the drawers and students are used to meeting with you!

In Summary

By providing earlier finisher folders, color coded folders at different centers, and a rolling cart can help you differentiate and stay organized throughout the year!

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