Jul 25

Differentiation and Behavioral Growth

Posted by Valentine Burr in Fair Is Not Equal on Jul 25, 2012

Blocks

If we can agree that different kids may need different strategies and approaches to supporting their emotional and behavior growth, we are still left with the questions: what does that really mean and how might it look in the classroom?

Be consistent! We are told as beginning teachers. If kids see you react to one student one way and another a different way for the same behaviors then chaos will reign in your classroom. To venture into the territory of differentiating our responses to students’ behavioral and emotional needs can feel risky.

Jayden knocks down a block structure on purpose on Monday and Serena knocks one down on purpose on Tuesday. The behavior is “the same” (as was the peer reaction), but you know that Jayden was frustrated with an earlier teacher interaction and feeling upset. He knocked the block structure down as an expression of his anger and to gain some teacher attention, with little thought for his peers’ reactions. Serena however, had been trying to gain entry into a social group with no success. She seems to have given up and has been engaging in deliberately antagonizing behaviors with her peers. She’s become a scapegoat in the classroom and gets an odd smile on her face when she sees her peers’ frustration, as if it confirms her outsider status.

The “same behavior” is rarely ever exactly the “same” for different children.

What is the balance between consistency (which we do actually believe is important) and recognizing that Jayden and Serena have a distinct set of needs that may require differentiated interventions and reactions?

What would we suggest? Well we’d need to know more, of course, about the kids and the classrooms. But it may work for Jayden’s “consequence” to be to repair his actions by helping his peers rebuild; and later to brainstorm with a teacher about better ways to express his frustration.

With Serena this response might result in a power struggle or trigger further public rejection by her peers (we don’t want her help!). Perhaps she needs to map out in pictures and words what impact her behaviors have on her friends and she needs to have more structured and supported choices during free-play time.

Responses such as these are not only differentiated, but are focused on individual need and ongoing growth.

What are your thoughts? How would you explain differentiated responses to your students?

tagged behavior, differentiation
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