My Lucky Seven: A Lesson in Differentiation

By Jess Burkard — The number seven has come up as a special number throughout history in literature, film, sports, religion, and biology alike.

holding hands

In my classroom, there’s another lucky seven that I like to refer to that some people wouldn’t necessarily deem lucky. My lucky seven represents the number of differentiated groups of students in my class. That’s right, seven.

  1. Specific Learning Disabilities
  2. English Language Learners
  3. Tommy
  4. Billy
  5. Johnny
  6. Gifted Students
  7. On Level Students

Now, looking at my groups, you may notice that there are three different boys names. I didn’t put their real first names simply for the sake of confidentiality, but they each certainly deserve their own group, as they are each different levels of autistic. One is an on-level, aggressive boy, who is triggered by things he deems unfair, and yet has quite the sense of humor. Another, is a gifted student academically, but has a very low self-esteem. So, meltdowns immediately follow his trigger, incorrect answers.

Lastly, the third boy is a very sweet boy who has a short attention span, talks constantly, has trouble focusing, and is below level. Again, those are only three of the groups, but as you can see, they each have earned their own group by their diverse needs. In addition to those three boys, there are still other students who have specific learning disabilities that have been conditioned to do less and expect teachers to give up on them, another group of students who need extensions in all subjects, ESL students who need visuals and other assessments, and the rest of the class who does all of the 3rd grade material. That’s the gist of my lucky seven.

Thus, another lesson that I have learned from student teaching is the importance of differentiation. Throughout my time as a Marquette University student, I have never quite understood the importance of differentiation; however, now being immersed in a classroom that involves the lucky seven, I could not have a better understanding.

To successfully engage all of the students at their own levels, differentiation is absolutely vital. It’s the heart of our classroom, as we could not beat without it. Without differentiation, Tommy would not be able to learn math at his level (6th grade) and the lower ESL students would not be making any improvement with their reading skills (1st grade reading level). The range of abilities, needs, and gifts in the class that I teach in is honestly a constant source of amazement.

To differentiate properly, I have had to rely not only on the teachings of my Marquette professors but also my own individual research. Honestly, without that research and the experience with the students, I wouldn’t really understand differentiation. In addition to all that I am learning and improving on along my journey of student teaching, differentiation is quickly becoming a skill of mine because of my lucky seven. Therefore, they are lucky because they have truly taught me how to be an effective teacher in differentiation. They are a remarkable lucky seven that I’m sure I will never forget.

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