Reply To: Differentiated Instruction in the Music Classroom

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This is such an important topic right now. I think that you are probably doing a lot of differentiating already — when you mention that you know which of your students will likely be able to perform the ostinato accurately, you take that into consideration when you choose initial sets of students to demonstrate. I think that a lot of differentiation is labeling what we already do, without thinking, those small things that show that we understand that our students come to us with different skill sets.

The big thing that I try to do is to simplify (or add challenges) whenever ready. When working on decoding rhythms with third grade, for example, a lower-performing student would identify the rhythm that is occurring on one beat (and an easier one at that, a ti-ti perhaps), while a more skilled student might be asked to identify the rhythm for a full four beats of music. With beat competence for kindergarten, a well-developed and confident students would be asked to chant a poem alone while keeping the beat, while a less-skilled youngster would be asked to do it in a small group, making sure to “make your beat just like Tamir’s” (a particularly strong student in my kindergarten class this year).

One issue of General Music Today has a series of articles on differentiating, and two of them refer to general music classes. The issue was in 2011, issue 97. I also wrote an article on this topic for the Kodaly Envoy, if you have access to that, published in 2012, issue 39. The online article that Linda referenced is great, too — I hadn’t seen that before. They all give great suggestions.

Viva la differentiation!
Christopher Roberts
Seattle, WA
Council for General Music Member-at-Large