I've decided from my experience with various age levels of male students that there is a very significant difference in their thinking as opposed to the female students. Let's write a simile. Boy's minds are like cars; they don't work unless they are in drive. I think most of these students want to be good students and listen to what the teacher says. But their mind's are not actively engaged unless they are active. On the other hand, a girl's mind is similarly like a car. Except that they seem to have the power to turn the key themselves; they can choose when to engage their mind without actively involving their body. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. How do we differentiate teaching so that boys and girls are both engaged? Do we try to cater separately to boys and girls? Do we try to incorporate activities that stimulate both? Do we do both simultaneously?
I hate the thought that some student will always be bored in my class. Although most of this has to do with my actions:
Does my class Relate to the students' lives? I've struggled with this a lot. Obviously, there is a lot of lessons that my students will never use again in life, especially those not going to college. I can always give the generic answer of how math improves logic, problem-solving skills, critical thinking, etc etc. But who is that helping? Now, I've decided that the real question is, Do I relate to my students' lives? I had one student during my student teaching who told me the first day he was going to ask me when he would use this in real life every single day- and he did. Even on days I couldn't come up with a sufficient answer, I could persuade him to do it anyway because of my relationship with him. He held some sort of respect for me because we had talked- he told me about his band, he talked to me about his girl drama, he showed me videos of his paintball team- he knew I cared about his life. I think this is the number one thing my students need anyway- my attention, and knowing that I care about their life. I've been finding some really great projects and and ideas on how to relate more lessons to real life. I think that, combined with caring about the students themselves, is the best thing I can do.
Am I Interesting? Or am I teaching the same things over and over, using the same worksheets, the same style, the same everything? We all need variety.
Am I Passionate? Intense emotion always captures attention.
You looked, didn't you?
So when it comes to differentiated instruction my main approach, for now, is to differentiate the way I approach my students before I even think about my lesson plans.
I found a great article on the basics of differentiated instruction that really broke things down and made it practical. Check it.