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Ask an Academy Expert: Lisa Connaughton

Differentiated Learning in Kindergarten: Examples of Instruction, Presentations, and Resources

When you enter a kindergarten class at Cape Fear Academy you notice each child actively engaged, working independently or cooperatively in groups. Lessons and activities are differentiated, based on student readiness, to meet the needs of individual learners. Teachers use a variety of techniques to engage students and allow them to learn through fun games and activities at their own level. Smaller class sizes and full time assistant teachers make small group and individualized instruction effective. The classrooms are designed to encourage cooperative learning, problem solving, and social interaction.

A teacher kneels on a rug with two students and reading picture cards.

One of the research-based techniques our Lower School teachers use is the Orton Gillingham multisensory approach to teaching reading. It aligns with our approach to personalized learning because it focuses on the learning needs of each student. Teachers design these lessons and pace instruction based on individual strengths and areas of need. Each lesson combines listening, speaking, reading, and a tactile activity. Lessons are structured, but fun and engaging for all students. Our kindergarteners use letter trays, whiteboards, sand trays, and many other multisensory activities to progressively develop skills that enable them to decode/”read” words.  

Three kindergarten students wear medical scrubs in front of a poster presentation titled "The Lungs"

As students learn, we offer varied opportunities and methods for them to show what they know. One of our favorite units in kindergarten is Anatomy Academy. During this unit, students learn about the human body through research, literature, songs, and tactile activities. Lessons are carefully designed to engage students, based on student interest and level of understanding. Ultimately students, working in pairs or small groups, produce nonfiction writing and posters to demonstrate their knowledge, which then is shared in a fun and memorable presentation (Learning Exhibition) for their families. 

Our success with differentiated instruction stems in large part from the resources provided to teachers at CFA. They are provided the tools and training to equip them to offer students learning opportunities best suited to their individual needs and strengths. This differentiation allows students to get the best start possible and to progress as they are developmentally ready throughout the year – which for some students may mean an “explosion” of skills, while for others it’s a steady scaffolding to the next level of achievement.

Either way, the result is confident, capable learners empowered to build on a strong foundation. Thus as they move through the elementary grades, students can continue to benefit from CFA’s focus on personalized, engaging instruction and collaborative, problem-solving educational experiences.


About the author: 

Lisa Connaughton is a veteran teacher. Now in her 7th year as a kindergarten teacher at Cape Fear Academy, she has a Master of Education/Special education from Touro College and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education K-6 Mathematics from State University of New York at New Paltz. Her teaching career of over 15 years includes preschool through 8th grades, in NY and NC, and in private, parochial, and public schools.