In response to the heightened press for literacy instruction in preschools, many early childhood teachers find themselves struggling with the question of how to infuse literacy into their daily routines and simultaneously recognize and appreciate the great variability in what children bring to the classroom. Put simply, how can preschool teachers differentiate instruction? The purpose of this chapter is to address this "how" question. Knowing how to differentiate instruction relies on a good understanding of what differentiation is and why it is important in early literacy teaching. Therefore, we begin the chapter with background on the underlying tension at the heart of this question, which is the commonly held belief that teaching literacy during the preschool years is developmentally inappropriate. This belief, however, is contrary to findings from a plethora of early literacy research that documents the important role of preschool teachers in teaching foundational reading and writing concepts through carefully planned group and individualized literacy experiences. In the second section, we define "differentiated instruction" and describe some similarities between developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) and differentiated instruction. We present some principles of differentiated instruction and a framework that can be used to guide organization and early literacy instruction in the preschool classroom. We then explain why differentiated instruction in the teaching of early literacy concepts and skills is critically important. Finally, in the third section we present practical suggestions for implementing differentiated instruction in the classroom-recognizing that many teachers consider it to be "easier said than done"
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