#TBT: The One-Room Schoolhouse Blog Feature

By: Margo Ensz on July 16th, 2015

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#TBT: The One-Room Schoolhouse

Featured Topics: Differentiated Instruction | Featured Topics: Professional Development

"The one-room schoolhouse was a place where a single educator faced the daily challenge of teaching to meet the needs of all students. Learner characteristics like age, cultural background, cognitive ability, and physical challenges did not separate students into different spaces and different places. The teacher negotiated all of these variables within a single room." (source)

3855012102_c266f814c1_zIn the 19th and early 20th centuries, one-room schoolhouses were the norm in the United States. As late as 1913, half of the country's school-age children were enrolled in one-room schools (there were about 200,000 schools at the time) (source). One-room school houses are now the exception, not the rule, and its classroom model has moved into the realms of museums and history units (though there are still several hundred active one-room schoolhouses in the United States!). However, many modern educators have made the connection between the past and present. 

What comes to mind when you think of a one-room schoolhouse? Antiquated techniques? Walking uphill both ways? Chalkboards and a room of rural students of all age? Here's a description that might sound familiar to modern teachers: One teacher tasked with meeting the needs of a group of students with diverse learning needs. It seems that one-room schoolhouses are the original differentiated instruction model. Here's a quick definition of differentiated instruction:

"Differentiated instruction is a method of designing and delivering instruction to best reach each student." (source) 

Though the initial idea of differentiation remains, much has changed since 1915. Rather than having teams and cohesive school staffs, teachers in one-room school houses often worked in isolation. Modern classrooms are also tasked with preparing students to be global citizens, with teacher's curriculum and subjects varying greatly from their one-room predecessors. The introduction to Learn NC's Reaching every learner: Differentiating instruction in theory and practice poses the following thought:

"Effective instruction goes beyond strong knowledge of content, excellent classroom management skills, and a solid foundation in content pedagogical knowledge. It requires a teacher who can provide age-appropriate, culturally relevant, learning-style appropriate, cognitively challenging, linguistically comprehensible input for each student in an environment that respects a range of physical abilities. It requires the ability to provide meaningful learning opportunities for every student, taking into consideration what makes them unique...Effective instruction has come to mean different instruction for what has become historically the most heterogeneous of learner populations, all within the same classroom."

Differentiated instruction is unique in that it truly varies in each classroom. Plus, ideas of personalized and individualized learning have joined differentiation, which offer more ways to reach learners of all abilities. Educators have more access to technology and tools to help with these efforts, but can also utilize "classic" classroom features like anchor charts and manipulatives. If you are interested in learning more about these topics, check out the following posts that share greater detail and recommendations for differentiated instruction:

How do you differentiate instruction in your classroom? Have you ever taught in a one-room schoolhouse? Were you a student in one of these schools? We'd love to hear from you--leave a comment!

Photo source: https://goo.gl/M4fY8B