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What is Differentiated Instruction? Examples of How to Differentiate Instruction in the Classroom

Just as everyone has a unique fingerprint, every student has an individual learning style. Chances are, not all of your students grasp a subject in the same way or share the same level of ability. So how can you better deliver your lessons to reach everyone in class? Consider differentiated instruction—a method you may have heard about but haven’t explored, which is why you’re here. In this article, learn exactly what it means, how it works, and the pros and cons.

Infographic: What is differentiated instruction? Carol Ann Tomlinson is a leader in the area of differentiated learning and professor of educational leadership, foundations, and policy at the University of Virginia. Tomlinson describes differentiated instruction as factoring students’ individual learning styles and levels of readiness first before designing a lesson plan. Four ways to differentiate instruction: Content, product, process, and learning environment. Pros and cons of differentiated instruction.

Definition of differentiated instruction

Carol Ann Tomlinson is a leader in the area of differentiated learning and professor of educational leadership, foundations, and policy at the University of Virginia. Tomlinson describes differentiated instruction as factoring students’ individual learning styles and levels of readiness first before designing a lesson plan. Research on the effectiveness of differentiation shows this method benefits a wide range of students, from those with learning disabilities to those who are considered high ability.

Differentiating instruction may mean teaching the same material to all students using a variety of instructional strategies, or it may require the teacher to deliver lessons at varying levels of difficulty based on the ability of each student.

Teachers who practice differentiation in the classroom may:

  • Design lessons based on students’ learning styles.
  • Group students by shared interest, topic, or ability for assignments.
  • Assess students’ learning using formative assessment.
  • Manage the classroom to create a safe and supportive environment.
  • Continually assess and adjust lesson content to meet students’ needs.

History of differentiated instruction

The roots of differentiated instruction go all the way back to the days of the one-room schoolhouse, where one teacher had students of all ages in one classroom. As the educational system transitioned to grading schools, it was assumed that children of the same age learned similarly. However in 1912, achievement tests were introduced, and the scores revealed the gaps in student’s abilities within grade levels.

In 1975, Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), ensuring that children with disabilities had equal access to public education. To reach this student population, many educators used differentiated instruction strategies. Then came the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2000, which further encouraged differentiated and skill-based instruction—and that’s because it works. Research by educator Leslie Owen Wilson supports differentiating instruction within the classroom, finding that lecture is the least effective instructional strategy, with only 5 to 10 percent retention after 24 hours. Engaging in a discussion, practicing after exposure to content, and teaching others are much more effective ways to ensure learning retention.

Four ways to differentiate instruction

According to Tomlinson, teachers can differentiate instruction through four ways: 1) content, 2) process, 3) product, and 4) learning environment.

As you already know, fundamental lesson content should cover the standards of learning set by the school district or state educational standards. But some students in your class may be completely unfamiliar with the concepts in a lesson, some students may have partial mastery, and some students may already be familiar with the content before the lesson begins.

What you could do is differentiate the content by designing activities for groups of students that cover various levels of  Bloom’s Taxonomy (a classification of levels of intellectual behavior going from lower-order thinking skills to higher-order thinking skills). The six levels are: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

Students who are unfamiliar with a lesson could be required to complete tasks on the lower levels: remembering and understanding. Students with some mastery could be asked to apply and analyze the content, and students who have high levels of mastery could be asked to complete tasks in the areas of evaluating and creating.

Examples of differentiating activities:

  • Match vocabulary words to definitions.
  • Read a passage of text and answer related questions.
  • Think of a situation that happened to a character in the story and a different outcome.
  • Differentiate fact from opinion in the story.
  • Identify an author’s position and provide evidence to support this viewpoint.
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the lesson.

Each student has a preferred learning style, and successful differentiation includes delivering the material to each style: visual, auditory and kinesthetic, and through words. This process-related method also addresses the fact that not all students require the same amount of support from the teacher, and students could choose to work in pairs, small groups, or individually. And while some students may benefit from one-on-one interaction with you or the classroom aide, others may be able to progress by themselves. Teachers can enhance student learning by offering support based on individual needs.

Examples of differentiating the process:

  • Provide textbooks for visual and word learners.
  • Allow auditory learners to listen to audio books.
  • Give kinesthetic learners the opportunity to complete an interactive assignment online.

The product is what the student creates at the end of the lesson to demonstrate the mastery of the content. This can be in the form of tests, projects, reports, or other activities. You could assign students to complete activities that show mastery of an educational concept in a way the student prefers, based on learning style.

Examples of differentiating the end product:

  • Read and write learners write a book report.
  • Visual learners create a graphic organizer of the story.
  • Auditory learners give an oral report.
  • Kinesthetic learners build a diorama illustrating the story.

4. Learning environment

The conditions for optimal learning include both physical and psychological elements. A flexible classroom layout is key, incorporating various types of furniture and arrangements to support both individual and group work. Psychologically speaking, teachers should use classroom management techniques that support a safe and supportive learning environment.

Examples of differentiating the environment:

  • Break some students into reading groups to discuss the assignment.
  • Allow students to read individually if preferred.
  • Create quiet spaces where there are no distractions.

Pros and cons of differentiated instruction

The benefits of differentiation in the classroom are often accompanied by the drawback of an ever-increasing workload. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Research shows differentiated instruction is effective for high-ability students as well as students with mild to severe disabilities.
  • When students are given more options on how they can learn material, they take on more responsibility for their own learning.
  • Students appear to be more engaged in learning, and there are reportedly fewer discipline problems in classrooms where teachers provide differentiated lessons.
  • Differentiated instruction requires more work during lesson planning, and many teachers struggle to find the extra time in their schedule.
  • The learning curve can be steep and some schools lack professional development resources.
  • Critics argue there isn’t enough research to support the benefits of differentiated instruction outweighing the added prep time.

Differentiated instruction strategies

What differentiated instructional strategies can you use in your classroom? There are a set of methods that can be tailored and used across the different subjects. According to Kathy Perez (2019) and the Access Center those strategies are tiered assignments, choice boards, compacting, interest centers/groups, flexible grouping, and learning contracts. Tiered assignments are designed to teach the same skill but have the students create a different product to display their knowledge based on their comprehension skills. Choice boards allow students to choose what activity they would like to work on for a skill that the teacher chooses. On the board are usually options for the different learning styles; kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and tactile. Compacting allows the teacher to help students reach the next level in their learning when they have already mastered what is being taught to the class. To compact the teacher assesses the student’s level of knowledge, creates a plan for what they need to learn, excuses them from studying what they already know, and creates free time for them to practice an accelerated skill.

Interest centers or groups are a way to provide autonomy in student learning. Flexible grouping allows the groups to be more fluid based on the activity or topic.  Finally, learning contracts are made between a student and teacher, laying out the teacher’s expectations for the necessary skills to be demonstrated and the assignments required components with the student putting down the methods they would like to use to complete the assignment. These contracts can allow students to use their preferred learning style, work at an ideal pace and encourages independence and planning skills. The following are strategies for some of the core subject based on these methods.

Differentiated instruction strategies for math

  • Provide students with a choice board. They could have the options to learn about probability by playing a game with a peer, watching a video, reading the textbook, or working out problems on a worksheet.
  • Teach mini lessons to individuals or groups of students who didn’t grasp the concept you were teaching during the large group lesson. This also lends time for compacting activities for those who have mastered the subject.
  • Use manipulatives, especially with students that have more difficulty grasping a concept.
  • Have students that have already mastered the subject matter create notes for students that are still learning.
  • For students that have mastered the lesson being taught, require them to give in-depth, step-by-step explanation of their solution process, while not being rigid about the process with students who are still learning the basics of a concept if they arrive at the correct answer.

Differentiated instruction strategies for science

  • Emma McCrea (2019) suggests setting up “Help Stations,” where peers assist each other. Those that have more knowledge of the subject will be able to teach those that are struggling as an extension activity and those that are struggling will receive.
  • Set up a “question and answer” session during which learners can ask the teacher or their peers questions, in order to fill in knowledge gaps before attempting the experiment.
  • Create a visual word wall. Use pictures and corresponding labels to help students remember terms.
  • Set up interest centers. When learning about dinosaurs you might have an “excavation” center, a reading center, a dinosaur art project that focuses on their anatomy, and a video center.
  • Provide content learning in various formats such as showing a video about dinosaurs, handing out a worksheet with pictures of dinosaurs and labels, and providing a fill-in-the-blank work sheet with interesting dinosaur facts.

Differentiated instruction strategies for ELL

  • ASCD (2012) writes that all teachers need to become language teachers so that the content they are teaching the classroom can be conveyed to the students whose first language is not English.
  • Start by providing the information in the language that the student speaks then pairing it with a limited amount of the corresponding vocabulary in English.
  •  Although ELL need a limited amount of new vocabulary to memorize, they need to be exposed to as much of the English language as possible. This means that when teaching, the teacher needs to focus on verbs and adjectives related to the topic as well.
  • Group work is important. This way they are exposed to more of the language. They should, however, be grouped with other ELL if possible as well as given tasks within the group that are within their reach such as drawing or researching.

Differentiated instruction strategies for reading

  • Tiered assignments can be used in reading to allow the students to show what they have learned at a level that suites them. One student might create a visual story board while another student might write a book report. 
  • Reading groups can pick a book based on interest or be assigned based on reading level
  • Erin Lynch (2020) suggest that teachers scaffold instruction by giving clear explicit explanations with visuals. Verbally and visually explain the topic. Use anchor charts, drawings, diagrams, and reference guides to foster a clearer understanding. If applicable, provide a video clip for students to watch.
  • Utilize flexible grouping. Students might be in one group for phonics based on their assessed level but choose to be in another group for reading because they are more interested in that book.

Differentiated instruction strategies for writing

  • Hold writing conferences with your students either individually or in small groups. Talk with them throughout the writing process starting with their topic and moving through grammar, composition, and editing.
  • Allow students to choose their writing topics. When the topic is of interest, they will likely put more effort into the assignment and therefore learn more.
  • Keep track of and assess student’s writing progress continually throughout the year. You can do this using a journal or a checklist. This will allow you to give individualized instruction.
  • Hand out graphic organizers to help students outline their writing. Try fill-in-the-blank notes that guide the students through each step of the writing process for those who need additional assistance.
  • For primary grades give out lined paper instead of a journal. You can also give out differing amounts of lines based on ability level. For those who are excelling at writing give them more lines or pages to encourage them to write more. For those that are still in the beginning stages of writing, give them less lines so that they do not feel overwhelmed.

Differentiated instruction strategies for special education

  • Use a multi-sensory approach. Get all five senses involved in your lessons, including taste and smell!
  • Use flexible grouping to create partnerships and teach students how to work collaboratively on tasks. Create partnerships where the students are of equal ability, partnerships where once the student will be challenged by their partner and another time they will be pushing and challenging their partner.
  • Assistive technology is often an important component of differential instruction in special education. Provide the students that need them with screen readers, personal tablets for communication, and voice recognition software.
  • The article Differentiation & LR Information for SAS Teachers suggests teachers be flexible when giving assessments “Posters, models, performances, and drawings can show what they have learned in a way that reflects their personal strengths”. You can test for knowledge using rubrics instead of multiple-choice questions, or even build a portfolio of student work. You could also have them answer questions orally.
  • Utilize explicit modeling. Whether its notetaking, problem solving in math, or making a sandwich in home living, special needs students often require a step-by-step guide to make connections.

References and resources


Books & Videos about differentiated instruction by Carol Ann Tomlinson and others

  • The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, 2nd Edition
  • Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom – Carol Ann Tomlinson and Marcia B. Imbeau
  • The Differentiated School: Making Revolutionary Changes in Teaching and Learning – Carol Ann Tomlinson, Kay Brimijoin, and Lane Narvaez
  • Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids – Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe
  • Differentiation in Practice Grades K-5: A Resource Guide for Differentiating Curriculum – Carol Ann Tomlinson and Caroline Cunningham Eidson
  • Differentiation in Practice Grades 5–9: A Resource Guide for Differentiating Curriculum – Carol Ann Tomlinson and Caroline Cunningham Eidson
  • Differentiation in Practice Grades 9–12: A Resource Guide for Differentiating Curriculum – Carol Ann Tomlinson and Cindy A. Strickland
  • Fulfilling the Promise of the Differentiated Classroom: Strategies and Tools for Responsive Teaching – Carol Ann Tomlinson
  • Leadership for Differentiating Schools and Classrooms – Carol Ann Tomlinson and Susan Demirsky Allan
  • How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms, 3rd Edition by Carol Ann Tomlinson
  • Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Tonya R. Moon
  • How To Differentiate Instruction In Mixed Ability Classrooms 2nd Edition – Carol Ann Tomlinson
  • How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms 3rd Edition by Carol Ann Tomlinson 
  • Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom Paperback – Carol Ann Tomlinson, Tonya R. Moon
  • Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom (Professional Development) 1st Edition – Carol Ann Tomlinson, Marcia B. Imbeau
  • The Differentiated School: Making Revolutionary Changes in Teaching and Learning 1st Edition by Carol Ann Tomlinson, Kay Brimijoin, Lane Narvaez
  • Differentiation and the Brain: How Neuroscience Supports the Learner-Friendly Classroom  – David A. Sousa, Carol Ann Tomlinson
  • Leading for Differentiation: Growing Teachers Who Grow Kids – Carol Ann Tomlinson, Michael Murphy
  • An Educator’s Guide to Differentiating Instruction. 10th Edition – Carol Ann Tomlinson, James M. Cooper
  • A Differentiated Approach to the Common Core: How do I help a broad range of learners succeed with a challenging curriculum? – Carol Ann Tomlinson, Marcia B. Imbeau
  • Managing a Differentiated Classroom: A Practical Guide – Carol Tomlinson, Marcia Imbeau
  • Differentiating Instruction for Mixed-Ability Classrooms: An ASCD Professional Inquiry Kit Pck Edition – Carol Ann Tomlinson
  • Using Differentiated Classroom Assessment to Enhance Student Learning (Student Assessment for Educators) 1st Edition – Tonya R. Moon, Catherine M. Brighton, Carol A. Tomlinson
  • The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners 1st Edition – Carol Ann Tomlinson

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Tagged as: Curriculum and Instruction ,  Diversity ,  Engaging Activities ,  New Teacher ,  Pros and Cons

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How Differentiated Instruction Can Help You Reach Every Student in Class

  • July 24, 2020

It may seem like common sense that students perform better in class when they receive support that meets their needs. Research around differentiated instruction confirms this is true. If you can adapt your instruction to reflect your students’ needs and learning preferences, you can make class time more effective and help students become more engaged.

What is Differentiated Instruction?

differentiated learning 6 word essay

The idea behind differentiated learning theory is to make sure your curriculum reflects the diverse needs of your students.[9] Each student enters the classroom with unique experiences, preferences, and conditions that affect how they learn. Differentiated instruction provides students with different resources or options for understanding and mastering a concept, depending on their unique needs.[4] This can help move your classroom from heterogenous instruction toward individualized learning. [4,6]

Differentiated instruction doesn’t necessarily involve giving every student separate assignments—though you may adapt or modify assignments as specific needs arise. It’s more about providing students, individually or in a group, with different learning options or providing accommodations to help them learn more effectively.[11]

Sounds familiar? Differentiated instruction is often compared to the learning styles theory , which posits that all students respond best to one of four learning methods. While research into learning styles is mixed, there are clear and measurable benefits to adapting your teaching methods to your students’ needs.

Benefits of Differentiated Learning for Students

In a survey from the International Journal of Education, 97% of teachers reported never or seldom using a flexible curriculum for their students.[2] So why should you consider bringing differentiated learning into your classroom? The research is clear: students, especially those with diverse learning needs, learn more effectively when teachers respond to their needs.

A study published by Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences found that students’ learning outcomes significantly improve when teachers use differentiated content that responds to a student’s learning preferences.[5] Students are also more likely to focus and be engaged in the learning process when teachers differentiate their instructional strategies.[1,6] As you provide opportunities for students to explore content based on their strengths, they’re more likely to flourish in your class.

Differentiated instruction strategies are especially important for students with physical or learning disabilities.[4] These students often have strengths and weaknesses that are different from other students who don’t have the same disability. By differentiating your instruction, you can adapt lessons or assignments for these students to better accommodate their needs.[4]

How to Differentiate Instruction in Your Classroom

Now that we’ve gone over why differentiated learning matters in the classroom, let’s go over instructional strategies. Some teachers may feel discouraged because differentiated instruction can sound like an increased workload.[2] But differentiated instruction can make your teaching strategies more effective over time, which can help you make the most of both your students’ time and your own.

According to educational researcher and differentiated instruction expert Carol Ann Tomlinson, there are four key ways to differentiate classroom instruction:[8]

  • Content : How the student will access the information
  • Process : The method of the activities students use to understand the information
  • Product : Projects or homework that ask the student to practice or apply the information
  • Learning environment : The space where the student is learning the information

If a student might work more efficiently in a quieter learning environment, for example, you could allow them to complete a project in the school library. Or if you think a student would respond to a more visual approach with vocabulary words, you could adjust the content to include images with each word or adjust the product by assigning them to draw a picture that represents the words.

Additionally, don’t get overwhelmed by feeling that you have to make all of your assignments unique for each student. Some students may have specific needs that require you to adjust your assignments or teaching strategy. But in many cases, you can practice differentiated learning by either breaking students with similar needs into groups or offering all students several options for completing an assignment.[10]

Overall, the best way to practice differentiated instruction is by getting to know your students. As you work with them over the school year, you’ll be able to better understand their needs and what types of assignments they respond to.[9] And just as important, you’ll be able to help them recognize their own strengths and learning preferences—which can help them seek out the right learning strategies through their academic career.

Waterford’s Adaptive Curriculum Offers Differentiated Instruction

differentiated learning 6 word essay

Waterford ensures that students learn to read through thousands of games, songs, and activities. Our programs assign these lessons based on a student’s placement assessment and their demonstrated mastery. That way, the focus is always on the skills where they need the most practice.

And for older students, you can adjust our book-based study guides to offer personalized lessons on books you’re reading as a class. Students can also select independent reading books from our online library. When students choose what to read based on their personal interests, it encourages focus and engagement.

To learn more , get in touch! We’d love to discuss how our PreK–6 reading programs can revolutionize the way you support your students as they move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

  • Morgan, H. Maximizing Student Success with Differentiated Learning. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues, and Ideas, 2014, 87(1), pp. 34-38.
  • Jager, T. Guidelines to assist the implementation of differentiated learning activities in South African secondary schools. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 2013, 17(1), pp. 80-94.
  • Mentis, M. Different Technologies for Differentiated Education: Social Networks, Identity and Diversity in e-Learning. International Journal of Diversity in Organizations: Annual Review, November 2007, 7(3), pp. 85-93.
  • Landrum, T.J., and McDuffie, K.A. Learning Styles in the Age of Differentiated Instruction. Exceptionality: A Special Education Journal, 2010, 18(1), pp. 6-17.
  • Tulbure, C. Do different learning styles require differentiated teaching strategies? Retrieved from
  • Subban, P. Differentiated Instruction: A Research Basis. International Education Journal, 2006, 7(7), pp. 935-947.
  • Tomlinson, C.A. Mapping a Route Toward Differentiated Instruction. Educational Leadership, September 1999, 57(1), pp. 12-16.
  • Weselby, C. What is Differentiated Instruction? Examples of How to Differentiate Instruction in the Classroom. Retrieved from
  • NYUSteinhardt Staff. Culturally Responsive Differentiated Instructional Strategies. Retrieved from
  • Tomlinson, C.A. Differentiation of Instruction in the Elementary Grades. Retrieved from
  • Tucker, G.C. Differentiated Instruction: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from

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Descriptive writing lesson plan for differentiated learning

by Divya Pandanda | 11 Jan 2016

This detailed lesson plan provides teachers with an introductory lesson to the unit on developing descriptive writing skills. it takes into account the fact that different learners learn differently, thus incorporating Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences. It also includes the resources that one could use the classroom, at the same time allowing teachers the flexibility to tweak it to cater to the needs of their students.

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Audience: Secondary

Audience Language Proficiency: Intermediate

Duration: 2 x 40 mins

  • iTunes audio of sea waves
  • Extract from Roald Dahl's, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
  • Pictures of a haunted house, market scene, garden, zoo.
  • Projector, A4 sheets and coloured pens
  • Descriptive writing toolkit

By the end of the lesson/s the students will be able to:

  • Identify 2-3 types of imagery as used to describe some scene/person/object
  • Comment on the imagery/word choice in terms of the effect created
  • Focus on and analyze the effect of the word choice made by an author in a given passage
  • Use language acquired or by referring to the toolkit to create a short piece.

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to realize the importance of appropriate word choice to create a certain effect- one of the key tenets to creating effective descriptive pieces. They will recognize how a simple word change can create a different effect. Through discussions with one another, they will also see that a certain word or image may have different connotations for different people depending on their experience and learning style. The idea is to make them feel empowered about the word choices they make individually.   30 ideas to teach writing

Supporting Files: Descriptive Writing Lesson Plan For Differentiated Learning 01.pdf Descriptive Writing Lesson Plan For Differentiated Learning 02.pdf Descriptive Writing Lesson Plan For Differentiated Learning 03.pdf Descriptive Writing Lesson Plan For Differentiated Learning 04.pdf Descriptive Writing Lesson Plan For Differentiated Learning 05.pdf

TESOL Interest Section: English for Specific Purposes, Secondary Schools

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differentiated learning 6 word essay

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction involves teaching in a way that meets the different needs and interests of students using varied course content, activities, and assessments.

Teaching differently to different students

Differentiated Instruction (DI) is fundamentally the attempt to teach differently to different students, rather than maintain a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction. Other frameworks, such as Universal Design for Learning , enjoin instructors to give students broad choice and agency to meet their diverse needs and interests. DI distinctively emphasizes instructional methods to promote learning for students entering a course with different readiness for, interest in, and ways of engaging with course learning based on their prior learning experiences ( Dosch and Zidon 2014). 

Successful implementation of DI requires ongoing training, assessment, and monitoring (van Geel et al. 2019) and has been shown to be effective in meeting students’ different needs, readiness levels, and interests (Turner et al. 2017). Below, you can find six categories of DI instructional practices that span course design and live teaching.

While some of the strategies are best used together, not all of them are meant to be used at once, as the flexibility inherent to these approaches means that some of them are diverging when used in combination (e.g., constructing homogenous student groups necessitates giving different types of activities and assessments; constructing heterogeneous student groups may pair well with peer tutoring) (Pozas et al. 2020). The learning environment the instructor creates with students has also been shown to be an important part of successful DI implementation (Shareefa et al. 2019). 

Differentiated Assessment

Differentiated assessment is an aspect of Differentiated Instruction that focuses on tailoring the ways in which students can demonstrate their progress to their varied strengths and ways of learning. Instead of testing recall of low-level information, instructors should focus on the use of knowledge and complex reasoning. Differentiation should inform not only the design of instructors’ assessments, but also how they interpret the results and use them to inform their DI practices. 

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Steps to consider

There are generally considered to be six categories of useful differentiated instruction and assessment practices (Pozas & Schneider 2019):

  • Making assignments that have tasks and materials that are qualitatively and/or quantitatively varied (according to “challenge level, complexity, outcome, process, product, and/or resources”) (IP Module 2: Integrating Peer-to-Peer Learning) It’s helpful to assess student readiness and interest by collecting data at the beginning of the course, as well as to conduct periodic check-ins throughout the course (Moallemi 2023 & Pham 2011)
  • Making student working groups that are intentionally chosen (that are either homogeneous or heterogeneous based on “performance, readiness, interests, etc.”) (IP Module 2: Integrating Peer-to-Peer Learning) Examples of how to make different student groups provided by Stanford CTL  (Google Doc)
  • Making tutoring systems within the working group where students teach each other (IP Module 2: Integrating Peer-to-Peer Learning) For examples of how to support peer instruction, and the benefits of doing so, see for example Tullis & Goldstone 2020 and Peer Instruction for Active Learning (LSA Technology Services, University of Michigan)
  • Making non-verbal learning aids that are staggered to provide support to students in helping them get to the next step in the learning process (only the minimal amount of information that is needed to help them get there is provided, and this step is repeated each time it’s needed) (IP Module 4: Making Success Accessible) Non-verbal cue cards support students’ self-regulation, as they can monitor and control their progress as they work (Pozas & Schneider 2019)
  • Making instructional practices that ensure all students meet at least the minimum standards and that more advanced students meet higher standards , which involves monitoring students’ learning process carefully (IP Module 4: Making Success Accessible; IP Module 5: Giving Inclusive Assessments) This type of approach to student assessment can be related to specifications grading, where students determine the grade they want and complete the modules that correspond to that grade, offering additional motivation to and reduced stress for students and additional flexibility and time-saving practices to instructors (Hall 2018)
  • Making options that support student autonomy in being responsible for their learning process and choosing material to work on (e.g., students can choose tasks, project-based learning, portfolios, and/or station work, etc.) (IP Module 4: Making Success Accessible) This option, as well as the others, fits within a general Universal Design Learning framework , which is designed to improve learning for everyone using scientific insights about human learning

Hall, M (2018). “ What is Specifications Grading and Why Should You Consider Using It? ” The Innovator Instructor blog, John Hopkins University Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation.

Moallemi, R. (2023). “ The Relationship between Differentiated Instruction and Learner Levels of Engagement at University .” Journal of Research in Integrated Teaching and Learning (ahead of print).

Pham, H. (2011). “ Differentiated Instruction and the Need to Integrate Teaching and Practice .” Journal of College Teaching and Learning , 9(1), 13-20.

Pozas, M. & Schneider, C. (2019). " Shedding light into the convoluted terrain of differentiated instruction (DI): Proposal of a taxonomy of differentiated instruction in the heterogeneous classroom ." Open Education Studies , 1, 73–90.

Pozas, M., Letzel, V. and Schneider, C. (2020). " Teachers and differentiated instruction: exploring differentiation practices to address student diversity ." Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs , 20: 217-230.

Shareefa, M. et al. (2019). “ Differentiated Instruction: Definition and Challenging Factors Perceived by Teachers .” Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Special Education (ICSE 2019). 

Tullis, J.G. & Goldstone, R.L. (2020). “ Why does peer instruction benefit student learning? ”, Cognitive Research 5 .

Turner, W.D., Solis, O.J., and Kincade, D.H. (2017). “ Differentiating Instruction for Large Classes in Higher Education ”, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education , 29(3), 490-500.

van Geel, M., Keuning, T., Frèrejean, J., Dolmans, D., van Merriënboer, J., & Visscher A.J. (2019). “Capturing the complexity of differentiated instruction”, School Effectiveness and School Improvement , 30:1, 51-67, DOI: 10.1080/09243453.2018.1539013

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TEAL Center Fact Sheet No. 5: Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction is an approach that enables instructors to plan strategically to meet the needs of every learner. The approach encompasses planning and delivery of instruction, classroom management techniques, and expectations of learners’ performance that take into consideration the diversity and varied levels of readiness, interests, and learning profiles of learners.

About Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction is an approach that enables instructors to plan strategically to meet the needs of every learner. It is rooted in the belief that there is variability among any group of learners and that instructors should adjust instruction accordingly (Tomlinson, 1999, 2001, 2003). The approach encompasses the planning and delivery of instruction, classroom management techniques, and expectations of learners’ performance that take into consideration the diversity and varied levels of readiness, interests, and learning profiles of the learners.

Differentiated instruction can be looked at as an instructor’s response to learner differences by adapting curriculum and instruction on six dimensions, including how the instructor approaches the (1) content (the what of the lesson), (2) process (the how of the lesson), and (3) expected product (the learner-produced result), and takes into consideration the learner’s (4) interest , (5) profile (learning strengths, weaknesses, and gaps), and (6) readiness . These adaptations can be planned to happen simultaneously, in sequence, or as needed depending on the circumstance and goals of instruction. Teaching small groups of learners, grouped based on instructional approach and learner profile, is a cornerstone of differentiated instruction.

How Does It Work in Adult Education?

Here is an example. An instructor who is teaching writing (the content ) in an adult basic education (ABE) class needs to understand the various learners’ readiness to write independently or collaboratively, the supports they might need to engage in the process based on their learning profiles , the quality and quantity of the learner product to be expected, and the learners’ interests . Some of this understanding will come from professional observation of the learners over time; some of it will come from informal assessments gathered from previous writing assignments.

Planning is critical. For instance, knowing that some learners need templates, prompts, or advance organizers to prepare them to write, or software to assist them with spelling, means that the necessary supports, such as use of the computer lab with concept-mapping software and word processors, need to be planned for in advance. Perhaps a colleague who has more experience with a particular level or type of learner can collaborate or team teach a small group to better meet their needs. Perhaps a more advanced peer learner can run a small group or provide technology assistance.

An instructor teaching persuasive essays (the content ) may begin with a study of various models such as op-ed pieces from the local newspaper to identify the elements of such an essay. The class may spend time brainstorming to elicit learners’ interests in various “hot topics” of the day, while creating lists of vocabulary words to support composition. Deciding on a couple of key topics, learners may be grouped to continue to generate possible argument points. A scribe in the group can generate a web or advance organizer that captures the discussion. Learners can then be regrouped according to the level of support they need (their profile and readiness ) for composition (the process ).

Those who can compose on their own can work independently or in dyads to conduct further research on the Internet to provide evidence for their argument; those who need technical support can work in the computer lab with the instructor and an advanced peer, possibly with a precreated outline or template; those who cannot compose on their own can work in a smaller group with a tutor or the instructor to generate a group essay that learners can each then work on for editing and revising. Conferencing with each learner can be another opportunity for accommodating learners’ readiness by focusing only on the mechanics, grammar, or organizational elements that the writer is able to master. Final products can be shared in various ways: published by the learners to a blog or submitted to a newspaper, posted in the classroom, read to the class, etc. The essays, the products , which result from the group will be varied in their complexity and sophistication, yet all learners will have engaged in the process and basic key elements of a persuasive essay (brainstorming, planning, outlining, composing, editing, revising, and sharing).

How Can Technology Help?

Technology tools can help make this coordination more efficient by providing productivity support for instructors, providing supports for learners at varying levels of readiness, and offering learners options for demonstrating their understanding and mastery of the material. To see how technology can help, see TEAL Center Fact Sheet No. 7 on Technology-Supported Writing Instruction .

Managing Differentiated Instruction

Classroom management to coordinate flexible groupings and projects is a key component of applying differentiated instruction. Following are some ideas for creating and coordinating groups in a multi-level, differentiated class:

  • Encourage peer-to-peer learning and mentoring and help learners learn to be tutors.
  • Ask volunteers to lead small-group instruction stations.
  • Use WebQuests ( ) as PBL for teams of learners; these inquiry-based projects are pre-arranged, and many have teaching supports (lesson plans, tips, handouts, and additional materials) linked to them.
  • Share reflections with other instructors leading problem-based learning at .
  • Find texts on a single, encompassing topic (for example, climate change) in various levels of complexity and readability.
  • Encourage learners to find audio books and digital text at their interest level rather than their independent reading level.
  • Find ways to give credit for independent study and advancement if a learner is particularly motivated or interested in a topic.
  • Help learners supplement class instruction with online classes or learning opportunities such as webinars, online chats, blogs, social networks, or daily content blasts (e-mails such as a Word of the day , or This day in history , can be a boost to vocabulary and content knowledge).
  • Have learners make personalized lists of tasks to complete the chunks in a specified but flexible timeframe.
  • Encourage self-study, especially when learners have to “stop out” of regular attendance.
  • Use portfolios as a means for reflecting on learner growth over time, and encourage learners to critique their growth.
  • Keep scores and observations in a spreadsheet that can be sorted flexibly to reveal natural groups.

What’s the Research?

This TEAL Center fact sheet draws on two NCSALL Focus on the Basics articles (Corley, 2005; Silver-Pacuilla, 2007) and resources created by the Center for Implementing Technology in Education

For adult education, the principles of differentiating instruction are not new: engaging learners based on their interests, creating activities based on learners’ needs and roles, and recognizing and honoring the diversity in any classroom. Applying these principles informed by the analysis of formal and informal assessment data may require a new way of working, however, as well as enhanced coordination among instructors within a program, lesson planning, and instructional delivery. See related TEAL Center Fact Sheets on Student-Centered Learning (No. 6), Effective Lesson Planning (No. 8), and Adult Learning Theories (No. 11).

Corley, M. (2005). Differentiated instruction: Adjusting to the needs of all learners. Focus on the Basics , Vol. 7, Issue C: March. Available at:

Silver-Pacuilla, H. (2007). Getting started with assistive technology. Focus on the Basics , Vol. 8, Issue D: November. Available at:

Tomlinson, C. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners . Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Tomlinson, C. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Tomlinson, C. (2003). Fulfilling the promise of the differentiated classroom: Strategies and tools for responsive teaching . Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Authors: TEAL Center staff

Adapted from two NCSALL Focus on the Basics articles, Vol. 7, Issue C, and Vol. 8, Issue D.

About the TEAL Center: The Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy (TEAL) Center is a project of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), designed to improve the quality of teaching in adult education in the content areas.

Differentiated Instruction’ Strategies and Benefits Research Paper

Introduction, responding to the requirements of unlike students, involving students, engaging parents, progression, reference list.

Differentiated instruction entails giving students unlike avenues to gain content, develop, build, find the meaning of ideas, and construct teaching stuff to ensure that every student in a classroom learns efficiently, irrespective of differences in capability (Ellis, Gable, Greg, & Rock, 2008, pp. 31-37).

Differentiated instruction is the practice of making sure that the things that students learn coupled with how they learn and express what they have learnt is an equal to the readiness status, concentrations, and desired manner of learning of the students. Convictions concerning divergences amid students, the way they learn, studying fondness, and personal concerns bring about differentiation.

Research points that the sentimental or social hardships that learners experience fades away when their learning climates are conformed to their degree and speed of learning. In a school worksite, differentiation can as well comprise the way students demonstrate that they have comprehensive knowledge of an idea. This can be via a function-play, research papers, illustrations, and placards just to mention but a few.

Historically, release of instruction frequently pursued a ‘one-size-fits-all’ curriculum. The fundamental notion of differentiation is discovering how learners learn or assist in their learning to satisfy their particular requirements so that they are eventually victorious in their learning as well as keeping hold of information (Anderson, 2007, pp. 49-51).

This research paper discusses the required professional advancements with interest to the goals, assessments, policies, and execution of a proficient development programs to address differentiated instruction at a school worksite while incorporating leadership ideologies, selection of differentiated instruction for perfection, and key players engaged in this worksite.

The key players comprise teachers, parent groups, school staff, teacher heads, and students. This paper as well explains how these factors are anchored in investigation and excellent performance. Teachers, parents, school staff, and teacher leaders working together produce an excellent learning practice for students

A key intention of differentiated instruction is to acquire full benefits of each learner’s capability to learn. Additionally, differentiating could be executed in a diversity of methods. If teachers are ready to implement differentiated instructions in classrooms, they select a more efficient performance that responds to the requirements of different students.

Differentiation is neither merely an instructional policy nor a technique for teaching; on the contrary, it is a new manner of thinking concerning education and learning. Differentiating instruction means recognizing different backgrounds, keenness intensities, languages, attentions, and learning reports of students (Cusumano & Mueller, 2007, pp. 8-10).

Differentiated instruction perceives the learning practice as a social and mutual entity; the liability of what takes place in the classroom is initially to the teacher, and as well to the student. Inside the learning setting allowed by the differentiated instruction approach, teachers, parent groups, school staff, and teacher leaders work together to produce an excellent learning practice for students.

In addition, each learner in this setting is appreciated for his/her distinctive abilities while being presented chances to show skills via a range of assessment practices. This effective meaning of differentiated instruction reveals socio-cultural suppositions, the key tenets that lie in the collective and interactional association involving teachers and learners.

The teacher is an expert in the classroom and s/he is rightfully trained to teach and guide students using suitable methods and helping all students arrive at their potential in the education environment. Lawfully and morally, teachers are bound to be the professionals leading students to full advancement.

While acting in response to the prompts of the teacher, students seek autonomy and self-reliance determined for greater knowledge of their talents, capabilities, and thoughts and take growing accountability of their education and lives. The connection involving student and teacher is evidently mutual, the accountability for advancement turning out to be a collective undertaking.

Additionally, the complexity of skills taught must be geared towards advancing the learner’s present degree of mastery (Jackson, 2008, pp. 23-34).

Differentiated instruction offers successful ways to deal with student differences, evade the drawbacks of the one-size-fits-all approach, and integrate present research into the operations of the brain of a human being, while maintaining the multiple intellects and different learning approaches within modern classrooms.

It offers a critical platform for the teacher of an all-encompassing classroom to generate chances for the success of every learner. The differentiated classrooms equate learning requirements general to every learner, with particular needs attached to individual students. Differentiation can free learners from tags and present learners with individual chances to perform at their best (Lawrence-Brown, 2004, pp. 34-62).

Differentiated instructions force teachers to change their views from finishing the syllabus and coerce them to shift nearer to gratifying individual learner needs. It permits the teacher to concentrate on the same major ideologies for all learners; nevertheless, the instructional progression, the speed, and rate toward comprehension of these ideas differ.

There are stipulations for each student to learn as fast and intensely as possible. Teachers choosing differentiated instruction discover that they can utilize moment and supplies flexibly and innovatively, helping to build an environment of cooperation in the classroom.

As an additional benefit, differentiated instruction can be an involving experience for teachers because it entails a different type of energy when judged against direct instruction.

An essential principle of differentiated instruction is that teachers should involve learners (Levy, 2008, pp. 161-164). Research holds that programs of study must be planed to involve learners and must have the capability to hook up with their lives and constructively control their degree of self-drive. Teachers are obliged to identify their students coupled with their cultural connections and backgrounds.

Being well acquainted with students lets teachers discover student’s abilities and thus assist them to make progress. Involving learners actively in the education practice and in the content permits them to view models developing, view the relationship between disciplines, and view learning as a collective whole.

Teachers, school staff, and teacher heads need to spend time with students and parents to be acquainted with each other. These actions will lay down a constructive professional attitude and shape a pleasant base for continuing teacher-student-parent communication. Numerous teachers create home visits at times in the company of a translator or coworker depending upon the circumstances (Rebora, 2008, pp. 26-29).

During this kind of a visit, teachers become acquainted with the parents, make themselves known, share their course objectives and classroom anticipations, and answer the questions that parents might have.

Other teachers have a preference of sending a correspondence or electronic mail to parents detailing classroom anticipations, course objectives, introduction of the teacher, summons for parental participation, and professional information.

If achievable, teachers, school staff, and teacher heads need to personalize the correspondence with real names of the parents or guardians and translate the letters in the native language of the parents. It is also necessary to continue the talk through constructive cell phone calls, electronic mails, and newsletters. It is essential to have a sturdy affiliation between parents and the school.

Research has revealed that parents regularly have more time with their kids than teachers and for this reason, it is very important that students have a secure home background an let their educational ambitions be the fundamental focus while at school. A good number of parents actually are concerned about their children and have significant perspectives regarding their ambitions (Benjamin, 2006, pp. 57-59).

Good rapport amid teachers, parent groups, school staff, teacher heads, and students does not just come without effort. School staff, and teacher heads must make sure that there are excellent lines of communication involving students, parents or guardians, and teachers. In this age, instant messaging, newsletters, electronic mail, web sites, mobile phone calls, notes, and conferences are frequent forms of communication.

If parents believe they are welcome and significant in the schools, it creates a positive affiliation getting them engaged in activities that schools hold (Gregory, 2008, pp. 34-39). A good example of this is Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School that has a Family Resource Center (FRC) and Kentucky Parent Information Resource Center (KYPIRC).

The FRC and KPIRC assist to bond teachers, parent groups, school staff, teacher heads, and students by offering programs that promote their relationships. They form constructive programs that provide teachers, parents, students, teacher heads, and school staff ample time to share while within the school environment.

The Kentucky Parent Information Resource Center provides trainings on the ways to make sure that students are successful in school. Everybody has the chance to be present at seminars and trainings held in the society (Nunley, 2006, pp. 24-32).

The School as well offers superb ways like Math Nights and Family Reading to draw parents into the school and simultaneously enlighten them of different approaches that they can apply to better the learning of their children.

The procedure applied in teaching different subjects a classroom might be differentiated for learners based on their knowledge modes by taking into consideration the principles of performance needed (Cifuentes & Ozel, 2006, pp. 14-17). Differentiated instruction allows learners to learn based on the simplest method for them to gain knowledge.

A number of students might choose to study a given topic while others might choose to listen or gain knowledge by operating objects related to the content. The teacher might offer knowledge in numerous ways and accessible materials might be of paramount importance. Numerous teachers make use of areas of manifold intellects to give erudition opportunities.

The way a teacher intends to convey the instruction is derived from assessment outcomes that demonstrate the requirements, learning manners, concerns, and degree of prior information. Irrespective of whether the setting down of instruction is anchored on willingness, concentrations, or requirements of the learner, the active flow of alliance and re-alliance is one of the cornerstones of differentiated instruction.

If working independently is the best practice for some learners in specific assignments, it is essential for a differentiated classroom to let them work individually.

Differentiating by progression signifies the way learners come to comprehend and digest information, ideas, and skills. Subsequent to teaching a session, a teacher may split learners into small capability groups founded on their abilities (Anderson, 2007, pp. 52-54).

The teacher could afterward provide every group with a sequence of questions, with consideration to the ability of every group, and associated with the intentions of the session. A different manner to group the learners would be founded on their mode of learning.

The central initiative behind this strategy is that learners are at dissimilar ranks and study in unlike manners; therefore, a teacher cannot educate them entirely using the same approach.

A further form of differentiation called the Layered Curriculum gives learners an alternative of assignments although it requires expression of knowledge in order to excel in the assignment (Nunley, 2006, pp. 34-42). It helps to get rid of the necessity for pre-evaluation and is helpful for teachers with big class loads, for example, in high school.

The result is the essence of what the learner produces at the conclusion of a session to show the comprehension of the content, which comprises research projects, assessments, reports, and other undertakings (Cifuentes, & Ozel, 2006, pp. 18-21). Learners are supposed to feel safe and welcome in a session where the education theory is rooted in differentiated instruction.

The teacher edifice for success and justice is apparent. Teachers and learners work together for mutual development and victory. For the case of a differentiated classroom, a powerful foundation for distinguishing instruction founded on assessment outcomes, student willingness, concentration, and erudition profile is evident. Every instruction is unmistakably stated in a manner that students effortlessly comprehend.

Students are conscious of the classroom regulations and discern practices and methods. There is a method for every activity finished in the classroom (Rebora, 2008, pp. 30-31), which ought to reduce disturbances inform of noise and gratuitous movements.

In addition, the methods should come up with programs specifically designed to fit early finishers coupled with encouraging integrity in one’s work and promoting good conduct during a task.

Extra support is provided to the students to guarantee their success among other aspects. In addition, teachers should also get enough support and motivation to ensure successful delivery of differentiated instruction. Founded on communication, the reality of such an assistance scheme necessitates collective planning period to be most successful.

Teachers should also develop professionally for timely and efficient differentiated instruction delivery. Several forms of professional development subsist and provide teachers, parents, school staff, teacher heads, and students with a lot of information.

For instance, in Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, teachers, parents, and students are given moment for expression, plan for better performance, and explore principles based on erudition opportunities. When teachers get the expertise and the support they require, differentiated instruction becomes a good teaching method (Ellis, Gable, Greg, & Rock, 2008, pp. 38-47).

Every learner is different from the other and it is the work of educators to make sure that every learner acquires the best education achievable. Differentiated instruction is a way through which educators can plan their sessions and provide every learner with what s/he requires.

Within that setting via the recognition and comprehension of cultural differences, the manageability of content, practice, and assessment coupled with extra support, learners can feel contented and able to study excellently and at full potential.

Anderson, K. (2007). Tips for teaching: Differentiating instruction to include all students. Preventing School Failure, 51 (3), 49-54.

Benjamin, A. (2006). Valuing differentiated instruction. Education Digest, 72 (1), 57- 59.

Cifuentes, L., & Ozel, S. (2006). Resources for attending to the needs of multicultural learners. Knowledge Quest, 35 (2) 14-21.

Cusumano, C., & Mueller, J. (2007). Differentiated instruction helps struggling students. Leadership, 36 (4), 8-10.

Ellis, E., Gable, R., Gregg, M., & Rock, M. (2008). REACH: A framework for differentiating classroom instruction. Preventing School Failure, 52 (2), 31-47.

Gregory, G. (2008). Differentiated instructional strategies in practice: Training, implementation and supervision (2 nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Jackson, R. (2008). The Differentiation Workbook: A Step-by-step guide to planning lessons that ensure that your students meet or exceed the standards . Washington, DC: Mindsteps.

Lawrence-Brown, D. (2004). Differentiated instruction: inclusive strategies for standards-based learning that benefits the whole class. American Secondary Education, 32 (3), 34-62.

Levy, H. (2008). Meeting the needs of all students through differentiated instruction: Helping every child reach and exceed standards. The Clearing House, 81 (4), 161-164.

Nunley, K. (2006). Differentiating the high school classroom: Solution strategies for 18 common obstacles . Thousand Oaks, CA: Corbin.

Rebora, A. (2008). Making a difference. Teacher Magazine, 2 (1), 26-31.

  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2019, June 26). Differentiated Instruction’ Strategies and Benefits.

"Differentiated Instruction’ Strategies and Benefits." IvyPanda , 26 June 2019,

IvyPanda . (2019) 'Differentiated Instruction’ Strategies and Benefits'. 26 June.

IvyPanda . 2019. "Differentiated Instruction’ Strategies and Benefits." June 26, 2019.

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IvyPanda . "Differentiated Instruction’ Strategies and Benefits." June 26, 2019.

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Engaging the 21st Century Learner

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differentiated learning 6 word essay

Differentiated Instruction: Strategies and Examples for the Classroom

teacher pointing to the whiteboard

In today’s increasingly diverse classrooms, differentiated instruction has become a crucial component for ensuring all students receive the support and opportunities they need to succeed.

This article will provide K-12 educators, school administrators, and educational organizations with a comprehensive understanding of differentiated instruction strategies, their importance, and practical examples that can be easily applied in various classroom settings.

As we delve into the key principles, strategies, and real-life applications of differentiated instruction, you will gain valuable insights and tools to create a more inclusive and effective learning environment for every student.

Understanding Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction is an educational approach that focuses on adapting teaching methods and materials to accommodate the diverse learning needs of students in a classroom.

The primary goal of differentiated instruction is to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to learn, engage, and succeed, regardless of their abilities, background, or learning style.

This teaching philosophy recognizes that students come from various backgrounds and have unique strengths, weaknesses, and preferences, making it essential for educators to cater to their individual needs.

Check Out Our Online Course: Engaging the 21st Century Learner: Classroom Strategies to Increase Engagement and Rigor.


Key Principles of Differentiated Instruction

teacher clapping with kids around her

This approach encourages active engagement and ownership of learning, helping students build on their existing knowledge and skills.

Flexible grouping is another fundamental principle of differentiated instruction. By organizing students into various groups based on skill level, learning style, or interest, educators can provide targeted instruction and support.

This allows for a dynamic learning environment where students can collaborate and learn from one another, fostering a sense of community and shared responsibility in the classroom.

Differentiated Instruction Strategies

Differentiated instruction strategies can be categorized into three main areas: content, process, and product. These strategies help educators create a more inclusive and effective learning environment for all students.

Content differentiation focuses on the material being taught and how it is presented to students. Tiered assignments, for example, allow teachers to provide different levels of complexity within the same assignment, ensuring that each student is challenged according to their ability.

Learning centers are another content differentiation strategy, where educators create stations with activities tailored to various learning styles and abilities, enabling students to work at their own pace.

Process differentiation addresses how students engage with and make sense of the content. Flexible grouping is a key strategy in process differentiation, where educators form groups based on students’ readiness, interests, and learning profiles. This allows for more targeted instruction and collaboration among students with similar needs.

Differentiated questioning techniques are another process differentiation strategy, where teachers pose questions at varied levels of complexity to assess and challenge each student appropriately.

Product differentiation involves giving students choices in how they demonstrate their understanding of the content. Product options can range from alternative assignments and activities to different assessment types.

For example, students may be asked to write an essay or create a podcast as part of their final project.

Rubrics and assessment tools can also be used to differentiate products, providing clear expectations and criteria for success while accommodating diverse learning needs and abilities.

Real-Life Examples of Differentiated Instruction in Action

In an elementary school setting, differentiated instruction can be effectively implemented through reading workshops and math centers.

Reading workshops allow students to engage with texts at their individual reading levels while participating in guided reading sessions, independent reading, and comprehension activities. This approach not only fosters a love for reading but also addresses the varying abilities of students in the class.

Math centers provide opportunities for students to practice and apply mathematical concepts through hands-on activities, games, and problem-solving tasks, tailored to their individual skill levels.

At the middle school level, differentiated instruction strategies can be applied in a science lab setting or during a social studies project.

In the science lab , students can be grouped based on their prior knowledge and skills, allowing them to conduct experiments and analyze results at a pace and complexity suited to their abilities. This ensures that all students are challenged and engaged while also providing opportunities for peer learning and collaboration.

In social studies projects, students can be given a choice of topics or formats, allowing them to explore an area of interest and demonstrate their learning in a way that best suits their strengths and preferences.

Integrating Technology in Differentiated Instruction

As technology continues to advance, educators can leverage various tools and resources to support differentiated instruction in their classrooms.

Online resources and digital tools play a significant role in facilitating differentiation by providing students with personalized learning experiences and helping teachers manage diverse learning needs effectively.

There is an abundance of online resources designed to help teachers differentiate instruction. Websites and platforms like Khan Academy, Edmodo, and Google Classroom offer customizable learning materials, including videos, texts, quizzes, and interactive activities, which can be tailored to individual student’s needs and interests.

These resources enable teachers to provide targeted support and enrichment opportunities, ensuring every student receives an appropriate level of challenge and support.

In addition to online resources, classroom technologies can be utilized to promote differentiation. Interactive whiteboards, tablets, and document cameras enable teachers to present information in various formats, accommodating students’ diverse learning styles.

For example, visual learners may benefit from watching videos or interactive presentations, while auditory learners may prefer listening to podcasts or recorded lectures.

Moreover, adaptive learning platforms can be employed to track student progress and provide real-time feedback, allowing teachers to make data-driven decisions when adjusting instruction for different learners.

These platforms help identify areas of strength and areas that require extra support, ensuring all students are on the right path to achieving their academic goals.

Tips for Implementing Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom

kid answering on whiteboard

Teachers can use surveys, interviews, and observations to gather information about their student’s learning preferences, strengths, and challenges. This information can also help in establishing a positive learning environment where every student feels valued and supported.

Planning and organizing for differentiation is another essential step in creating an inclusive and effective learning environment. Educators can start by reviewing their curriculum and identifying areas where differentiated strategies can be applied.

This may involve modifying lesson plans, creating tiered assignments, or incorporating learning centers.

Educators should plan for ongoing assessment and feedback to evaluate student understanding. This can be done through formative assessments such as observation notes or quick checks.

Strobel Education’s Role in Supporting Differentiated Instruction

Strobel Education is dedicated to empowering educators with the tools and strategies necessary to implement differentiated instruction effectively in their classrooms.

These programs provide educators with an in-depth understanding of differentiated instruction principles and practical applications, such as how to adjust lesson plans for learners at various readiness levels or incorporate technology into the classroom.

In addition to our professional development programs, Strobel Education also provides numerous resources and tools that educators can use to enhance their differentiated instruction strategies.

Differentiated instruction is an invaluable approach to teaching that ensures equitable access and opportunities for all students. At Strobel Education, we understand the importance of differentiated instruction and are committed to supporting educators in their journey to create more inclusive classrooms.

At Strobel Education , we understand the power and importance of differentiated instruction. It is essential for achieving success in our professional and personal lives. We offer the Engaging the 21st Century Learner professional development training in two formats.

  • Our Engaging the 21st Century Learner through Differentiated Instruction On-site PD is great for learning how to provide differentiated instruction and gain strategies for engaging today’s learners.
  • The Engaging the 21st Century Learner Online Course delivers the same information but in a self-paced course, which offers teachers more flexibility. Teachers also get access to the course for nine months should they wish to implement it in small doses.

We get high-quality professional development into teachers’ hands so they have everything they need for immediate implementation and support. Our professional development workshops, courses, keynotes, and coaching services provide practical tools, resources, and mindset shifts that will help you enhance your classroom instruction strategies. Join our community of passionate educators today and let us help you transform your teaching practice to better serve your students. Together, we can make a lasting impact on student success.

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Differentiated Instruction – Strategies, Pros & Cons

differentiated instruction, explained below

Differentiated instruction is a student-centered approach to teaching and learning. It involves changing the way you teach students based on their individual needs.

A teacher will teach one topic to a class but give each student a different experience. The differentiated instruction approach is focused on ensuring content and learning environment are flexible to the needs of students.

Differentiation may focus on changing your teaching based on:

  • Abilities and disabilities
  • Learning styles
  • Hobbies and preferences
  • A student’s prior knowledge

But there are some downsides.

Pitfalls of differentiated instruction include:

  • It’s Time Consuming
  • It’s Resource Intensive
  • It Leads to Dumbing Down the Content
  • It Cannot be Done for Every Student
  • It is Unrealistic in Context of Standardized Tests
  • The Learning Styles Concept is Unproven
  • Students need to Learn in all Different Ways

Definition of Differentiation in Education

Differentiated instruction involves varying the ways a lesson is taught so that it meets the individual needs of students.

You may want to cite a scholarly definition in your essay to show you have consulted a respectable academic source. Here are a few good scholarly definitions that I found:

  • ” At its most basic level, differentiation consists of the efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom. Whenever a teacher reaches out to an individual or small group to vary his or her teaching in order to create the best learning experience possible, that teacher is differentiating instruction.” (Tomlinson, 2000, p. 287)
  • Differentiation is a teaching strategy that “offers different paths to understanding content, process, and products, considering what is appropriate given a child’s profile of strengths, interests, and styles” (Dixon et al., 2014)
  • “Differentiation is responsive instruction designed to meet unique individual student needs” (Watts-Taffe, 2013, p. 303)
Read Also: 31 Examples of Differentiation in the Classroom

Differentiation Strategies

There are four ways to differentiate instruction : varying the content, varying the learning process, varying the assessment, and varying the learning environment (Carol Ann Tomlinson, 2000).

1. Varying the Content

Varying the content involves mixing up what students will learn.

This does not necessarily mean “dumbing things down” for some students – which is a bad thing to do!

Often, it just means getting students to choose an aspect of a topic that catches their imagination.

If an assigned learning outcome on the curriculum is: “Can explain elements of 19th Century history”, you might be able to differentiate instruction by letting your students choose a 19th history figure (soldier, dancer, politician, explorer) that your student is most interested in.

Here, you’re meeting the assessment outcomes while varying the content.

2. Varying the Learning Process

Varying the learning process involves changing the activities involved in learning the content to meet students’ individual needs.

One student might want to do internet research, another might want to use the library books, and another wants to make phone calls to local museums. These are all legitimate differentiated ways of learning the same content – but they give the students maximum choice to keep them engaged.

Often, varying the learning process also means mixing up lessons based on learning modalities . A visual student might be more drawn to watching a video, while a reader might prefer to read a book on the topic. A musical learner meanwhile might want to listen to a song about the topic!

3. Varying the Assessment

Varying assessment involves changing the ways students demonstrate their knowledge of the same content.

It does not (or should not) mean giving one student an easier assessment than another.

Often at college I am asked by the student support team to differentiate assessment for students with anxiety and PTSD. These students will often find it hard to talk in front of a group, so I’ll ask them to write an essay instead.

Sometimes I’ll also have some students with dyslexia or cerebral palsy who are disadvantaged in reading and writing tasks. So, for them, I might ask them to present a poster or verbal presentation that demonstrates they have developed sufficient knowledge of the topic..

4. Varying the Classroom Environment

Varying the classroom environment involves changing the classroom atmosphere to meet a student’s individual needs.

Some students with sensory processing issues (common in autism) often need quiet spaces to learn. When I was teaching in elementary school, I would happily let them go into a quiet room at the back of the classroom to study in peace.

Sometimes it’s great to have a classroom with mixed workstations like the one in this image. It has a classroom layout that lets children choose how to work – in quiet, in groups, on computers, or a mix.

a differentiated classroom

Pros and Cons of Differentiated Instruction

Advantages of differentiation in the classroom.

Advantages of differentiated instruction include:

1. Student-Centered

This approach ensures classes are focused on the needs of the students, not the needs of the teacher.

In past approaches such as the banking model , students were asked to be passive learners . They simply observed the teacher’s instruction.

It also ensures the teacher is focused on the student’s needs. It gets the teacher to think about how they can write lessons that will best help students overcome hurdles and learn in ways that suit them.

2. It Strives for Equity

‘Equity’ means that everyone gets a fair go. It doesn’t mean that everyone is treated exactly the same (see: difference between equity and equality ).

In a differentiated classroom, the class is more equitable because the teacher gives every student due consideration for what their needs really are.

Example: If a teacher was dominantly a visual learner so their learning materials were always very visual, the students who are visual learners would have a big unfair disadvantage in the class. But through varying the way the lesson is taught, the teacher ensures all students get a chance to learn in their preferred way, thereby helping them all to get a better chance at learning the content in their own way.

3. Gives Students Choice

A differentiated classroom allows students to learn in ways that they prefer. We all might have  preferences for learning in certain ways.

If we give students some choice about how they want to learn, we empower them to learn in ways that they prefer. This can dramatically improve a student’s learning experience in the classroom.

4. Increasingly Possible with Tech & AI

While it may be very hard to differentiate lessons, it’s getting easier.

We now have technology that learns about students’ strengths, weaknesses and preferences. With technology, teachers can vary the ways lessons are taught much more effectively.

For example, the app Thinkster Math tracks how a student comes to a mathematical answer. It learns  how  a student learns, and adapts its lessons to make personalized worksheets for students.

5. Increases Engagement

When students are being taught lessons that are targeted at their needs they are more likely to engage in the learning materials. They will feel less isolated. They will also feel like their voices are listened to. Therefore, they will hopefully be more willing to approach schooling with goodwill and excitement. They may even develop a love of learning!

Disadvantages of Differentiation in the Classroom

Disadvantages of differentiated instruction include:

1. Time Consuming & Resource Intensive

Planning six lessons a day is hard enough. Now imagine having to vary each lesson for all your students! It becomes very time consuming.

Similarly, if you want to differentiate the learning process you need a lot of resources. One student might want a computer, another will want books, and another might want to go to the local museum. Suddenly, you’ve got a lot of resources that you need to juggle all for one lesson.

2. Often Leads to Dumbing Down the Content

Too often, teachers see differentiation as permission to dumb down content for students who are struggling. They will vary it so some students have easier lessons than others.

On the one hand, this might make sense because each student learns within their zone of proximal development (learning at the appropriate level). On the other hand, it could also be used as an excuse to have low expectations of students .

3. Cannot be Done for Every Student

It’s unrealistic to differentiate instruction for a whole class of students – each with their own learning style. There are not enough hours in the day to vary lessons for all 25 students in your class.

Teachers therefore often vary lessons not for individual students, but for small groups. They might group students into three or four so they can work in groups. This makes differentiation easier, but cruder and less effective.

4. Unrealistic in the Context of Standardized Tests

Most teachers have to prepare students for standardized tests. These are tests that require students to all complete the exact same exams in the exact same way, and they can’t choose to do exams that suit their learning style.

A standardized test is the exact opposite of a differentiated classroom. So, if we are teaching in varied ways, we’re not actually preparing students for their tests!

5. Learning Styles are Unproven

This approach seems to embrace the concept of ‘learning styles’. It insinuates that different learners have different ways of learning, and that teachers need to acknowledge this in their teaching.

However, extensive research has shown that students’ learning styles are an unproven concept. Namely, Coffield et al. (2004) show that there is no valid research basis underpinning how learning taxonomies are developed, and there is no evidence that people are born better at learning in one way than another.

6. Students need to Learn in all Different Ways

Even if we differentiated learning so students can learn in ways they personally prefer, we may be doing our students a disservice.

For example, if a student says they  prefer  to learn via movies then books … then they’ll never become better at reading! Perhaps teachers should be encouraging students to learn in ways they find difficult in order to improve on their weaknesses.

Differentiated instruction is a valuable 21st Century approach to education in elementary school, high school and even university. It helps students to overcome barriers to learning and helps teachers to think about how to teach in ways that are most effective. 

While the concept can help students learn more effectively, it also has downsides. It can be time consuming and at its worst can even set lower expectations for students in the classroom.

Teachers therefore need to use this approach carefully!

I hope this guide has been helpful for you.

– Prof. Chris.

Coffield, F. J., Moseley, D. V., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles: What research has to say to practice.  London: Learning and Skills Research Centre.

Dixon, F. A., Yssel, N., McConnell, J. M., & Hardin, T. (2014). Different instruction, professional development, and teacher efficacy. Journal for the Educational Leadership ,  37 (2), 111-127.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2000). What is different instruction? In: Callahan, C. M., & Hertberg-Davis, H. L. (Eds.). (2012). Fundamentals of gifted education: Considering multiple perspectives . (pp. 287-300). London: Routledge.

Watts‐Taffe, S., Laster, B. P., Broach, L., Marinak, B., McDonald Connor, C., & Walker‐Dalhouse, D. (2012). Differentiated instruction: Making informed teacher decisions.  The Reading Teacher ,  66 (4), 303-314.

differentiated instruction

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) 5 Top Tips for Succeeding at University
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2 thoughts on “Differentiated Instruction – Strategies, Pros & Cons”

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Where is the research to backup the following statement from your article? “Teachers therefore often vary lessons not for individual students, but for small groups. They might group students into three or four so they can work in groups. This makes differentiation easier, but cruder and less effective.” As an Early Childhood Educator with thirty years of classroom experience working with students ages 3-6 years of age from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds, I found that statement to be insulting and misguided.

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As a teacher myself, I see it on a very regular basis. It’s literally the most common form of “differentiation” that exists.

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Active Learning Is Key to Differentiated Instruction

When I was a new teacher, I remember looking at my roll sheet and seeing multiple letters after several students' names. I asked colleagues what the abbreviations stood for and soon learned that the common perspective was that they stood for more work and more trouble.

Yet these acronyms were supposed to help me differentiate instruction , or vary a lesson, to meet the needs of these students. I remember struggling to grasp how I was supposed to accommodate for student learning without sacrificing high academic standards. (See this post by fellow Spiral Notebook blogger Stephen Hurley.) I questioned how I could give the advanced student what he or she needed while at the same time fulfilling the needs of the struggling student.

I also remember thinking to myself how much easier it would be to just have the "good kids." It wasn't until later that I fully realized that the reason I wanted to be an educator was not to have an easy ride but to make a difference in students' lives. And the greatest difference I could make was in the life of one of those acronym kids. That's when teaching became fun.

You will be interested in reading more about this from the queen of creating multiple learning paths, Carol Ann Tomlinson . In the book she wrote with Jay McTighe , Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design, she makes clear the point that simply having activities that differentiate learning is not enough: "Differentiated instruction focuses on whom we teach, where we teach, and how we teach. Its primary goal is ensuring that teachers focus on processes and procedures that ensure effective learning for varied individuals." Deliberately designing a curricular learning environment in which you can place those activities is the real key to increasing a student's understanding.

I was lucky, in a sense, because I had been trained in thematic instruction , and teaching a language -- I was a Spanish instructor -- lends itself to project learning and performance-based instruction, both active-learning strategies that naturally differentiate. I eventually learned that one of the best ways to differentiate is to simply allow it to happen. I tried to think of all the possible ways to make learning a language interesting and effective.

Looking back at those days, I see that many of the learning activities that I created were intrinsically differentiated -- that is, they encouraged each student to learn and produce at his or her best level without having to do anything extra.

Finding the Right Match

Group projects are ideal for differentiated instruction because the group has to work out what is best for each member to do so that the final product is complete. At first, my training led me to match the advanced students with struggling students so that they could help each other. I noticed, however, that if that was the only way I split up the students, group mentalities would emerge and the struggling students soon ceased struggling. They were content to let the smart kids do the work. So I mixed it up -- randomly, homogonously, and heterogeneously. (See what Robert Marzano has to say about grouping in his book Classroom Instruction That Works.)

Students who would normally not say anything or participate in a heterogeneous group developed leadership and took on responsibility in a way I had never seen before when I placed them with peers of similar skills and attitudes. I eventually learned how to create cooperative groups of students that could tackle large projects such as putting together a dating game in Spanish, re-creating famous restaurants, designing tourist travel agencies, imagining Interpol investigations, reenacting the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas, or taking a piece of Spanish literature and transforming it into a radio play.

Give Them Options

Allowing students to choose their assignments is another tactic that automatically differentiates instruction: Rather than creating one learning activity to meet an objective, create several for students to choose from. They will pick the one that interests them the most and, at the same time, self-differentiate according to their capacity and needs. If a student is challenged in writing, then invariably he will choose the graphic novel over the essay. If a student is more academic, then she will select the research paper instead of the television infomercial. The trick is to come up with activities that involve similar amounts of effort and require the same level of learning.

Encouraging student inquiry is another method that promotes differentiation of learning. When a student is asking questions, those questions are automatically going to be at his or her cognitive level . The key is to help the students find the answers at their level.

Looking back, I can divide the differentiated-instruction techniques that I used into two categories: designed differentiation and intrinsic differentiation. Those I've described here are in the intrinsic-differentiation category. In my next post, I will discuss designed differentiation. Meanwhile, go have some fun differentiating for those acronym kids!

But until then, what experiences have you had with creating intrinsically differentiated learning environments? Please share your thoughts.

Exceptional Thinkers

What Is Differentiated Instruction and Why Is It Important?

What Is Differentiated Instruction and Why Is It Important?

What is differentiated instruction? How do teachers differentiate instruction with a classroom full of diverse learners? Read on to find out.

If you’ve visited my blog before, you may have noticed that differentiating instruction is an important topic to me. I often talk about ways to differentiate material and provide helpful tips . New teachers may find themselves wondering, “What is differentiated instruction anyway?”

What is Differentiated Instruction?

Differentiated instruction is when a lesson is tailored to meet more than one academic level. We can’t expect our students to all be on the same level, so why would we design our lessons that way ? Differentiated instruction allows us to zero in more closely on individual needs. Through tiered lessons, we are better able to understand our students abilities and needs.

Why is Differentiated Instruction Important?

What Is Differentiated Instruction?

Larger class sizes make it more difficult to zero in on individual student needs. In a large class, it’s easier for a student to slip between the cracks. A quiet child who hasn’t mastered the material can easily go unnoticed until a formal assessment. While working with a large group, it’s difficult to zero in on students who need extra support or enrichment.

Why Don’t Teachers Differentiate Instruction All The Time?

Breaking the class up into smaller groups allows us to provide differentiated content at various academic levels. Most teachers know that differentiating instruction is a good practice. So why doesn’t everyone do it?

Teachers feel like they don’t have the time to meet the needs of every individual student. They’re busy and stressed. Teachers are overworked and underpaid . They barely have time to catch their breath. Teacher tired is a real thing. And there’s always some new “best practice” being pushed on them.

As a result, they “teach to the middle” and call it a day. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but there’s room for improvement.

Teaching to the Middle

What does it mean to “teach to the middle?” Basically, it’s when a teacher designs their lesson plans for the average student. Most teachers teach to the middle out of necessity. Teaching to the middle has been the go- to solution for teachers since the earliest school days.

Honestly, teaching to the middle isn’t a bad approach since it does accommodate most of the class. After all, most students do fall into the average range.

But what about the students outside of the average range? When we teach to the middle, higher and lower achieving students get left behind. Gifted students need more challenging activities while lower performing students require additional support.

Improving the “Teach to the Middle” Approach

Designing your lessons for “the middle,” or the average student population, is a great place to start. To accommodate individual needs better, just take that approach a bit further.

Try thinking of how you can make different versions of the same lesson. Nothing crazy, no dramatic changes, just slightly altered versions of the same lesson. How can you push your gifted students to delve deeper into the topic? What kinds of supports can you add to aid students in need of extra help?

Break your class into three groups and try working on the lesson with these different versions. One way to do this is to have all three groups work on it at the same time. Another option is to rotate your groups and have them work on the lesson one at a time while the other two groups do independent work, silent reading, or center activities. I like implementing differentiated instruction via centers .

More Differentiated Group Activities

For your more advanced students, think of how you can extend the concepts of that activity. Is there more information on that topic that they can explore more deeply? Is there a project that they can work on? How can they apply the concepts and skills at a more challenging level?

For students in need of additional support, think about how you can break up the lesson’s concepts into smaller parts. Can you make activities to address these smaller parts?

A Freebie to Make Differentiation a Breeze

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Other posts from Exceptional Thinkers that you may like:

  • How to Differentiate Instruction
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  • Master Small Group Instruction (with Free Differentiation Tools)

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10 Writing Strategies to Differentiate So ALL Students Can Write

by John McCarthy | Mar 18, 2016 | Differentiated Instruction , Pedagogy , strategies , Writing | 0 comments

Writing is such an important skill set that requires a combination of honed skills and physical stamina to complete drafts and turn them into published products. Even though writing is an important part of professional life and work, it is likely that many people lack confidence, skills, and/or stamina to write well. This may be equally true in Education.

Here are ten strategies to add to your toolbox. If you have some already, then consider this an opportunity to further hone these approaches to improving the writing skills of ALL students. But to apply any of these strategies with effectiveness, the first step is to establish with students that they are writers. When talking about writer’s craft, frame the conversations and work where students reflect and work “as writers” or “authors”. This culture setting viewpoint is key to student writers coming to the belief that they can write and write well.

1. Window Activity

This strategy helps unlock the inner writer in every participant. The Window Activity uses a picture that contains many details for igniting ideas to write about. This visual strategy helps students explore a theme or concept and immerse the writer with their words. The result are writers having higher confidence in their word-smithing capabilities. More details here.

Here’s an example of a picture that could be used to study the American Revolution or to spark a later conversation about such concepts as: revolution, core democratic values, or strategy.

Emanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, oil on canvas,

2. Social Media Publication

Social Media tools provide many ways for expressing student voice as part of engaged communities. Students can play roles from different professional fields to apply concepts and skills in related occupations. There are many different forms of publication:

Collaborative content development: Padlet – Thinglink – Stormboard

Reflection on content and concepts: Blogs

Expressing opinions or evidenced-based perspectives – reviews on products (Amazon or MetaCritic, travel (TripAdvisor), food (Yelp) and article critiques (Yahoo News)

Posting original ideas – Blogs and Wikis

More details here based on this article .

Consider using the SAMR Model as a guide when using Social Media to support writing and learning. Here is a good image of the SAMR Model . Also, here is a Pad Wheel that connects use of Social Media tools to the SAMR Model .

3. Fastwrite – Freewrite Strategies

Fastwrites help writers get their ideas down on paper. Consider it a writing sprint. Part brainstorm and part exploration, students are able to unload from their mind the many ideas that peculate consciously and unconsciously. It’s a great way to breakthrough writer’s block and excavate gems of ideas.

Freewrites is a thoughtful plodding process of reflecting and expanding on ideas. It works best when there are ideas on the page or images to react about. Freewrite allows writers to take time to simmer and develop ideas.

Use a combination of these two strategies to powerful effect.

5. One-Foot Voice revision strategy + Whisperphone and Recordings

Reading one’s writing aloud helps writers to identify areas for revision and edits. The One-Foot Voice provides concrete steps for coaching students on how to take charge of their self-edits and partner critiques and revisions.

The Whisperphone is a tool that studnets can use to reassure themselves that they are the only one who can hear the read aloud. All that is needed is a PVC “C” shaped pipe from a hardware store. Another option is to give students headsets so that they can auto record and then listen to their read-aloud to do the One-Foot Voice.

More details here.

8. Thinkdots and Virtual Dice

Use Thinkdots to explore author’s craft. This strategy helps students to think deeply about the focused skills such as writer’s Voice. Thinkdots provides 6 different tasks based on learning preferences or thinking styles. Students usually work in teams to accomplish all tasks based on the random order of rolling a die. Here is an  overview  and  template .

Virtual dice are a nice touch, especially ones such as this program that allows you to custom the content on each side. For example, put a topic on each side so that students must write about the topic or use the listed part of speech.

Role, Audience, Format, Topic, and Strong Verb are what composes a RAFTS. The strategy supports students’ writing as they develop a sense of audience and purpose. Highly engaging and motivating when students have choices of different RAFTS to write about.

  • Inspiring the Writer in Everyone:
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School-based solutions: Literacy Learning Library

Six-Word Memoirs in the Classroom

Every semester, on the last day of the literacy methods course I teach, I ask my pre-service teachers to write a six-word memoir as a form of reflection. I show them the funny, moving, irreverent YouTube video created by SMITH Magazine and Harper Perennial called “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure,” and, after watching, I give them some time to write. Their six-word memoirs run the gamut from funny to moving to irreverent, as you can see from the memoirs my created this semester .

Then we get to the point where we need to move beyond reflection and ask “So what? What does this have to do with teaching kids? How might we use this in a classroom?” This is an important question in a methods class, where the line between theory and practice shifts, and students start to own what it means to be teachers. Together, we came up with a list of how they might use six-word memoirs with the students they came to know and care about over the course of the semester, and how they imagine using six-word memoirs with students they have not yet encountered.

Here are our top five ways to use six-word memoirs in a classroom:

As a Form of Introduction. Students come to a class with different life experiences. Some have summers filled with camp, vacations, books, and wonder. Others have summers filled with taking care of younger siblings, staying indoors and watching television, angry adults, and unhealthy food. As teachers, regardless of where we teach, we never know who is joining our community or what they bring with them. Six-word memoirs offer students a safe way to share a small piece of who they are and what matters to them. Older students might want to watch the version of the six-word memoir project compiled by in order to find inspiration and mentor texts.

Writer’s workshop is a model emphasizing both structure and choice. The beauty of six-word memoirs is that structure is built into the fabric of this writing, but so is choice. When using six-word memoirs as a method of introduction, students can pick content and decide how much of themselves to share. They can share their favorite book, the number of siblings they have, or the fact they miss someone who is no longer here. The choice within the structure is theirs and theirs alone.

Write from a Character’s Point of View. While six-word memoirs and all of the applications are exciting, this is a particular favorite of mine. There are so many ways six-word memoirs might be used within the context of reader’s workshop! Thinking for a moment of a whole-class read-aloud, each student might be asked to write a six-word memoir from the perspective of a different character at the end of a book. Certainly, very few books would have enough characters to assign every student a different perspective (we’re not reading Game of Thrones in elementary school!), but it’s always interesting to see how students write the same character differently. As an example, let’s take a look at a current favorite of mine, Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin , by Liesl Shurtliff. In this book, students can write six-word memoirs from the perspectives of Rump, Red, Opal, King Barf, the aunts, the trolls, pixies, Frederick and Bruno, and the miller. They might even write six-word memoirs from these characters at different points in the story, showing their perspective as it changes (or doesn’t) over time.

This same idea can be repeated as an independent reading activity, a literature circle discussion prompt, or a way in to a partner reading conversation. Asking students to put themselves in the shoes of a book character is hard work, and writing a six-word memoir as if they were that character raises the bar just a little bit more.

Writing Across the Science or Social Studies Curriculum. While the 140-character limit of Twitter feels like an imposition of brevity on many older students, imagine what the limit of six words feels like! The six-word structure can be used as either a memoir or a structure for summary in the content areas. First, let’s explore the six-words as a memoir in content areas.

We often ask students to write biographies of those who are famous in the disciplines they study. Earlier this year, my son, a first grader, was asked to write a report on an “American hero” (he picked Paul Revere.) As I was getting ready to write this post, I asked him what he remembered about his “hero,” and he replied as I feared, “ummm… nothing?”

Over the course of a school career, students study any number of historical figures from around the world and across disciplines. They write long reports about these people, sometimes drawing pictures or presenting what they have learned (or memorized) to their class. What if we asked each of our students to write their figure’s memoir as well? These figures have an abundance of information associated with them, but six words would be something to take away, something these students might remember for the long haul.

The six-word structure can also be used as a method for summary of content areas. It is a useful tool when thinking about formative assessment, exit tickets, and helping students think about the big ideas of a concept or a unit of study. When looking across a class full of six-word summaries, it’s easier to see if they “get” the big idea than when looking at 27 full-page summaries.

To be fair, learning to summarize in six words takes some practice. Students will want to summarize in five words, or eight. Writing in six words takes skill, and as a method of formative assessment it might not seem like the point. There is a certain habit of mind, however, that comes with thinking of just the right words to say what you want to say. 

As a Connection to the Arts. It’s always interesting to hear from my pre-service teachers once they leave my class and carry on with their studies. I’m never sure what they will take with them, what will “stick.” One student of mine loved the idea of six-word memoirs, and decided to try it with kids she was working with in a summer camp setting. She was an art counselor working with all ages, and asked the kids to caption one painting project, a favorite setting, with six words.

Using the six-word structure as a connection to the arts is a natural fit, because this is an arts-based project in the first place. My student used it as a link to painting, but it could be used to caption a self-portrait ( memoir plus self-portrait, oh my! ), to describe an abstract work, as a placard for a sculpture, or the dedication on an artist’s nameplate. Moving out of the realm of visual art, the six-word structure could be used to describe what a song or piece of music makes you feel, or a dance, or any other performance. The brevity of the six-word structure makes it an ideal form for this type of review.

As a Form of Reflection. I began this post discussing how I use six-word memoirs with my own students as a form of reflection. I ask my pre-service teachers to reflect on our time together, on what they have learned, and how they have grown as teachers and students. I am a firm believer in the power of reflection, and I have seen the six-word structure help my students grow in their ability to reflect.

I think the power of this lies in the limits. It becomes easy to reflect over the course of pages, to talk about strengths and weaknesses, what you liked and didn’t like, where you excelled and where you will continue to grow. It is harder, of course, to be reflective in six words. It is harder to find voice in six words. You have to make a choice: do you want to be funny, or serious? How much do you want to share? You can be awfully honest in just six words, you can choose to put it all out there. Or you can find a cliché, string your words together, hide behind the limit.

This goes for young students, too. We can ask students in elementary school to reflect upon the type of readers they become over the course of a school year, or the type of mathematicians, or how they changed as writers or scientists or questioners. From our initial prompt, students can reflect in any number of ways. They can be silly or serious, thoughtful or rushed. They can use every word of their allotted six and think wisely about punctuation, or try to argue that “ and ” shouldn’t really count as a word.

And so, in the spirit of the six-word memoir, here are my six words (in addition, of course, to the title): “Six-word memoirs: powerful teaching tools.”

differentiated learning 6 word essay

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differentiated learning 6 word essay


  1. Differentiated Essay Graphic Organizer

    differentiated learning 6 word essay

  2. Differentiated Instruction Visually Explained for Teachers

    differentiated learning 6 word essay

  3. Differentiated Instruction: Examples & Classroom Strategies

    differentiated learning 6 word essay

  4. The Art Of Differentiated Instruction

    differentiated learning 6 word essay

  5. What Is Differentiated Instruction? An Overview for Educators

    differentiated learning 6 word essay

  6. 6 Ways to Differentiate Writing Instruction

    differentiated learning 6 word essay


  1. principles of teaching group L differentiated learning. #baraton students

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  3. #20: Help 4 Teachers and Parents w/ Dr. Kathie Nunley -What is Differentiated Instruction?


  5. Class 6

  6. Word Learning in Children with DLD & Dyslexia



    The procedure is as follows: Create various word lists and write the words on index cards from shortest to longest. The large letter cards will be placed in a pocket chart. Then hold up and name the letters on the large letter cards as the student holds up theirs matching small letter cards. The student will then be directed to take two letters ...

  2. Differentiated Instruction for Writing

    Differentiated instruction, also called differentiation, is a process through which teachers enhance learning by matching student characteristics to instruction and assessment. Writing instruction can be differentiated to allow students varying amounts of time to complete assignments, to give students different writing product options, and to teach skills related to the writing process.

  3. Differentiated Instruction: Examples & Classroom Strategies

    According to Tomlinson, teachers can differentiate instruction through four ways: 1) content, 2) process, 3) product, and 4) learning environment. 1. Content. As you already know, fundamental lesson content should cover the standards of learning set by the school district or state educational standards.

  4. Differentiated Instruction Essay

    Effective differentiated instruction reflects where the students currently are in their educational stage and not where a teacher wishes them to be. This step is important; placing students either too high or too low in the instruction can be adverse to the teacher's goal of helping all students. Developing lesson strategies for students that ...

  5. How Differentiated Instruction Can Help You Reach Every Student in

    The idea behind differentiated learning theory is to make sure your curriculum reflects the diverse needs of your students. [9] Each student enters the classroom with unique experiences, preferences, and conditions that affect how they learn. Differentiated instruction provides students with different resources or options for understanding and ...

  6. Defining Differentiated Instruction

    when it comes to differentiated instruction. In the education world, differentiated instruction is talked a lot about as a policy or as a solution, but rarely do educators get opportunities to roll up their sleeves and talk about what it looks like in practice. The definition begins with this: Equal education is not all students getting the ...

  7. Descriptive writing lesson plan for differentiated learning

    Descriptive writing toolkit. Objective: By the end of the lesson/s the students will be able to: Identify 2-3 types of imagery as used to describe some scene/person/object. Comment on the imagery/word choice in terms of the effect created. Focus on and analyze the effect of the word choice made by an author in a given passage.


    This rubric provides a way to assess evidence of differentiated instruction in the classroom. It is divided into two sections. NOTE: This rubric is based on Tomlinson's (2010) Differentiated Instruction Model (see Toolkit references for complete citation). 1. Practices'that'can'beobserved'in'theclassroom''' 2.

  9. Instruction Strategies for Differentiated Teaching and Learning Essay

    By knowing this differentiation, it becomes easy to have a plan that will enable the students to use the same curriculum by issuing out the entry points, learning tasks and outcomes that are designed to the needs of students (Schlemmer, 2011).

  10. Differentiated Instruction

    Differentiated Instruction (DI) is fundamentally the attempt to teach differently to different students, rather than maintain a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction. Other frameworks, such as Universal Design for Learning, enjoin instructors to give students broad choice and agency to meet their diverse needs and interests.

  11. Clarity Through Brevity: Integrating Six-Word Memoirs

    The six-word memoir teaches all of us writers a critical skill: words are valuable and have meaning -- don't waste them. I first learned about the six word memoir from a post by Paul Oh on Digital Is, a part of the National Writing Project. A few weeks ago, I explored its potential in one of the weekly writing activities I publish with Sarah ...

  12. Differentiated Instruction Essay Paper Example

    The use of differentiated instruction involves the clarification of key concepts to ensure that all students are gaining powerful understanding that will serve as their foundation for future learning. Assessment tools are also used before, during and as well as after the given learning activity that does not necessarily mean a written ...

  13. TEAL Center Fact Sheet No. 5: Differentiated Instruction

    Differentiated instruction is an approach that enables instructors to plan strategically to meet the needs of every learner. The approach encompasses planning and delivery of instruction, classroom management techniques, and expectations of learners' performance that take into consideration the diversity and varied levels of readiness, interests, and learning profiles of learners.

  14. PDF The Five Dimensions of Differentiation

    ICIE/LPI 88 International Journal for Talent Development and Creativity - 6(1), August, 2018; and 2), December, 2018. 2. Instructional Strategies: Students also arrive with different learning styles. Some learn best through group work and some by working alone, some learn best by doing projects, while other

  15. Differentiated Instruction' Strategies and Benefits

    Differentiated instruction is the practice of making sure that the things that students learn coupled with how they learn and express what they have learnt is an equal to the readiness status, concentrations, and desired manner of learning of the students. Convictions concerning divergences amid students, the way they learn, studying fondness ...

  16. Differentiated Instruction: Strategies and Examples for the Classroom

    Differentiated instruction strategies can be categorized into three main areas: content, process, and product. These strategies help educators create a more inclusive and effective learning environment for all students. Content differentiation focuses on the material being taught and how it is presented to students.

  17. Differentiated Instruction

    Differentiation Strategies. There are four ways to differentiate instruction: varying the content, varying the learning process, varying the assessment, and varying the learning environment (Carol Ann Tomlinson, 2000). 1. Varying the Content. Varying the content involves mixing up what students will learn.

  18. Active Learning Is Key to Differentiated Instruction

    Encouraging student inquiry is another method that promotes differentiation of learning. When a student is asking questions, those questions are automatically going to be at his or her cognitive level. The key is to help the students find the answers at their level. Looking back, I can divide the differentiated-instruction techniques that I ...

  19. 6 Ways to Differentiate Writing Instruction

    These are some of my favorite ways to differentiate instruction so that all students are successful. ANTICIPATE POINTS OF FRUSTRATION. I know, based upon my pre-assessmentfindings, that my students will struggle with certain aspects of writing an essay. For example, they are confused about how to make a whole paragraph out of an introduction.

  20. What Is Differentiated Instruction and Why Is It Important?

    Differentiated instruction allows us to give students the support they need instead of lumping them together in one big group. Smaller groups make it easier to see who has mastered the lesson goals and has acquired the skills to move on. Larger class sizes make it more difficult to zero in on individual student needs.

  21. 10 Writing Strategies to Differentiate So ALL Students Can Write

    1. Window Activity. This strategy helps unlock the inner writer in every participant. The Window Activity uses a picture that contains many details for igniting ideas to write about. This visual strategy helps students explore a theme or concept and immerse the writer with their words.

  22. Differentiated Learning Essay

    The practice of differentiating instruction plays a role in creating a classroom community, which supports a wide range of learning styles. Through differentiated instruction, students are provided with a multitude of resources that can help them with subjects, such as reading and math.…. 507 Words. 3 Pages.

  23. Six-Word Memoirs in the Classroom

    Six-word memoirs offer students a safe way to share a small piece of who they are and what matters to them. Older students might want to watch the version of the six-word memoir project compiled by in order to find inspiration and mentor texts. Writer's workshop is a model emphasizing both structure and choice.