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Differentiation is...

  • Students and teachers collaborating in learning
  • Respecting prior knowledge and readiness levels of students
  • Considering students' needs and abilities when planning
  • Assessing prior to, during, and after a unit of study
  • Assessing students in multiple ways
  • Allowing for choice in the demonstration of knowledge
  • Incorporating critical thinking skills
  • Having high expectations for all students
  • Using time flexibly, based on student need
  • Working with students to establish whole class and individual learning goals


Differentiation is not...

  • Assigning more work to students who finish early
  • Asking students to teach material they have mastered to others
  • Giving every student an individual assignment
  • Finding a student's deficit and then having the student practice that skill indefinitely
  • Only assessing students at the end of learning to see "who got it"

Differentiation Chart

Differentiation Chart

Ways That You Will See Differentiation in The Classroom

1.  Time

  • Compacting Instruction

Giving students full credit for what they know based on a pretest and then providing opportunities to learn the content in a shorter amount of time

  • Guided Research/Independent Study

Guided Research is teacher-assigned topics where students work individually or in paired/small groups to develop research skills and habits necessary for self-directed learning; Independent Study encourages students to pursue extensive knowledge and understanding in an area of interest (student choice); both accent high-level thinking and enhance life-long learning skills

  • Extension Menu

A selection of topics from which a student can choose to pursue an independent study that extends the learning of a required standard beyond the mastered content standards


2. Assistance

  • Flexible Grouping-Similar Readiness Level (Homogeneous)

Grouping of similar ability levels; accents abstract/complex thinking and prompt construction of symbolic relationships; encourages use of sophisticated vocabulary; provides beyond grade-level learning opportunities

  • Learning Centers (Student &/or Teacher developed)

Focuses on practice, mastery, or extension of concepts and skills; enables student exploration independent of teacher direction; most effective if beyond grade-level resources and depth and complexity are used


3. Resources

  • Use of Multiple Texts and Supplementary Materials

Textbooks, newspaper, primary video, expository text etc… available at multiple grade levels

  • Use of Computer Programs and Instructional Strategies

ST Math, Renzulli Learning, Accelerated Reader, Pacent Math, Read 180, Systems 44, L Book, Imagine Learning, Project Based Learning, Visual Thinking Strategies, Depth and Complexity Icons, Blooms Taxonomy


4. Modification of Curriculum

  • Open-ended Tasks/Inquiry

Flexible learning activities; accents divergent thinking by encouraging students to respond with multiple correct ideas at various levels of complexity & understanding; demonstrates reasoning; springboard for in-depth study

  • Creative Problem Solving

A series of steps that guide the creative process that eventually leads to one or more creative, viable solutions; accents creativity by encouraging both divergent and convergent thinking in every step 

  • Product Options/Choice/Learning Styles

Providing a series of options/choices based on varying degrees of complexity that appeal to student learning styles so that the student can demonstrate mastery of a desired skill; accents creativity and motivates learners; validates the significance of all modalities and intelligences

  • Problem-Based Learning

Both a curriculum & a process; students investigate a real-world problem and find a solution; fosters active learning, supports knowledge construction, and naturally integrates school learning and real life

  • Tiered Instruction

Provides different levels of learning tasks WITHIN the same unit in order to align the curriculum to various readiness levels; lessons can be tiered by content, product, or resources

  • Accelerated Math or Language Arts Classes (Middle School)

Class that moves at a faster pace than the grade level general education math or language arts

  • Advanced Placement (High School)

AP, or Advanced Placement, Courses are college-level courses that a student can take in high school

  • Honors Courses (High School)

Honors courses are enriched; they offer the same material in greater depth and with a faster pace. Honors courses emphasize critical and independent thinking to produce creative applications of ideas.

What does Differentiation Mean?

It is most often not different curriculum content, but just differing the...

  • quantity
  • time or pace
  • support
  • resources
  • difficulty
  • product choice
  • assistance
  • goals

Every student is required to learn their grade level standards.  Once they have learned them, it's important for them to have opportunities to keep moving forward.

Instructional and Management Strategies to Support Differentiation

Anchor Activities: On-going assignments for which students are accountable, tied to the curriculum and which students work on when they finish other assignments, allowing the teacher to manage other instructional groups in the classroom

Assessment and Diagnosis: Collecting and using student data to plan responsive instruction

Audit Cards: An assessment tool which asks students to document on a card their work at a station or center for the teacher to review

Doctor Is In: Asking students to sign up for an "appointment" with the teacher when she is engaged with other students or groups

Exit Cards (AKA “Tickets to Leave”): Way to access students' readiness, interest, and learning profiles.  Responding on an index card to a few questions to determine level of students' learning or understanding and turning them in as they leave the class

Flexible Grouping: Placing students in instructional groups for a specific skill, unit of study, or other learning opportunity based on readiness, interest, or learning profile to create temporary groups for an hour, a day, a week, or a month

Interest Surveys: Formal or informal assessments of students' interests in a particular area of study or in general

Learning Centers: Places in the classroom where the teacher has gathered resources and materials and has created assignments to teach, reinforce, or extend students' skills

Learning Contracts and Personal Agendas: Written agreements between teachers and students which outline instructions, goals, tasks, and evaluation criteria.  Excellent for managing other tasks such as learning centers and stations, curriculum compacting, anchor activities, independent projects, and tiered activities

Math Stations: Places in the classroom where students work simultaneously on different tasks related to a single topic, concept, skill

Mini-Lessons: Direct instruction of short duration on a topic or skill usually done in a small or large group, required or voluntary, based on student readiness, interest, or learning profile

Most Difficult First: Doing the most difficult items first as a means of demonstrating mastery or understanding and then selecting alternative activities afterward

Multiple Texts: Gaining understanding through the use of multiple texts at different levels of difficulty and complexity

Portfolios: A compilation of students' work, representing progress over time

Reading and Study Buddies: Creating pairs of students who can assist one another in reading an assignment or studying/reviewing subject matter

Student Expert Desks: Management strategy allowing teacher to work with individuals or small groups without interruption by designating “student experts” to help peers

Student or Adult Mentors: Resource teachers, media specialists, parent volunteers, older students, or community members who can guide students' growth in a particular area of interest or talent

Task Cards: Management tool used to make individual or small group assignments.  Directions for student activities recorded on cards students can proceed on their own as they complete the assignment.  Recorded directions for small group or individual assignments used to promote student engagement in a multitask classroom.

Three Before Me: Asking students to check with three other students before coming to the teacher for help, particularly when she is working with individuals or small groups