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Fitting The Pieces Together. Tuning IntoThe Uniqueness Of Each Student. Office of Special Education and Support. AGENDA Where do we need to begin? What is Differentiated Instruction? How do we differentiate instruction? The framework to begin Grouping for instruction Strategies Grading

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Fitting the pieces together
Fitting The Pieces Together

Tuning IntoThe Uniqueness Of Each Student

Office of Special Education and Support

Fitting the pieces together


  • Where do we need to begin?

  • What is Differentiated Instruction?

  • How do we differentiate instruction?

  • The framework to begin

  • Grouping for instruction

  • Strategies

  • Grading

  • Creating a sense of community

  • Managing Your differentiated classroom

  • Questions and resources

What is differentiated instruction
Whatis Differentiated Instruction?

A teaching philosophy based on the premise that teachers should adapt instruction to student differences. Rather than marching students through the curriculum in lockstep, teachers should modify their instruction to meet students’ varying readiness levels, learning preferences, and interests.

What is differentiated instruction1
What is Differentiated Instruction?

  • A different way of thinking about learning and instruction

  • Strategies that help you address and manage the diverse learning needs in your classroom

  • Students help other students

  • Students are assessed in multiple ways

  • Students work with the teacher to establish both whole class and individual learning goals

  • Meets students where they are not where they should be

Key principles
Key Principles

  • The teacher is clear about what matters in subject matter

  • The teacher understands, appreciates, and builds upon student differences

  • Assessment and instruction are inseparable

  • The teacher adjusts content, process, and products in response to student readiness, interest, and learning profile

  • All students participate in respectful work

  • Students and teachers are collaborators in learning

  • Flexibility is the hallmark of a differentiated classroom

    Tomlinson, 1999

How do students differ
How do Students Differ?

  • Personal experiences

  • Prior educational experiences

  • Skill level

  • Learning styles

  • Motivators

  • Socioeconomic and Family Factors

  • Readiness

  • Gender

  • Learning Pace

  • Cultural/Ethnic Influences

  • Intelligences

How do we differentiate




What the student learns and the materials used to accomplish the goal

Activities used to ensure students are learning key concepts and skills

Application of what students have learned

How Do We Differentiate?

Student centered areas of differentiation





Student’s entry point relative to a particular understanding or skill

A child’s passion or curiosity for a particular topic or skill

How a student learns

Student-Centered Areas of Differentiation

Grouping for differentiated instruction
Grouping for Differentiated Instruction

Whole Group

  • Plan unit activities with students

  • Demonstrate a relevant skill

  • Debrief unit activities at the conclusion of the unit

    Small Group

  • Construct meaning about the content

  • Participate in group investigation

  • Complete a cooperative group task

    Individual Student

  • Engage in reflection about prior knowledge and experiences with a specific content area

  • Journal learning strengths and difficulties and conference with teacher

  • Make decisions about and complete independent study

Fitting the pieces together

Whole class instruction Individual and small group activities

  • Teacher and the whole group begin

    exploration of a topic or concern

    Students engage in further study using varied materials

    based on readiness and learning styles

  • Students and teacher come

    together to share information Students work on assigned tasks designed to help them make sense of key ideas at varied levels of complexity and varied pacing

  • The whole class reviews key ideas

    And extends their study through sharing

Fitting the pieces together

In small groups selected activities by students they apply key concepts to teacher generated problems related to their study The whole class is introduced to the skills necessary to make a presentation Students self-select interest areas through which they extend their understanding

  • The whole class listens to

    individual study plans and

    establishes baseline criteria

    for success Student assessment

Strategies for differentiating instruction
Strategies for Differentiating activities Instruction

Low Prep

  • Choice of books

  • Homework options

  • Varied writing prompts

  • Flexible seating/grouping

  • Think-pair-share by readiness, interest or learning styles

  • Multiple levels of questions

  • Mini-workshops to re-teach or extend skills

  • Peer buddies/tutors

Strategies for differentiating instruction1
Strategies for Differentiating Instruction activities

High prep:

  • Compacting (Pre-testing to eliminate needless teaching and practice)

  • Tiered activities/projects

  • Learning Contracts

  • Scaffolding

  • Learning Centers

  • Graduated rubrics

  • Choice boards

  • Tape recorded or video taped material to introduce, re-teach, and extend

Grading activities

  • To make grading fair and equitable, students need to understand your expectations

  • Each differentiated assignment or task, should have a clear evaluation criteria

  • All tasks-basic or advanced-are evaluated on whether or not the student meets the quality criteria for that task

Create a sense of community in the classroom
Create a Sense of Community in the Classroom activities

  • Promote acceptance of differences

  • Affirm students learning strengths

  • Build feelings of competence and confidence

  • Support and celebrate student success

  • Nurture the creative spirit

  • Honor everyone’s work

Managing differentiation
Managing Differentiation activities

  • Establish behavior guidelines and enforce them

  • Establish structured, consistent routines

  • Think through tasks in advance

  • Consider what can be done ahead of time

Starting somewhere
Starting somewhere activities:





Make sure your instruction is varied to include these four learning styles. Try some

low-prep strategies to begin your journey toward differentiating.

In your groups
In your groups… activities

  • How is differentiated instruction different from the traditional classrooms you may have grown up in?

  • Discuss two ideas that you can implement in your classroom in the next two days.

    Remember…start somewhere!!

Bibliography activities

Heacox, Diane, (2002) Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom, Minneapolis, MN: Free spirit Publishing

Moll, Anne M, (2003). Differentiated Instruction Guide for Inclusive Teaching, Port Chester, NY: Dude Publishing

Tomlinson, Carol A, (1999). The Differentiated Classroom Responding to the Needs of All Learners, Alexandria, VA: ASCD


Educational Leadership (September 2000), How to Differentiate Instruction, Volume 58 Number 1: ASCD

Additional resources
Additional Resources activities