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Differentiated Instruction, Grades K - 6

"The idea of differentiating instruction is an approach to teaching that advocates active planning for and attention to student differences in classrooms, in the context of high quality curriculum's." ~Carol Ann Tomlinson~

As the diversity of students in a general education classroom continues to change, we as educators need to provide instruction which meets the needs of all students. In order to meet the needs of all students differentiation of lesson plans and core content material needs to occur.

The key phrase which has been around for years is differentiated instruction. I personally believe that many teachers are differentiating for the students in their classroom, but are unaware. Some teachers are confused as to what differentiated instruction looks like, what to differentiate within a lesson, and need examples in order to complete this task independently.

I am currently a 5th/6th grade Resource Room teacher at an Intermediate School in the Hartland Consolidated School District. Not only do I see students in the resource room setting, I also co-teach in a 5th grade Math and a 6th grade Math class. I am very passionate about learning more and then being able to teach other educators about differentiated instruction because I feel that is what I am doing every minute in the classroom. Whether it be on the spot differentiation or planning a lesson in different tiers, I have learned that with differentiation occurring in the classroom all students can be successful.


Differentiated instruction (sometimes referred to as differentiated learning) involves providing students with different avenues to acquiring content; to processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas; and to developing teaching materials so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability. (Wikipedia: see link below)

In order to completely understand and begin the digestion and dissection of differentiated instruction, I feel it is important to know the definition of and background information which will provide the knowledge on when and how differentiated instruction originated in education. The Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia- Differentiated Instruction provides the reader with an overview of information such as; about differentiated instruction, information about a pre-assessment which should be given to assess student performance, how to differentiate content referring to Bloom's Taxonomy, the process of how the material in a lesson can be differentiated, the product the student produces at the end of the lesson, and references.


Carol Ann Tomlinson

Carol Ann Tomlinson has written books, articles, made presentations, and conducted research on differentiated instruction in the classroom. Her career as an educator includes 21 years as a public school teacher and 12 years as a program administrator of special services for struggling and advanced learners. Tomlinson's special interests throughout her career have included curriculum and instruction for struggling and advanced learners, effective instruction in heterogeneous settings, and encouraging creative and critical thinking in the classroom. She works throughout the U. S. and abroad with teachers whose goal is to develop more responsive heterogeneous classrooms. Her website, Carol Ann Tomlinson provides the reader with many resources such as; books, articles, presentations, and other resources which address the topic of differentiated instruction. One can use this website to get a list of resources for further reading.


Differentiated_Booj.jpgThe Differentiated School: Making Revolutionary Changes in Teaching and Learning (2008)
The book explores how leaders in two schools supported and encouraged teachers in delivering instructional approaches that attend to the needs and interests of a broad range of students. It clarifies goals and attributes of best-practice differentiation and provides illustrations from schools and leaders who understand both differentiation and school change---and who have been effective in moving from comfortable and familiar ways of teaching to approaches that support the academic growth of a far wider sphere of students that is typically the case in many classrooms.

Differentiated_Book2.jpgDifferentiation in Practice: A Resource Guide for Differentiated Curriculum (grades K-5/5-9)
Tomlinson, C.& Edison, C. (2003)
Drawing from what classroom teachers do to incorporate differentiation in their classrooms, these books provide nine differentiated core-subject units. Each unit is complete with standards and learning outcomes, lesson plans, worksheets, a variety of instructional strategies, and other materials for classroom instruction. Comments from the teacher who created the unit helps you understand a teacher's think as he/she planned differentiation based on students' varied interests, strengths, and needs. These units can be used as a guide as you design your own differentiated unit.

external image bookldshp.jpg
Leadership for Differentiating Schools and Classrooms
Tomlinson, C. & Allan, S. D. (2000)
This book explores how school leaders can develop responsive, personalized, and differentiated classrooms. Classrooms function best when teachers and students join to develop multiple avenues to learning. Until every students is growing and successful, teachers professional growth is unfinished. The authors show how school leaders can encourage and support growth toward differentiation in their schools.


Sample Lesson Plans, Resources, and More
This website is devoted to differentiation and is reviewed by Dr. Tomlinson and her colleagues at UVa. You can find more resources, sample lesson plans, and discussion rooms devoted to differentiation.

Attached you will find a Lesson Design Reflection Guide. This guide is an interactive guide which allows the teacher to think about the concept, knowledge, and skills needed in order for the student to master the lesson presented. It provides an outline for the teacher to brainstorm and includes in the lesson steps some of the generated activities that best fits the lesson objectives and prepares for the lesson assessment.

Another form that the teacher can use as a guideline which is also interactive. This interactive differentiated lesson guide provides an area to fill-in the pre-assessment, steps in the lesson, closure activity, and post assessment. It also encourages the teacher to think about what area (content, process, or product) will be differentiated.



Teacher Blog- Great Ideas This is a blog site i found where teachers are able to post questions, comments, or tweet about differentiated instruction. You do have to be a member to read the entire post, but its FREE!!!! We have been talking a lot about technology in the classroom and when I originally found this blog these were the first two posts:

Blog #1:

Wow! A colleague just shared a…

Wow! A colleague just shared a fast way to poll students quickly using their cell phones! Http://www.polleverywhere.com
What a great tool!

Blog #2

Great article on using digital…

Great article on using digital tools to personalize learning!! Digital Tools for Learning
This blog is a great way to see what other teachers are doing to differentiate instruction in their classrooms and you can share ideas too!

While I was analyzing and gathering all my ideas, questions, and concerns to write the conclusion of this project, I came across a quote by Theodore Sizer which I believe is PERFECT!

“The fact that students differ may be inconvenient, but it is inescapable. Adapting to that diversity is the inevitable price of productivity, high standards, and fairness.” By Theodore Sizer, Brown University

Furthermore my findings helped me to realize and digest:
Differentiation is….
*Recognizing that the increasing diversity of students requires an alternative to one size fits all approach and a commitment to plan for student differences.
*A classroom that provides different avenues to acquire content.
*A process that can help make sense of information and ideas.
*Providing multiple assignments within each unit, tailored for students of different levels of readiness, interest, and/or learning style.
*Having high expectations for all students. Aim high and differentiate down as necessary.
*Permitting students to opt out of material they can demonstrate mastery of and allow students to progress at their own pace through new material.
*Allowing students to choose, with the teacher's guidance, ways to learn and to demonstrate what they have learned.
*Providing students with opportunities to explore topics in which they have a strong interest and find personal meaning.
*Implementing flexible grouping strategies that cluster students by
achievement (readiness) in a particular subject areas, interest, learning style, and/or personal choice.
The Goals of Differentiation in the Classroom are:
  • To maximize student growth and to promote individual success.
  • There should be no walls or ceilings to learning.
  • If they are learning, it doesn't matter what road they take.

Overall in lesson planning it is important to go through each component of the lesson being presented. Also, finding which part of the lesson will be differentiated ( the content, process, or product) will help to not feel overwhelmed and build a sense of confidence when differentiating in the classroom.