Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom: Strategies & Examples

How to Differentiate Instruction Effectively

Changing your teaching style takes planning and practice. With determination, consistency, and the right resources, successfully implementing differentiation in the classroom is possible for any teacher.

When creating lesson plans, keep in mind each student's learner profile, which involves the broad traits that characterize a given student, such as their strengths, knowledge, behavior, motivation, interests and more.

Teachers can differentiate based on a number of considerations:

  • Student readiness (ability and/or prior knowledge in a topic)
  • Learning style
  • Ability to understand, read, write and speak the language of instruction
  • Behavioral history
  • Student groupings
  • Learning environment
  • Success criteria and outcome (for example you may adapt your rubrics and provide feedback appropriate to student ability for assignments and formative assessments)

Differentiated Instruction: Adapting the Learning Environment for Students

Differentiated Instruction: Adapting the Learning Environment for Students video preview

For example, let's say you are teaching a lesson on photosynthesis, and you decide to differentiate the lesson plan based on student learning profiles. To prepare, you would create a list of activities for students to choose from. You can instruct them to work in groups, individually, or make it their choice.

Here is a sample of the types of activities to include:

  • Plan and act out a 3-5 minute skit that explains the process of photosynthesis
  • Draw a diagram of the process of photosynthesis and include a short description of each step
  • Create a song about photosynthesis that details the steps
  • Write a short story (creative or literal) that follows the process of photosynthesis

By varying the types of activities in the lesson, students can find the one that speaks to their interests and talents. Students are likely to be more engaged and perform better if they have the freedom to choose a project they will enjoy.

To see the development of each student and the effectiveness of the teaching style, include frequent formative assessments in your planning and adjust lesson content and activities according to the results of the assessment.

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— Katherine W.
, Teacher
Florida, United States
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