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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Style to Your Students' Learning Style
How to Home
How To: Adjust Your Teaching Styles to Students' Learning Styles
How To: Develop as a Professional
How To: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

Using Differentiated Instruction
Sharon Longert

Many teachers are searching for a workable solution to the difficulties of providing instruction for a diverse population while also meeting the demands of state standards. You may have students at the secondary level who are reading and performing at only the fourth grade level, in addition to large numbers of students with exceptional needs in the inclusion setting. What is a teacher to do? Try differentiated instruction.

Differentiated instruction provides an opportunity to plan curriculum and instruction that meets the needs of academically diverse learners by honoring each student’s learning needs and maximizing each student’s learning capacity. (Tomlinson, 1999).

There are five key concepts for differentiated instruction:

CONTENT: What is taught; accessibility to the information and ideas that matter.

  • Use texts at varying reading levels
  • Provide organizers and anticipation guides for note-taking
  • Use examples and illustrations based on student interests

PROCESS: How students come to understand and “own” the knowledge, skills, and understanding.

  • Vary the pacing of student work
  • Use cooperative grouping
  • Develop activities that lead to a variety of perspectives on topics
  • Highlight critical content in the text
  • Segment and tier large assignments and projects

PRODUCT: Student demonstration of what he or she has come to know, understand, and be able to do.

  • Provide bookmarked Internet sites at different levels of complexity for research
  • Develop rubrics for success based on grade level expectations and individual student learning needs
  • Teach students to use a range of presentation tools and products – technology

AFFECT: Student linking of thought and feeling in the classroom.

  • Model respect
  • Help students develop multiple perspectives on topics and issues
  • Encourage equitable participation of each student
  • Provide supported practice
  • Allow for choice and individuality

LEARNING ENVIRONMENT: Classroom function and feeling.

  • Arrangement of furniture for individual, small group and whole group
  • Availability of supplies and materials
  • Procedures and management techniques for various arrangements and tasks

Regardless of the subject/content area, employing differentiated instruction is one way for teachers to be responsive to his or her students’ academic, social, emotional needs and level of learning readiness, and thereby empowering the students to learn and have multiple and varied opportunities for practice.

Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. ASCD.

Van Garderen & Whittaker (2006). Planning Differentiated Multiculural Instruction for Secondary Inclusive Classrooms. Teaching Exceptional Children 38(3).12-20.

If you have a question or suggestion, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.


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