Quick Differentiation

Something quick to help with differentiation on the fly as your planning your lessons. Kind of a cheat sheet. I find it helpful when thinking about how to reach small pockets of like needs in a classroom. Differentiation is designing and implementing curriculum, instructional strategies, and assessments that are responsive to the needs, background, interests, and abilities of students.

Three ways to differentiate the K-6 lessons:

Modify the student independent practice.

  1. Change how students are required to demonstrate mastery - multiple choice, open response, illustration, dramatic performance.
  2. Provide word banks to written response questions.
  3. Provide texts on students' reading level when-ever reading a text is a requirement for the student independent practice.
Modify how you teach the lesson. 


Add or revise visual scaffolding during the lesson, such as charts or graphic organizers.
  • Teach the lessons in small groups.
  • Vary the allotted lesson time by breaking up the lesson into two days, focusing on more modeling examples in day one.
  • Allow students to preview the text used for the lesson before the lesson.
Modify the content used to teach the lesson.

  • Choose a text for the lesson that is at the reading level of your students.
  • Add supporting learning objectives to the lesson to help students master the original learning outcome.
Six Rules of Differentiating
Students should always be grouped based on their needs and abilities.
  • Sometimes whole class, sometimes small group, and sometimes individual.
  • Individualized instruction at 20 - 30 levels.
Student work should always measure a specific learning outcome explicitly taught in class.
  • It is Responsive to the learning outcome of the lesson.
  • It is not Busy work or separated from intentional instruction.
Students' needs and abilities change over time and therefore groupings should reflect that change.
  • Flexible groupings that change based on student abilities.
  • It is not: Static groupings that stay the same throughout the year.
Students' work should be done at their level.
  • It is Qualitative student work.
  • It is not Quantitative student work in which some students do more and some do less.
Decisions about differentiation should be based on assessment and anecdotal evidence of students' needs and abilities.
  • It is Using assessments to identify students' strengths and weaknesses.
  • It is not Using assessments as a pass or fail approach.
True, responsive differentiation will not look the same in each lesson.
  • It is sometimes necessary to change the student independent practice, other time requires changing how the lesson is taught, and other times it will require changing the text of the lesson.
  • It is not: The same differentiation plan for every lesson.


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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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