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Strategy #1: How can I learn about differentiated instruction?

There are four main areas to consider to plan for differentiated instruction:

Content: Content includes the knowledge, skills and attitudes we intend for students to learn. Students' prior experiences with content produces variations in what they bring to the unit you plan to teach. Taking the time to know your students will help you understand the depth and complexity of their understandings and the pacing they need to assure they are learning new content in meaningful ways. Some students may be at a point where they can move ahead of what the group is doing, while others may need additional time to learn the content. (The section on Assesses learning can be helpful in learning more about your students).

Process: Attention to varied learning styles and multiple intelligences and cultural and linguistic characteristics helps teachers become aware of the range of activities and experiences learners need in order to make sense of the content being taught. Some students who are visual learners may benefit from using graphic organizers, while others may learn best from listening to audio tapes or reading narrative material. Some students work best alone, while others thrive on interactive discussions and group work. While it is impossible to tailor instruction to each learner every day, assuring that a range of activities and participation structures is present across each day and week makes instruction more responsive to a broader range of learners. (Section IV: Daily planning can be helpful in learning more about varying learning activities).

Product: Products are the tasks that students complete to express what they know. Students need multiple options for expressing their learning in terms of the depth and complexity of the content, as well as in the processes used (e.g., use of oral and written expression, amount of reading required to complete the task, individual and group efforts). The authenticity of the product (actual use in the real world versus something only done for a school assignment) will also affect what you are able to learn about a student's understanding of the content.

Environment: Different approaches to learning require different conditions. Paying attention to the physical and social environment can help you be more responsive to learners. Posters and other visual cues can help direct students' attention to specific tasks. Helping students keep their materials organized can affect how successful they are in the classroom (e.g., homework hotlines, cubbies for storing materials). Varying the types of interaction in different parts of the classroom (e.g., a quiet corner for reading, an area for group work) and the types of materials and resources available also help you support all learners' needs.

For more information, see the following websites:

Differentiating Instruction

CAST Universal Design for Learning

How to Differentiate Instruction