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Differentiation Primary Use Differentiated by: Description of Strategy Things to Consider
Tiered Instruction, Assignments and Products Readiness




Assignments and products are designed to instruct and assess students on essential skills that are provided at different levels of complexity, abstractness, and open-endedness. The curricular content and objective(s) are the same, but the process and/or product are varied according to the student’s level of readiness. ·      Focus task on a key  concept

For example, students with moderate understanding about a topic are asked to write an article. Students with a more advanced understanding are asked to prepare a debate.


Students can use several products as a building block to their final product.

·      Use a variety of resource materials at different levels of complexity and associated with different learning modalities

·      Adjust task by complexity, abstractness, number of steps, concreteness, and independence to ensure challenge and not frustration



Compacting Readiness Content Compacting is the process of eliminating teaching or student practice due to previous mastery of learning objectives. Compacting involves a three step process: ·      Thoroughly pre-assess the learner’s knowledge and document findings
1.     assess the student to determine his/her level of knowledge on the material to be studied and determine what he/she still needs to master ·      Explain the process and its benefits to the student
2.     create plans for what the student needs to know, and excuse the student from studying what he/she already knows ·      Create written plans and timelines for study
1.     create plans for freed-up time to be spent in enriched or accelerated study ·      Allow student choice in enrichment or accelerated study
For example, a third grade class is learning to identify the parts of fractions. Diagnostics indicated that two students already know the parts of fractions. These students are excused from completing the identifying activities, and are taught to add and subtract fractions.  
[1] This chart was adapted from The Differentiated Classroom:  Responding to the Needs of All Learners (Tomlinson, 1999).
from http://www.k8accesscenter.org    
Differentiation Primary Use Differentiated by: Description of Strategy Things to Consider
Independent Study Interest Process The student and teacher identify topics of interest to the student. Together they plan a method of investigating the topic and decide upon the outcome of the independent study. The result of the project will be based on the needs of the student and the curricular content. Guided by the teacher, the student completes his or her own research on the topic and develops a product to share with classmates. ·      Base the project on student interest
For example, in a unit on ocean life, a student indicates that she wants to learn more about sharks. With the teacher’s guidance she develops research questions, collects information, and presents an oral report to the class about the feeding patterns of great white sharks. ·      Provide guidance and structure to ensure high standards of investigation and product
  ·      Use timelines to help student stay on track and prevent procrastination

·      Use process logs or expert journals to document the process


·      Provide choices for product to demonstrate learning.


·      Establish clear criteria for success


Interest Centers or Interest Groups Interest, Readiness Process Interest centers (usually used with younger students) and interest groups (usually used with older learners) are set up so that learning experiences are directed toward a specific learner interest. They allow students to choose a topic and can be motivating to students. If they are used as enrichment, they can allow the study of topics beyond the general curriculum. Groups address student readiness when they are differentiated by level of complexity and independence required. ·      Incorporate student interest
For example, in a unit about the Civil War, students can choose to work in groups on one of four topics:  free labor vs. slave labor, a biography of Robert E. Lee, women’s role in Reconstruction, or how trade was impacted. ·      Encourage students to help create tasks and define products
  ·      Adjust for student readiness
  ·      Establish clear criteria for success
  ·      Adjust blocks of work time based on student readiness
Flexible Grouping Interest, Readiness, Learning Profile Content or Process Students work as part of many different groups depending on the task and/or content. Sometimes students are placed in groups based on readiness, other times based on interest and/or learning profile. Groups can either be assigned by the teacher or chosen by the students. Students can be assigned purposefully to a group or assigned randomly. This strategy allows students to work with a wide variety of peers and keeps them from being labeled as advanced or struggling. ·      Ensure that all students have the opportunity to work with other students who are similar and dissimilar from themselves in terms of interest, readiness, and learning profile
For example, in a reading class, the teacher may assign groups based on readiness for phonics instruction, but allow students to choose their own groups for book reports, based on the book topic. ·      Alternate purposeful assignment of groups with random assignment or student selection
  ·      Ensure that all students have been given the skills to work collaboratively
  ·      Provide clear guidelines for group functioning that are taught in advance of group work and consistently reinforced
Multiple Levels of Questions Readiness, Learning Profiles Content Teachers adjust the types of questions and the ways in which they are presented based on what is needed to advance problem-solving skills and responses. This strategy ensures that all students will be accountable for information and thinking at a high level and that all students will be challenged. Finally, all students benefit from this strategy because all can learn from a wide range of questions and responses. ·      Use wait time before taking student answers
For example, the teacher prepares a list of questions about a topic that the whole class is studying. During a discussion, the teacher asks initial questions to specific students, based on readiness. All students are encouraged to ask and answer follow-up questions. ·      Adjust the complexity, abstractness, type of response necessary, and connections required between topics based on readiness and learning profile
  ·      Encourage students to build upon their own answers and the answers of other students
  ·      If appropriate, give students a chance to talk to partners or write down their answers before responding
Learning Contracts Readiness, Learning Profiles Content & Process Learning contracts begin with an agreement between the teacher and the student. The teacher specifies the necessary skills expected to be learned by the student and required components of the assignment, while the student identifies methods for completing the tasks. This strategy allows students to work at an appropriate pace and can target learning styles. Further, it helps students work independently, learn planning skills, and eliminate unnecessary skill practice. ·      Match skills to the readiness of the learner
For example, a student completes a learning contract for a science project. He indicates that he will research the topic of mitosis, create a visual model to share with the class, and write a report. The learning contract indicates the dates by which each step of the project will be completed. ·      Allow student choice in the way in which material is accessed and products are developed
  ·      Provide the contract in writing, with a clear timeline and expectations
  ·      Include both skill- and content-based learning in the contract

Choice Boards,


Think Tac Toe,


Think Dots

Readiness, Interest, Learning Profiles




Choice boards are organizers that contain a variety of activities. Students can choose one or several activities to complete as they learn a skill or develop a product. Choice boards can be organized so that students are required to choose options that focus on several different skills. ·      Include choices that reflect a range of interests and learning styles
For example, after students read Romeo and Juliet, students are given a choice board that contains a list of possible products for each of the following learning styles:  visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. Students must complete two products from the board, and must choose these products from two different learning styles.

In addition, choices for final product provides choices that demonstrate the attainment of objectives for the entire unit of study.
·      Guide students in the choice of activities so that they are challenged, but not frustrated
  ·      Provide clear instruction in the use of choice boards
Source from:  http://www.k8accesscenter.org     

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