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October 17, 2016

Needs-Based Differentiation

Written By: Brandi Jordan
Management Tips for Differentiated Learning -

Needs Based Differentiation - Tips and Tricks for Management

Differentiation isn’t easy! Teachers often spend valuable non-school hours attempting to come up with strategies that will meet the needs of all students.  This is truly not a profession for the faint of heart! Thankfully, Really Good Teachers from across the country have shared some of their best tips and tricks for differentiation with us to share with you.  If you’re looking for some new differentiation strategies, explore the options below!

Differentiation Strategies for Teachers

Math Differentiation

Idea by Caitlin, K-2 Special Education Teacher, Poquoson, VA

To differentiate math instruction I assign students to centers based on need.  Then I stock the centers with leveled materials. That way, every student completes the same center, just at a different level. For example, at our Math Center, the Red Group may be working on double-digit addition while the Blue Group works on single digit addition. I also use our center time to work with small groups and one-on-one with individual students. This set-up enables me to challenge the students who need to be challenged and to give attention to those students needing extra support.


Choice Boards for Differentiation

Idea by MaryEllen, 5th Grade Teacher, Kingwood, TX

To promote differentiation, I offer my students something I call Choice Boards.  I post nine separate activities on each Choice Board, and students can each choose three of the nine. Each activity is related to a skill we’re working on. Because some activities are more difficult and challenging than others, students may choose to work with a partner. To that end, I offer each student a laminated sheet printed with a clock face. At 12, 3, 6 and 9, I’ve recorded the names of classmates with whom they may wish to work, so they may choose from these. At times, I assign them a partner by telling them (for example) that they must “work with someone at three o’clock.” This approach allows me to put them in pairs while they’re still able to enjoy an element of choice – so important for differentiation.


Focused Intervention

Idea by Marie, 4th Grade Teacher, Port Washington, WI

In my classroom, I rely on frequent quizzes to help with math differentiation.  After every two to three lessons, I offer the students a quiz. Students who scored less than 80% meet with me in a small group in order to review and practice the skills they missed. This process takes one to two days depending on how many students need the additional help. I then give these students a redo quiz. Usually, after such focused intervention, my students’ scores are much better. Students who mastered the skills the first time around are invited to work on more challenging material. The students who are excelling need differentiation, too!


Flexible Centers

Idea by Danielle, 3rd Grade Teacher, Benton, IL

To support differentiated learning in reading and math instruction, I divide my students into small groups and then rotate the groups among centers.  In some centers, students are expected to work independently; in other centers, they work together with a teacher. This flexible arrangement helps me meet the many different needs of my students.


What are some of your best tips for differentiated instruction and lesson management? Share them with us below or on the Really Good Teachers Forums!

Management Tips for Differentiated Learning -
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