Sarah M says:
Some teachers may feel that they have little time in their classroom to think about differentiation, but little do they know that differentiation is easy!

Aim of Differentiation:
The idea of differentiating instruction to accommodate the different ways that students learn involves a hefty dose of common sense, as well as sturdy support in the [[#|theory]] and research of education (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000). It is an approach to teaching that advocates active planning for student differences in classrooms.

Today's schools have a more academically diverse student population than any other time in history (Tomlinson & Strickland, 2005). This calls for students to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of all students. Judy Rex's guide '[[#|Getting started]] in the Differentiated Instruction Classroom' provides teachers with 124pgs of strategies they can employ to differentiate the learning in their classroom.

Differentiating Across the Year Levels:
Junior Primary Years:
In junior primary it is recommended that you [[#|start]] differentiation slowly.
You could do this by:
  • Choices of books

  • [[#|Homework]] options

  • Use of reading buddies

  • Varied Journal Prompts

  • Orbitals

  • Varied pacing with anchor options
  • Work alone / together
  • Whole-to-part and part-to-whole explorations

  • Flexible time, materials, grouping
  • Varied [[#|computer programs]]
  • Negotiated Criteria

  • Explorations by Interests

Scotch College Adelaide is just one of many schools that focuses on differentiated learning in the classroom. Click the following link to [[#|view]] their vision statement about differentiation in the middle years:

Key Elements of Effective Differentiation
Differentiation requires you to be flexible. Three critical elements in a DI classroom are:
  1. 1. Time
  2. 2. Materials
  3. 3. Grouping
Throughout the guide Judy Rex continues to explain the kinds of activities we can use to address these three critical elements.
Another important factor in a differentiated classroom is discovering student’s interests. Tapping into students interests can help us as teacher to:
• Link interest-based exploration with key components of the curriculum.
• Provide structure likely to lead to student success.
• Develop efficient ways of sharing interest-based learning.
• [[#|Create]] an open invitation for student interests.
• Keep an open eye and an open mind for the student with a series passion.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood
and assign them tasks, but rather teach them to long for the immensity of the sea.

(Judy Rex, Getting started in the Differentiated Classroom).

Giving Students Choice
Students choice is another important factor in differentiation. As teacher we still are in charge of crafting the learning [[#|opportunities]] for the students but we can provide them with choice across the curriculum

E.g. Differentiating the curriculum by: writing topics, content writing prompts, self-selected reading, contract menus, math problems, spelling words, product and assessment options, seating, group arrangement
An example that I have come across in different topic this semester is the use of a RAFT [[#|assignment]] to differentiate the learning.

A RAFT assignment allows students to take different avenues to achieving the intended learning outcomes of the assignment.
Example of a RAFT Assignments:

A number of RAFT assignments can be found at:

Blank Pro-forma for Planning a RAFT Assignment:

Other Resources that teachers can use to help them plan differentiated learning activities:
Tri-minded Pro-forma

Learning Menu/Choice Board Template

  • Scotch College Adelaide:
  • Tomlinson, C.A & Allan S.D. (2000). Leadership for differentiating schools and classrooms. USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Tomlinson. C.A & Stickland, C.A. (2005). Differentiation in Practice: a resource guide for differentiating the curriculum Years 9-12. USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Caitlin B says:

Differentiation is not about changing the end point but instead, just changing the way the student gets there. Differentiation can be made out to be far more complicated than it actually is.

Principles of Effective Differentiation

- Positive learning environment

- High quality curriculum

- Assessment

- Respect and challenging tasks

- Flexible grouping

- Instructional strategies

- Proactively responding to readiness

- Inclusion

- Clear learning objective

- Responsibility

Characteristics of High Quality Curriculum

- Big ideas

- Relevant to society/students

- Recognition of cultural diversity

- Transparency

- Integrated

- Creativity

- Structure/scaffolding

Characteristics of Assessment


- Starting out in relation to objective

- Different points of entry for each student

- Interest of students

Formative assessment

- Progressing

- Appropriate levels of challenge

- Adjust leaning tasks to prove a better fit for individual students

Summative assessment

- Extent of what each student achieved

- Show growth/progress through the unit

- How to use this information to plan future learning opportunities.

Principles of Effective Assessment

- Enjoyment

- Transparent

- Relevant

- Measurable

- Unbiased

- Age appropriate

- Appropriate challenge

Informal assessment focuses on the growth of a mindset. It can also be used for teacher planning.

Areas of Challenge

These are some of the areas which differentiation will need to be used on a regular basis.

- Reading
- Spelling
- Reasoning
- Recall and organising information
- Writing
- Maths
- Motor Co-ordination


Attached is an example of a two differentiated task for English.

EDUC4720/1 2012_Jane Jarvis_RAFT format and template adapted from Tomlinson (1999)/ Buehl (1998)/ Doubet (2011) Retrieved 9th April 2013
EDUC4720/1 2012_Jane Jarvis_Tiering format adapted from Tomlinson (1999)
Retrieved 9th April 2013

EDUC4720/1 2012_Jane Jarvis_TriMind format adapted from Sternberg (1999)
Retrieved 9th April 2013

Dahlia Adds:

Throughout the last few years of studying education, differentiation was reiterated repeatedly throughout lectures and readings. Now having utilised it personally in a classroom on placement, I can literally see its effectiveness and significance in lessons and assessment. The method that proved to be the most successful in my classroom was differentiation by interest. The final assessment piece I set for my year eight English class was a parody fairy tale. Students took great enjoyment in personalising their stories, creating the illustrations and using their imagination. Students who would usually struggle to stay on task in class, worked very well when using the computers to write their stories. A mentor teacher mentioned that keeping students under a small amount of pressure during a lesson is a successful tool for gifted students as well as those who require more guidance. I found that setting the expectations for the class higher than usual, encouraged students to challenge themselves, and when they recognised what they were capable of, their work ethic improved. The three students in my class that are considered to be 'highly capable' were able to continue with the extended work that I had prepared.

In the topic EDUC 4720, we were required to develop a lesson plan for a “tiered” lesson, in which you plan to cater for different levels of student readiness. I believe that the key concept supporting differentiation based on student readiness, is the pre assessment task. The tiered lesson plans that I created were two introductory lessons to persuasive writing. After a short explanation/definition of what persuasive writing it, students were given the following pre assessment task: Try and sell your brother/sister/cousin to the person next to you. Using words such as incredible, helpful, fantastic, write down every thing you want to say, then take turns selling your siblings. After attempting to sell their siblings to each others, I would have each student hand up what they wrote down. This is an excellent method of gauging each students prior knowledge of persuasive writing, where they are right now and what steps I need to make to get them to reach the unit objectives. From here I would tier students into readiness groups, and maintain continually assessment to circulate students into the correct tiers as we go through the content. Each tier would be provided with appropriately challenging worksheets and resources to ensure that every student is able to access the curriculum being taught.

Travis H says:

Here are two differentiation assignments I completed this semester in the EDUC 4720 topic. Both give an insight into the practice of differentiation and can offer a good start point for looking at implementing differentiated practices into your lessons.

The first one is a differentiated lesson plan and appendices for teaching Dramatic Irony within a 'Romeo and Juliet' Unit for year 10's. Given the outline it may be a good resource for anybody who is looking to teach Romeo and Juliet in schools and provides an example of the 'tiering' differentiation practice.

'Tiering' is a process in which students are tiered into groups generally based on 'readiness' to engage with the content you are presenting. Those at lower readiness levels may require more scaffolding and assistance whereas those of high readiness may need to be further challenged. Differentiation thus poses the problem of catering for the needs of all students within the framework of the same learning objectives.

The second one is a differentiated 'choice menu' which aims to provide students with options based on their interests whilst also catering for readiness and learning profile.This assignment is for a Year 9 Poetry unit and uses song lyrics as a means to engage students with themes that they can connect to poems.

It also introduces a range of differentiation tools which include:
  • 'Anchoring Activities' - Activities designed to develop a deeper understanding of the content being explored, these are not just merely more of the same and are especially effective when catering for gifted students.
  • 'Shades of Meaning' - An activity that helps students develop their vocabulary.
  • 'Exit Cards' (3-2-1) - Used to determine students' understanding of what was explored in a lesson and can be used to pre-assess readiness for following lessons.