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Tips for differentiating your lessons


In the past, students who did not meet certain criteria were requested to repeat the year at schooling. Later research suggested that this caused an increase in social and emotional issues, including their relationships with peers, their self-esteem and their confidence at school. Nowadays, teachers are expected to cater to each individuals needs as they progress through each year and into the next. This is called differentiation.

  • Differentiation simply means customising your teaching to meet each student’s need.
  • Teachers can differentiate the content, processes, products or learning environment to suit individuals’ needs.

Here are some tips to get you started with differentiating your lessons!

Content – The outcomes needed to be achieved

  • Review the outcomes covered in the previous year level for students who require support.
  • For students who require extension, plan activities that use higher order thinking skills to synthesize, analyze and evaluate the content rather than teaching the next year’s content.
  • Break outcomes down into manageable learning goals.
  • Create group education plans with specific goals for students with similar needs, regardless of whether they require support or extension.

Process – The activities that will teach the content

  • Choose the type of instruction required – direct instruction, peer learning, inquiry-based and so on.
  • Plan activities using a gradual release of responsibility, such as the ‘I do, we do, you do’ approach.
  • Use a variety of activities, including hands-on, written, visual and physical movement activities to increase motivation.
  • Plan for both collaborative and individual activities.

Product – The task that will demonstrate learning

  • Give students option of how to express their learning – create a play or puppet show, write a letter, create a video, make a model and explain it, establish class blogs for sharing information, create a digital presentation and so on.

Learning environment – The classroom organization

  • Plan for and arrange areas in the classroom or outside for collaborative activities and independent work. For example: grouped tables, quiet areas and open spaces.
  • When incorporating collaborative activities, organise groups into either smaller-ability groups or mixed-ability groups depending on activity.

Remember! The key to differentiated instruction is assessment, tracking and follow-up!

Need help with differentiation? These awesome resources have you covered!

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