Differentiation in Teaching: Definition & Some Examples for Teachers

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Understanding Differentiation

Differentiation is the process by which teachers adapt, modify, or change their teaching styles and methods in order to meet the needs of all students. This is very frequently done for students with special needs. However, it can be done for all students. Here are several examples of differentiation strategy that can be used in your classroom.


The first place that you can differentiate is in your instruction. Let’s say that you teach a lesson on nouns on the blackboard, but you have one or a few students that still do not understand it. A way to differentiate is while the other students are doing seatwork, take those few students and reteach them the lesson, or try to teach the lesson to them in a different way. This is a great time to find supplementary materials, maybe even play a game. Try to think of ways that your delivery of instruction can be changed.


If you give notes in your classroom, this is another area that can be differentiated. Maybe you require that the students take their own notes. A differentiation strategy would be to give students adapted notes in which a few words are missing which they must fill in. Or, you can give students copies of the entire notes and have them highlight the important information. Another option is to allow students to tape record the notes as well.


An additional differentiation strategy is instead of requiring students to do problems on paper, provide them with small whiteboards. This not only helps the students, but allows the teacher to see the students’ progress more easily.


Homework is another area that can be differentiated. Let’s say that you give the class a worksheet of 20 problems to complete on adding fractions and reducing the answers to lowest terms. For some students, maybe they only need to complete 10 problems. If you have students that really struggle with reducing fractions, only make them add the fractions for homework and then during class they can see how to reduce the fractions when you go over the homework. It may also be necessary to provide an alternate assignment if the student is functioning at a lower level, this would be for an inclusion student.


Tests can be differentiated as well. For fill-in-the-blanks you can provide a word bank. Instead of essay questions, allow the students to give you short answers instead. For multiple choice questions, reduce the answer choices from four to three. If it is a longer test, reduce the number of problems that the student must complete.

These are just a few examples of differentiation strategy. You may think of other ways to meet the needs of all the students in your classroom - including instruction for gifted students. Remember, you aren’t changing what you teach; you are changing the way you teach it.