By now, we're all familiar with the fact that we need to differentiate instruction, but actually being able to meet the specific needs of each students can be a challenge. Here are four teaching strategies I use with my students to ensure that they are all successful.

Our district has United Streaming accounts for us. Check with your district to see if you do as well. We have a wonderful tech that showed us a great way to differentiate. I search their videos for one relevant to my lesson; I plug it into a power point slide with an activity that follows the video. I have a different activity for each of the three computers. For example, I have the same video clip for bears on all three computers. One computer will have an activity with creative writing, having the student pretend they are the bear on the video and writing about their adventure. The second computer will create a new undiscovered type of bear. The student will include a detailed picture and a description of the bear including feeding habits and their habitat. The third computer will have the student draw three different types of bears in the video with details including their habitat.

I also like to use interactive Web sites which have educational games at different levels or learning. For example, has great math games! Their games have several different ability levels. ThinkFun also has more logical thinking brainteasers from beginner level to expert. My personal favorite is Rush Hour.

Group Lessons
During teaching time, I divide the children according to their learning abilities. For example, when my first graders are learning to do brainteasers, I usually divide them into three groups. My first group will work together with my guidance and manipulatives to go through the activity. The second group will use manipulatives, but no teacher and work together to solve the problem. The third group is made up of partners who work together to figure out the problem.

My students are also given the option to work on their own. If they figure it out, they walk around the room to offer guidance to the other students.

Group Discussions
Our school implements the QUILT method of teaching. It uses Bloom’s Taxonomy and quality questioning. When planning a group discussion, I write out my questions, keeping in mind my group of children. I also plan out whom I will address with some of my questions, trying to include each individual in the discussion and helping each one be successful in their response.

My questions address all levels of learning. I've found that the key is to include each of the following:

  • A recall question (knowledge or comprehension) for those students who have trouble thinking on the spot and answering. They can recall facts and build confidence.
  • Questions which do not have right and wrong answers. I have questions that allow the students to think outside the box and apply what we are discussing to other situations.
  • Evaluative questions, which promote further discussion.
  • Application questions that allow students to relate the topic to their own lives and experiences.

After some guidance and practice, my students begin to create their own questions to ask during a discussion.

Task Cards or Centers
I also use task cards or centers to differentiate instruction. I create a task to address each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation) related to our unit. On each level, I have two different activities, one for the lower to average student and one for the average to higher level thinker.

I set up the activities around my classroom. The students travel from one task to the next. The descriptive task cards are colored coded for the ability level. Each student is told what color they are to work from. I use this approach ongoing throughout my unit, allowing students to take several class periods to complete all of the activities. They love moving around the room and having their own activity to accomplish. On the last day of the unit, we share our projects.

student works on a pink task card activity
A student works on a pink task card activity.