“At its most basic level, differentiation instruction means “shaking up” what goes on in the classroom so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas and expressing what they learn.”

Carol Ann Tomlinson


“If they are not learning the way you are teaching them, teach them the way they learn.”

Kenneth Dunn


What Is Differentiated Instruction?


Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs.

Differentiation is a way of teaching; it’s not a program or package of worksheets. It asks teachers to know their students well so they can provide each one with experiences and tasks that will improve learning. Differentiation means giving students multiple options for taking in information. Differentiating instruction means that you observe and understand the differences and similarities among students and use this information to plan instruction.

At its most basic level, differentiation consists of the efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom. Whenever a teacher reaches out to an individual or small group to vary his or her teaching in order to create the best learning experience possible, that teacher is differentiating instruction.

Teachers can differentiate at least four classroom elements based on student readiness, interest, or learning profile:

  • Content – what the student needs to learn or how the student will get access to the information;
  • Process – activities in which the student engages in order to make sense of or master the content;
  • Products – culminating projects that ask the student to rehearse, apply, and extend what he or she has learned in a unit; and
  • Learning environment – the way the classroom works and feels.


Resources for Teachers

Resources from Mary Hernandez, November 2017

Extension Menu Examples

Cubing Strategy Examples

Raft Strategy Examples and Format List

Learning Menu Examples

Novel Think Tac-Toe Examples

Think Dots Strategy Examples

Tiered Activity Example

Product Choice Chart

Character Map Blank Graphics