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Classroom Management: Creating Differentiated Instruction

Janelle Cox

We all know that no two students are the same, each child learns and processes information differently. As teachers, it is our job to help students succeed regardless of these differences. Differentiated instruction is based on the theory that teachers must structure and tailor their lessons to ensure that they are aligned to students’ skills and needs. Teachers, when planning classroom management, face the enormous challenge of taking these student differences into account each time they plan their lessons and activities.

Instead of teaching to the “middle,” teachers must get to know their students’ learning styles and adapt their instruction based on each individual student. It takes a lot of time to create lessons and assessments that reflect each students’ learning styles. Here are a few ideas that you can save you time.

Use an Activity Menu for Differentiated Instruction

An activity menu can save you a lot of time and can be used over and over. All you need to create one is a blank template. Choose your point values for each activity and place the numbers on the top line of the template. Under each point value, add the activities that students must complete. Point values can be whatever you want: for this example we will use 5, 10 and 15. A five-point task should take students about five minutes, a ten-point task should take them about ten minutes, and so on. You can assign students to complete as many points as you like by the end of the week.

If you were to assign students to complete 20 points by the week’s end, then they would get the choice to pick any activities that added up to twenty. You can use Bloom’s Taxonomy to help you figure out the levels for each activity. Each activity should be able to reach a different learning style. This is a great concept because it allow students to pick a task at their interest level.

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RAFT is an acronym that stands for:

  • R: Role of the student
  • A: Audience - Who will be addressed?
  • F: Format - How will you present this information?
  • T: Topic - Who or What is the subject?

This strategy was designed to help you differentiate learning styles in an easy way. Use RAFT to help you figure out what the students’ role will be during the activity, who will be addressed, how will the student will present the information, in a letter, by singing a song? And finally, who or what is the subject or topic of this activity?  Use these questions and the following example to help you plan activities that will suit all learning styles.

Here are a few activities to help differentiate by learning modality:

  • Written: Invitation, recipe, journal entry
  • Visual: Puzzle, map, graphic organizer
  • Oral: Interview, speech, song, monologue
  • Kinesthetic: Demonstration, build, model


You can also use RAFT to help you create a choice board menu for students. Just ask yourself the questions above when differentiating a lesson plan.

The Daily 5

The Daily 5 is a series of tasks that students must complete on a daily basis. They must read to themselves, read to someone else, listen to reading, work on writing, and do word work. This structure provides opportunities to meet the needs of all students. Each day the teacher confers with every individual student and they receive differentiated instruction. While the other students are busy completing their Daily 5 tasks, the teacher has time to work with small groups and focus on individual learning.

Learning Contracts

The goal of differentiated instruction is to match the curriculum with individual student needs. A learning contract allows students to access the same curriculum as their peers, but provides outcomes that are tailored to each students’ learning styles. For example, the contract would include a students’ skill level, their interests, and their learning style. The teacher would then use this contract when planning his/her lessons. For example, if a teacher was planning a research lesson, one student may research their information using the web, while another would use book. The teacher would take into consideration how each student learns best, have it be visual, kinesthetic, tactile, etc.

Differentiated instruction takes time. Teachers need to constantly observe and assess students to get know how each individual learns best and execute classroom management accordingly. To save time on planning lessons and activities that will reach all learning styles try budding up with another teacher. One teacher can plan activities that will address the visual and tactile learners, while the other can plan activities that will address the kinesthetic, and oral learners. Then these teachers can swap ideas. Differentiated instruction requires a lot of forethought, but it can be an attainable method of learning if you use a few the above strategies.

How do you differentiate learning in your classroom? Do you have an easy way that works for you? Please share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators

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