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New Differentiated Instruction Methods to Try Today

Janelle Cox

In today’s classrooms, teachers are using a variety of teaching strategies in order to accommodate students’ unique learning styles. However, when you have a large classroom of students, it’s tough to be able to keep up with each child’s individual needs. Taking the time to use differentiated instruction so that all learners’ needs are being met, can also take some time. To keep the workload manageable, teachers have tried a variety of strategies of differentiated instruction, from tiered assignments to choice boards. While these ideas have been found to be quite effective, they can also get repetitive and boring. Here are a few new differentiated instruction strategies to try in your classroom, if you find that your old methods were just not working anymore.

Differentiated Instruction: The “Must Do” and “Can Do” Trick

Teachers have found that offering students choices can be the most effective way to differentiate learning while keeping students motivated and engaged. However, sometimes you just need to change it up a little bit, and instead of always offering students a choice board, you can have them do a “Must do” activity and a “Can do” activity. Students must do the activity or task that you presented them, then they have the choice to choose between a variety of different activities for their second task. Teachers have found this trick to be an effective alternative to the choice board. Not to mention, research has shown that when you allow a student to make a choice about what or how they will be learning, they will become a more productive learner.

Work “With” Your Students

Have students take an active role in their learning by having them help you make decisions that will enhance their learning. By working “With” your students, you are essentially asking them what they need in order to learn, as well as how they want to learn. By sharing their thoughts on lesson plans, you will learn what each student needs in order to be a productive learner.

Try pairing students up with a partner or putting students into small groups and having them brainstorm a few activities that they would like to try out for a particular subject. By doing this, you will find that students will be making choices that will enhance their learning, and they will also learn to self-assess their quality of work. In addition to that, you will be able to see which students work well together, and which students can demonstrate their own learning.

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Check “In” With Your Students

As you know, not all students learn the same, and sometimes a paper and pencil test will not accurately give you a fair assessment if a student understood a concept or not. If you find that this is happening in your classroom, then you need to check in with the student and ask them for their input. Ask, “What do you think is the best way that I can see that you understood the concept that was taught?” If they have an idea, try it out. Some teachers have gone as far as giving each student a red, yellow, and green flip board to place on their desk to determine who understands (green), who needs more practice (yellow), and who just doesn’t get it (red).

Use the Multiple Intelligence Theory

You don’t necessarily have to use the multiple intelligence theory to create differentiated learning activities for each individual student. However, you can use the principle of the theory to tap into how your students learn. For example, let’s say that your students were learning about the life of Rosa Parks and you were reviewing her life using a timeline. You can use the multiple intelligence theory to tap into all of your students learning styles by having each student write down one event for the timeline. Then, have students come up to the front of the classroom and stand in the correct order to create a physical timeline while they listen to music from that specific era in time.

This one single activity can stimulate all learning styles. For example, the music playing is for the musical learners, the logical learners create the timeline, the interpersonal learners will thrive on talking and figuring out where to stand in line, while the kinesthetic learners will love moving around. Finally the visual learners will use a mental image to figure out where to stand in line while the verbal-linguistic learners will use their notes to complete the activity.

Expand the Strategies you are Already Using

Take a long hard look at the strategies that you are already using in order to meet the needs of your diverse learners. Think about how you might expand upon these strategies. Start with your favorite and most effective ones. If you know that students love choice boards and that they are really working for your students, then try and think of a way that you can use the same concept but in a different way. Maybe the students can create the choice board, or you can try the alternative method of the “Must do-can do” technique mentioned earlier.

Differentiated learning is a process and your main goal is to use various methods to reach all learners so that they can attain mastery in all subjects and content.

What strategies would you use off of this list? Which differentiation strategies work best with your students? Tell us in the comments below (and if you try any of the ideas please let us know how it goes).

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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