The Ultimate List: 50 Strategies For Differentiated Instruction

by Terry Heick

Differentiation is a simple idea that’s less simple to actuate.

Differentiation is a rational approach to meeting the needs of individual learners, but actually making it possible on a daily basis in the classroom can be challenge.

In ‘What Differentiation Is–And Is Not: The Definition Of Differentiation,’ we recall ed-guru Carol Ann Tomlinson’s overview of differentiation as ‘adapting content, process, or product according to a specific student’s readiness, interest, and learning profile.’

And in ‘Understanding Differentiation’

“The goal of a differentiated classroom is maximum student growth and individual success. As schools now exist, our goal is often to bring everyone to “grade level” or to ensure that everyone masters a prescribed set of skills in a specified length of time. We then measure everyone’s progress only against a predetermined standard…(yet)classrooms typically contain some students who can demonstrate mastery of grade-level skills and material to be understood before the school year begins—or who could do so in a fraction of the time we would spend “teaching” them. These learners often receive an A, but that mark is more an acknowledgment of their advanced starting point relative to grade-level expectations than a reflection of serious personal growth.”

And therein lies the need for differentiation. What can be differentiated?

Tomlinson’s above identification of ‘Content, Process, or Product’ provide a useful starting point, as she explains that,

“A teacher can differentiate content. Content consists of facts, concepts, generalizations or principles, attitudes, and skills related to the subject…In many instances in a differentiated classroom, essential facts, material to be understood, and skills remain constant for all learners. (Exceptions might be, for example, varying spelling lists when some students in a class spell at a 2nd grade level while others test out at an 8th grade level, or having some students practice multiplying by two a little longer, while some others are ready to multiply by seven.) What is most likely to change in a differentiated classroom is how students gain access to core learning.”

Below we’ve gathered a list of 50 differentiation strategies. This is the beginning of an index of similar in form and function to the TeachThought Learning Model Index. Like the Learning Model Index, this list will be updated with definitions, tools, tips, and strategies to enact the strategies, and examples of each.

For now, we’re sharing the list and the graphic, and would love your questions and comments below as we proceed. Note that we’ve already listed more than 50, and eventually will likely have closer to 100.

The Ultimate List: 50 Strategies For Differentiated Instruction

50 Strategies For Differentiated Instruction

1. Curriculum Mapping

2. Inquiry-Based Learning

3. Power Standards & Enduring Understandings

4. Project-Based Learning

5. Classroom Layout & Design

6. Learning Model Integration

7. Sentence & Discussion Stems

8. Tiered Learning Targets

9. Learning Through Play

10. Meaningful Student Voice & Choice

11. Learning Badges

12. Relationship-Building & Team-Building

13. Self-Directed Learning

14. Choice Boards

15. Bloom’s Twist

16. Debate (Also, 4-Corners and Agree/Disagree can be useful here as well.)

17. Sync Teaching

18. Double-Entry Journal/Essay Writing

19. Analogies, Metaphors, And Visual Representations

20. Reciprocal Teaching

21. Mock Trial

22. The Hot Seat/Role-Play

23. Student Data Inventories

24. Mastery Learning

25. Goal-Setting & Learning Contracts

26. Game-Based Learning

27. RAFT Assignments

28. Grouping

29. Socratic Seminar

30. Problem-Based Learning/Place-Based Education

31. Learning Blends

32. Write-Around

33. Genius Hour

34. Rubrics

35. QFT Seminar

36. Learning Menus

37. Cubing

38. Layering (e.g., layered curriculum or assessment)

39. Jigsaws

40. Graphic Organizers

41. Learning Through Workstations

42. Concept Attainment

43. Flipped Classroom

44. Mentoring

45. Planning Through Learning Taxonomies

46. Assessment Design & Backwards Planning

47. Student Interest & Inventory Data

48. Learning Feedback

49. Mini-Lessons

50. Class Rules

Bonus: Identity Charts, Time Management, Media Usage, BYOD, Classroom ‘Atmosphere,’ Scaffolded Literacy, Student-Led Conferencing, Adaptive Learning Apps, Peer-to-Peer Instruction

50 Strategies For Differentiated Instruction