Online Course: Differentiated Instruction and Lesson Planning

***This thread has been cross-posted in the Math and Numeracy, Science, and Reading and Writing groups.

The LINCS Learning Portal houses self-paced, freely accessible online courses developed by U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education-funded initiatives

This discussion thread is related to the LINCS online course entitled Differentiated Instruction and Lesson Planning that is available in the LINCS Learning Portal. During and after you complete the course, you are prompted to write reflections on the issues below. Please share your thoughts and experiences with your colleagues.

  • Consider a lesson you currently teach. How would using differentiated instruction change it?
  • Consider a lesson you currently teach. Does it have effective learning objectives that are specific, observable and measurable? If so, how do these shape the lesson? If not, how would effective learning objectives change the lesson?
  • Write a reflection on how what you learned in this course shaped the lesson plan you produced and/or the success of your lesson.




Consider a lesson you currently teach. How would using differentiated instruction change it?

 Recently I have been teaching a lesson over calculating simple interest. There are many different levels both of student readiness and subject complexity. This can make teaching this lesson quite difficult as one student is struggling in converting interest rates into decimal form, while others are APR rates versus monthly rates while failing to pay credit card bills. Understanding and preparing this lesson into a tiered lesson that lets those with a lower level of readiness can learn to the standard goals that must be met while other students can move past that tier into more advanced concepts, such as delving into compound interest over many years.  This would allow all students to participate at a level that challenges them enough to keep them engaged while not giving them objectives they can't handle.

Dylan Dolisi

One course that I have taught recently that could benefit from a more differential approach covers the combination of like terms to evaluate or simplify algebraic expressions.  The issue with this lesson is the infinite levels of complexity within this subject matter as some students are ready to study the formulation and evaluation of algebraic expressions from real-world examples, while other students need to be shown the correct method of combining first degree variables on the same side of an equation.  Differentiated instruction could change this lesson to allow the entire class to be engaged in the learning process as students could be given practice and general instruction at differing levels of complexity. 

You are so right, Dylan, that the lesson you described could benefit a lot from differentiating instruction "to allow the entire class to be engaged in the learning process as students could be given practice and general instruction at differing levels of complexity." I'm wondering how you might do this. Would you provide two different sets of instructions and let students complete activities at the same time in the same space? Do you have connectivity and computers in your classroom. If so, I believe well-selected technology is a perfect tool for differentiation in your example. For instance, students could access tutorials or videos at different levels to help them along as they follow instructions. Thanks! Leecy

Leecy Wise
LINCSReading and Writing CoP

Due to my being a brand new instructor here, I am now using lessons formed by the more experienced teachers who have been training me.  Unfortunately, these lessons do not usually provide the straightforward lesson objectives with each principle that we teach.  For example, one lesson that was taught today covered the broad world of algebraic polynomials, but varied from simplifying equations with 2 first-degree, single-digit terms to forming and solving systems of equations from real-world word problems.  This lesson would be greatly improved by splitting it into separate lesson, each of which would have distinct, specific lesson objectives that appropriately outlined what principles must be taught and what capabilities must be developed within those students in order for that lesson to be successfully completed.  

Perfect Dylan. Keep in mind that writing effective objectives for students (as opposed to administrators and other instructors) requires a great deal of time and practice at first. Not many people in education can do it effectively in my opinion. 

You could start by identifying the skills required to accomplish lesson tasks at different levels. Next, you could state your measurable objectives, starting with the lowest level of skill. Answer the questions, "What will students accomplish that will allow you to assess how well those skills are acquired by students?" Stay away from process and go to the assessable performance. Those make good objective statements! That way, students can clearly recognize what they already know and what they need to learn. Finally, you might read the objectives with students and ask them to work on the objectives that they still need to learn. As I noted in my earlier reply, if you have access to computers and connectivity, students, especially those at higher levels, could continue to learn on their own while their peers complete all objectives. Just thinking here.

Dylan, if you would like a hand in developing those objectives, drop in here again with the list you have, and let us work on those here together. Maybe others will join us here! Thanks! Leecy

Leecy Wise
LINCSReading and Writing CoP

As a new teacher, this course was my first introduction to both differentiated instruction and backward designing of lesson plans.  I have witnessed and struggled with differing levels of student readiness, interest, and learning profile, but only now have I had the knowledge and tools to address these issues.  Usually, my lessons are based on going through instructional materials and practice with the students with only one kind of activity and no differentiation between students. My new lesson plan, however, was designed to allow for differentiation at all levels of activities and assessment, which will lead to more student interaction, engagement, and comprehension.  Truthfully, this course has led me to see how low my levels of readiness were regarding lesson planning in general and given me the knowledge and guidance necessary to complete an unique, differentiated lesson plan that I believe could be quite effective in the classroom.

Dylan, on more word on differentiation. Assessment can also be effectively differentiated so that all students feel like they are learning skills at all levels. In the course where you will write different objectives, or maybe even develop two plans or parts of a plan, I can envision writing rubrics at two different levels. I am a real fan of rubrics because they are written for students to assess their own performance prior to submitting work, and they can also be written at different levels! 

I'm delighted that this course was so useful to you. Thanks for taking time to share what you've learned with others so that we can all learn together here! Be sure to spread the word on our LINCS courses. There are many helpful ones, and this one is especially useful to instructors. Keep enjoying the learning! :) Leecy

Leecy Wise
LINCSReading and Writing CoP

I am a fairly new GED instructor, but I can see how valuable the strategies for differentiated learning will be in the classroom. We currently have students at all levels of readiness, plus we have new students entering the program every 8 weeks or so. It is a challenge to figure out how to present material that isn’t repetitive for the old students, but not too challenging for the new students.

For a lesson on compound and complex sentences, I would begin with the learning objectives. Students will be able to join two or more independent clauses in one compound sentence, choosing a logical coordinating conjunction to join them, and inserting a comma before the coordinating conjunction. To assess their understanding, I could have a number of complex practice sentences that need a conjunction. There could also be some short paragraphs where the student has to choose the best option to complete a sentence. Learning activities could consist of the students generating their own story in two or three groups, each one contributing a sentence, and then working together to join the sentences together into a new complex sentence. Each group could write their complex sentence on the board, including the comma in the correct position. The other group(s) could critique their sentence. Then the students could individually practice writing their own stories with complex sentences and appropriate punctuation.

Suzanne, I'm sorry that this response was so delayed! Thanks for sharing your ideas.

You face a very common challenge of serving students who come into your program at different readiness levels. Your differentiation strategies show that you grasp the concept very well. How has that been working for you? I hope you can share a bit.

I would add one suggestion to possibly differentiate your instruction even further by integrating content into the goals and interests of different students. As you know, adults learn when new material connects to their experience, goals, or interests. I don't know if you can easily identify what those are when a new group comes in. If so, consider having those sentences and clauses come from readings that have meaning to students. You might identify broad workplace interests, or hobbies, or other areas. Then have students work with sentences that relate to those. You don't need to individualize those resources of course. However, accumulating passages with a variety of topics might provide students with some options. For example, I notice that many technology/science texts, complex sentences are used a lot to show cause and effect (If...When...Whenever...). Other fields emphasize comparisons using compound sentences (and, but, however...). What do you think? Leecy

Leecy Wise, Moderator
Reading and Writing CoP

Just the other day I was teaching about Meiosis. At the end of the class it was clear that some students still weren't getting it. Looking back, I could have incorporated more differentiation from the get go - with leveled readings for warm up. (Warm Up - In depth reading on Meiosis vs. Meiosis graphic)

After a short discussion I offered tasks in order, but with differentiation in mind I would have offered the various activities as more clear choices from the get go. I think at this stage in the game as a new teacher I do offer different modalities and levels of work, but I often offer differentiation as a reaction rather than being proactive, which doesn't make me feel as good and I'm sure isn't as great for the students if they feel like they are getting some special thing because they are abnormal rather than embracing choice and difference. 

Gretchen, you are certainly grasping the benefit of differentiating instruction from the get-go. I think that starting with leveled readings about the topic is a great approach to make sure everyone gets the concept. I wonder what kinds of activities you could incorporate to add to what you already do. Would you implement group work with students doing different things, maybe? Assign a project that requires that students contribute according to their levels and abilities (defining, describing, illustrating, explaining, comparing)? Does the meiosis process include steps itself at different levels? Are some more complicated than others? You are certainly on the right track. I would love to hear more! Thanks! Leecy

Leecy Wise, Moderator
Reading and Writing CoP

Hi Gretchen, 

I love the idea of differentiated instruction but often find myself struggling trying to meet so many learners at varying degrees of skills and background knowledge about a specific topic. It's definitely a challenge. I've learned to start the majority of lessons with a K-W-L chart. This graphic organizer provides students with the opportunity to identify what they know about a specific topics, what they want to know, and what they have learned. 

This strategy allows me to gauge a students pre-existing knowledge of a topic area - and even guage when a learner's existing /background knowledge is not correct. It's at this step that I can plan for the differentiation of instruction. 

Kathy Tracey


The class enjoys having mid lesson assessments, usually just a quick spot check question. I do have students work at their own pace usually, and avoid whole group math instruction like the plague. After taking this course, I decided to try it out for real in the ultimately diverse classroom, with work release students.  I ventured into a large group "mini lesson" on similar triangles and ratio and proportion. I was shocked! The mini lesson plan I conquered was a simple ratio and proportion lesson.  I realized from this course, that by utilizing pictures and some color coding, the most remedial of students were suddenly capable of solving "the how tall is the flagpole when it has a 12 foot shadow if the kid standing next to it is 5 feet tall and casts a shadow of 4 feet questions this test is famous for.  More advanced students were capable of solving similar triangle questions that didn't involve pictures, just word problems. I may be brave enough to try to replicate the idea with linear equations, with the lower students reading the graph while the more advanced actually tackle the y=mX + b!

While I will continue to work with individuals and smaller groups, I am now confident that even math can be a whole group thing, as long as it is properly differentiated. Also, it was great to remember to have my objectives be measurable, always.


Beth, my smile just broadened more and more as I read through your fantastic example of how differentiation can significantly accelerate acquisition among different types of learners. Thanks! I'm so glad that you dove in and watched students succeed! I am also excited that you remember to share measurable objectives with  your students...always. Hat's off. Leecy

Thinking about objectives is giving me a lot of food for thought with my science class especially. Often I think I am just exposing them to a concept, or a topic area. But I realize I can be more effective for them if there is a specific objective. Maybe it's learning and using certain vocabulary, or being more specific about linking a science skill with every content topic lesson. I have a lot of room for growth here. Without clear objectives it's harder to see day to day who is making progress. 

Gretchen, yes, yes, yes! The process of writing useful objectives is not an exercise in meeting the wishes of curriculum developers. It is an exercise in addressing student and instructional learning needs. As simple as the process may seem, it takes practice to get measurable in expressing what students are expected to do. However, when you get measurable, students are no longer lost. They know what is expected and what will be evaluated.

So in your statement that references "learning and using certain vocabulary," what is measurable in that statement? Can you assess learning itself? Nope. Not measurable. You can only assess learning by the change it produces. That is the measurement. Can you assess "using certain vocabulary?" Indeed you can. Express the objective in terms of how you want students you use vocabulary, and you have a winner. Being "specific about linking a science skill with every content topic lesson" is a good start. How do you want them to establish that link? The answer to that will give you a measurable objective that both you and your students can then assess. Grading is no longer a secret reserved for teachers! Thanks for continuing to reflect on this topic! Leecy

As with many educators, I, too, started planning the lesson with all of the objectives and  activities preplanned; next, I implemented that plan; finally, I assessed learning.  For those who failed to meet the minimum standard for passing the test, I did reteach-which looked very much like my original plan.  If pretests were available, I would use them; if they were unavailable, I would create my own informal assessment; however, often I thought I knew what my students needed to know-why should I test them-let's just get on with the show!  Arrogant-right?


Doing what works is not arrogant, Nancy; it's smart. What area do you teach? In reference to the Differentiated Instruction and Lesson Planning course, how do you differentiate your instruction as you develop and implement your objectives and activities? Do you provide different ways for assessing and reteaching your objectives? Thanks for sharing your comments here. Leecy

Leecy Wise, Moderator
Reading and Writing CoP

Thank you for your response.  I teach Science and Social Studies  to students who wish to write the GED.  In addition, I teach at a local for-profit vocational training college in the Medical Assisting program, (I am also an LVN [LPN in most states] I, also, hold a BS in Education.  

I will not lie.  The students I teach, for the most part,  have families and jobs.  They want to spend the minimum amount of time possible in the pursuit of their high school equivalency.  Some want to go to college as soon as possible and have an enrollment date in mind; therefore, they are pushing toward the goal of obtaining the GED by a set date.  They do not want participate in traditional lessons.  They prefer to work on the Science and Social Studies GED Preparation Workbooks at their own pace, and do not seem to want to tutor those who lag behind; that just delays their goal.  They seem to perceive that as my job-to help those who are behind.  When they do not understand a concept, they want me to explain that concept to them individually-I give them additional information and scaffolded work which will help them understand the concept, if necessary; they are back to working at their own pace-racing to that goal.  Part of the class has decided to work on Social Studies while the other half is working on Science.  In addition, those who have passed the Science test do not want the distraction of a Science lesson while they are working on Social Studies.  The opposite is equally applicable.  In addition, the class meets four days a week with 3 hours per class day.   There are many who are frequently absent due to child care issues, work schedules, illness of self/families, etc.  Those who are totally committed to their goals do not want to take the time to catch those who were absent up to the topic at hand.  Many of the students who are goal oriented will work on assignments at home, on their day(s) off, on breaks at work, and during any free time they might have; they are ahead of the class.  In answer to your question-I allow the students the freedom to choose the rate at which they work on their GED, I allow them the choice of subject area, They all have the same Workbook(s), but if the topic is above their readiness level-which is fluid and varies from idea to idea, I will provide scaffolded activities.  Many have skill areas that are well developed and at mastery level.  Many were former special education students who are well below grade level.  Many have pockets of on-level skills and pockets where even the foundation ideas from the skill is missing.  The idea of Adult Education is a complex issue.  Obviously, the ultimate assessment is the GED.  The workbooks contain an assessment at the end of each chapter, and many students take the GED Ready test.

Nancy, you are absolutely correct that "the idea of Adult Education is a complex issue." Perhaps the reality of Adult Ed is not so complex. 

You have described students and challenges related to them that are very common among programs everywhere in the US! That is why differentiation skills make great contributions to how well and how quickly adults learn in multilevel classrooms that include students from many cultures, backgrounds, interests, and preferences. Smart scaffolding, as you suggested, can play a significant role in promoting progress. 

So many teachers resist practicing differentiation because they think it means "individualization," which can demand a lot from teachers. Instead, differentiation simply means varying the types of instruction to include options for students in terms of how they perceive and integrate new materials, and perform during instruction. I like the word "options" kept up front. Add variety of delivery and assessment to that, and the results are likely to be very positive!

Thanks for sharing your reflections on the topic! Leecy

Differentiated Instruction is all about student centered teaching, targeting their special learning needs, learning styles, and adaptation of teaching strategies to work as a catalyst to achieve success for the desired audience/learners. Following links provide explain the fundamental principles of 'Differentiated Instruction'.

Indeed, Ayesha,  "Differentiated Instruction is all about student centered teaching, targeting their special learning needs, learning styles, and adaptation of teaching strategies to work as a catalyst to achieve success for the desired audience/learners.

I invite you to respond to one or all fo the following:

  • Consider a lesson you currently teach. How would using differentiated instruction change it?
  • Consider a lesson you currently teach. Does it have effective learning objectives that are specific, observable and measurable? If so, how do these shape the lesson? If not, how would effective learning objectives change the lesson?
  • Write a reflection on how what you learned in this course shaped the lesson plan you produced and/or the success of your lesson.

You are certainly on the right track! Thanks. Leecy

Response to Q1- I am designing an e-learning course on soft skills and my first course is about problem solving skills. I would differentiate my instruction by integrating multi-dimensional learning activities to address the learning needs of my diverse audience. For example I have already included group study method, case studies, role plays, survey interview, mind maps, and videos (formative assignments),  and a paper assignment (summative assignment). 

Response Q2- Yes, I have designed effective learning objectives that are SMART learning objectives. They shape the lesson starting from introduction to the concept, a course description, course goals, Module 1 including (learning goals, module overview, module objectives, a design methodology, and evaluation) the discussion post is one method of assessment (formative) a case study (formative) and final assignment (summative). 

Response Q3- I have learned in the first module about the Differentiated Instruction in detail, its dimensions and principles of learning, and help me shape my lesson more differentiated in nature, I would prefer to include more evaluation tools to my course with more diverse activities to promote student engagement. I have studied UDL in my degree program of Instructional design, therefore this course help strengthen and refresh my concepts. 

My question is that what is the fundamental difference between differentiated instruction and UDL? Or are they both two sides of the same coin? 

Hi, Ayesha. I don't know how I missed notification of your September response to my notes to you! Sorry about the delay!

You are clearly implementing differentiation. Yes! You also said, " would prefer to include more evaluation tools..." We often ignore differentiated assessment strategies as instructional tools for differentiation. I applaud your intent in that regard. You might have come across "CATs" (Classroom Assessment Techniques). If you Google "CATs Assessments," you find lots of great resources and ideas to differentiate assessment:

And more!

Re the difference between DI and UDL (Universal Design for Learning), there are many dialogues over that. Here's my take as I struggle with the question. It helps me to consider DI as an aspect of UDL, which also addresses the physical environment in instruction, including providing the means for those who are physically or otherwise disabled to participate. Does that help? Let's keep talking if you have other ideas. Thanks! Leecy

Greetings, Natalia, and thanks for posting here. You are right that measurable objectives are often misunderstood by students. Why? In my opinion, it is because plan developers fail to use students language in their lesson plans! They write for their administrators or other teachers, and students are left out. Bummer. Objectives should be brief, to the point, assessable, and written in student language and levels.

Are you taking the LINCS Differentiated Instruction course? If so, hat's off. To continue this course dialogue if so, please consider the questions posed in this thread, as follow:

  • Consider a lesson you currently teach. How would using differentiated instruction change it?
  • Consider a lesson you currently teach. Does it have effective learning objectives that are specific, observable and measurable? If so, how do these shape the lesson? If not, how would effective learning objectives change the lesson?
  • Write a reflection on how what you learned in this course shaped the lesson plan you produced and/or the success of your lesson.

Hope to hear more! Leecy (Reading and Writing CoP Moderator)

I teach a multi-level ESOL class to adult students. In a recent class, my objective was to teach students country names and nationality adjectives. The lesson included a wide variety of activities; following the Test Teach Test model the students did a level appropriate worksheet on nationality adjectives. Using formative assessment I determined which groups would need extra attention in which areas. We then reviewed some common patterns in nationality adjectives and played a game that required them to think of as many countries/nationalities as possible.  We then did a gallery reading exercise that allowed students to gather information about various countries, students then had to use that information to talk about their favorite travel destinations. Lastly students had to create and present a brochure on the country of their choice.  

I believe this lesson effectively accommodated different levels. In the first activity, each student was able to self identify which level of material they wanted to complete. During the game low and high level students worked together to complete the task. In the gallery reading, low level students would gather one or two pieces of information, whereas the higher levels would get up to 10. Lastly during the brochure activity, students worked together to complete the task, each completing an amount appropriate with their level. However, looking more closely at my lesson plan I've realized that certain activities were not in line with the objectives I set forth. I had intended to teach countries and nationalities, and the first two activities were in line with this goal. However the proceeding activities reviewed but did not facilitate the learning of new nationalities. In the future I would separate the two sections of this lesson into separate lessons with different learning objectives. 

Melanie, you posted a wonderful reflection on how you differentiated instruction in your ESOL class to meet the abilities of students at different levels. I also appreciated that you reviewed you practice and will improve for next time. 

If you are a member of our LINCS English Language Acquisition (ELA) group, I invite you to post your comments there. Otherwise, simply reply here giving me permission to share it, and I'll do that. Nice work! Leecy

My Math 2 class has developed into three distinct groups of student readiness with regard to the solving of word problems: the introductory group, which struggles to comprehend the written words to the problem, convert them into numbers and mathematical symbols, identify the proper mathematical operations to be performed and the order in which to perform them, and calculate correctly due to their struggle with remembering their times tables and the techniques of how to hand calculate addition and subtraction, but particularly multiplication and division. They get very frustrated and cannot get very far into the process until they ask for help. The moderate group has a basic notion of what the problem is asking for, but struggles a little with order of operations and converting words into math operations.However, if the operations are written or corrected for them, they know their times tables and basic math procedures, and can do the basic procedures that comprise the problem with decent accuracy, but they simply cannot reason their way from the answer they must find to structuring the problem operations and putting them in order. Then there is my final advanced group. They can translate the word problem into symbols pretty accurately, have good recall of their times tables, and can perform the operations that are required with good accuracy. They can also understand how the answer they get is connected to the question raised by the problem. So teaching (and assessing) these three groups is difficult if not impossible using a traditional rubric. So I devised a.three-level form for each sequential step of working the handout problem. Each item includes a correctly completed, partially correctly completed, or totally incorrect checklist. Each item is sequenced in the order of operations to solve the problem. The result is that students at similar levels of readiness tend to cluster around the same items that derail them. This allows me to use a group exercise, breaking them up into small groups based upon where they share common struggles, and provide differentiated instruction to each small group in class. The three groups, after doing the group work, are then dissolved for individual help. This gives the class an initial traditional instruction, a small group component, and an individual attention component. The checklists each have a point value, so not only do the students get a summative score of where they are percentage wise, but they also receive the encouragement for the steps they got right all throughout the problem, taking the emphasis off the overall score and using the results to point to places of help, success, need and intervention, moving the student forward. This step is new. it has helped me get a much better specific feel on exactly what is happening with students as they work through a problem, and helped me customize my comments to help them grow in their readiness. I make particular effort to pay attention to the steps slightly above where the students have begun to have  been marked off in its entirety as a sign of where new learning could begin. These places are then used as a focal point for the next class’s instruction, based on their “zone of proximal development.”  I would like to incorporate this ina more fun format, but have not figured that out yet. I’d love some ideas. 

This course on differentiated instruction helps me understand how the material presented impacts the student's learning. I take into consideration my reading lesson plans for identifying the main idea and supporting details. Although students have the same learning objectives, they will be working from different books to identify the main idea and supporting details of a reading passage. Additionally, they will be given different pretests and post-tests to determine if they have retained the information. 

I am so glad you found the course helpful and many thanks for taking the plunge and doing your first post!  

I applaud your courage here too.  Some instructors say that it is impossible to teach group lessons in their multi-level classes.  (In reality, all classes are multi-level even if they are designed for certain types of learners!)  You have shown an effective way to teach in this context using differentiated instruction.  We can teach a lesson to the whole group using materials at the lowest level and then differentiate using the methods you describe here with different leveled books and assessments.  

Please keep us posted on how things go as you teach using this method.  We would love to hear about your successes and challenges!  

Best, Steve (Reading and Writing COP Moderator)

After reading the information in Module 1,  I do not presently agree that individualized instruction is not differentiation.  Did I miss something after the sentence that said that would be explained later?

Upon reflecting on my current math instruction, I will be incorporating pre-lesson assessments to guide my assignments prior to post-lesson assessments.  This will also work with Science and Social Studies instruction.  For Reading, I think the key will be in better aligning student skills and reading levels to student interests in making reading assignments as some of my students are very weak readers while some are very good readers; this will take advantage of ZPD.


I appreciate your well written reflection Aurelia!  You raise a good question.  The course did mention this issue briefly a few pages later.  It discussed tiered instruction as a way to do differentiation.  In tiered reading instruction, a group may be taught a skill using a graded resource that is comfortable for everyone to read.  Then, students may do some application work and practice skills using readings that are on their grade level equivalents.  Using a free resource like Newsela makes this easier.  Thanks for your thoughtful response! 

I do hope you will become an active part of the LINCS Reading and Writing Community of Practice.  You can join this group by clicking on the Community tab and then choosing the Reading and Writing discussion group.  

There is a lesson on gaining meaning from text that I would be able to develop using differentiated instruction. The change would allow me to teach the same content but with more difficulty- that way student objectives will be meet regardless of the students' level. I would be able to use the same CCR standard but include each level (A-E) in the lesson plan. The assessments that I use heavily are online so that way it is observable and measurable, and the standards help it to be more specific. This reflection is after module one, so I look forward to providing an update once the course is completed. 

I believe my LP met the criteria on the template.  I used this lesson this past week.  90% of my students understand the PT and could use it.  We are not a daily class, so it will be interesting to see  how much they retain when I meet with them again.  

I found the guides, reading, and templates helpful.  I wish this course had been available for my public school staff ten years ago. My faculty did a book study of Tomlinson's Differentiation book.  In theory everyone was onboard, in practice most were on board, but in reality their biggest problem was accurately describing what they were doing.



I often use DI when teaching group lessons on math or writing.  I will divide students into groups or pair them with a partner that is a helper and learns again from explaining a concept.  


I will be honest and tell you that I just don't think I am very good at this yet. I understand how these objectives can change learning in my classroom, and I am looking forward to learning more. 

For me, the backward design process only works when I am planning a whole unit. It is impossible for me to find the time to do that with a single lesson. However, it does truly allow for more and better differentiation. 

When I used what I learned in this course I was able to make some significant changes that I feel will really allow my students more growth and more individual comprehension. I revamped the overall assessment to include various levels that I have in my class, and added lots of varied opportunity for exploration of the content. 

I still don't think I am really good at writing the objectives the way it was done here, but I can definitely see the value of it, if I can wrap my brain around it. 


Using differentiation would drastically change my current lessons that are not differentiated. For instance, one lesson regarding sentence structure might include a short video clip after direct instruction, diagrams, rule "cheat sheets", but also change the work. There would be more examples and tiers of activities, where one may just have students identify if the structure is correct and circle the error where another may have the student correct the error and write a new sentence in the same format with and without the error present. 

When creating each lesson, I look to the learning objectives and standards first in determined what activities should be present. This process allows for the students to learn the skills and abilities rather than just the content. 

This course is enabling me to look at lesson planning differently but starting from the assessment wit UDL and expanding each lessons activities, instruction, and content to revolve around student abilities and progression. 

As a facilitator of a career readiness series, which I created, I begin the series with a survey of work/education experiences and motivation for goal setting. There is always a wide range here, especially with inmates. This does provide me an evaluation of readiness, interests and learning profiles. 

One lesson I have reviews education/employment resources available to this specific population. I have noticed that retention of the information does not meet my objective, more often than not. I think that I could apply the following ideas to address D.I more specifically.  

beginners: introduction to the resources 

Intermediate: identify pathways to apply the resources through examination and evaluation of case studies (which I will need to create while on remotely working - COVID) 

Advanced: Role play directly accessing resources in both employment and education settings.  

This is going to assist greatly as I am about to start working on editing and creating lesson plans. I think implementing these different tiers will assist in higher retention of the information. 







I am teaching a Shopping and Spending lesson to beginning English Language Learners.  We are learning to distinguish between "have", "want" and "need".  I occasionally use matching to gauge understanding, and sometimes wonder how to differentiate using that activity.

I would have each student match the questions with the answers that I provide them - maybe from a workbook, maybe some that I have written -  this would also help them review subject pronouns (which is a struggle for some).  (E.g. Does Phillipe have a jacket? Yes, he does.)  I would have those students that are more proficient come up with questions and answers that they can exchange with some classmates that have also finished earlier.  They can take turns matching those extra questions and answers of their classmates.  

This will allow those students that need extra time, not feel rushed because everyone will be working, and no one is idle just waiting.  I can walk around and spend time with students who may need the extra help, and take a look at the work the other students have created.

With the pandemic turning my HSE classroom remote, I have not been able to teach my differentiated lesson. It seems to be much more difficult for adult learners in an HSE classroom to log in an complete work. However, this course has shaped my planning in several ways. My main focus is to ensure there are at least three separate levels of the lessons I create with choices embeded within the lesson. Also, when designing these lessons, I'm looking toward the overall concept or standard, creating the assessment for it, and building with backwards design in mind. 

In the lesson Shopping and Spending that I am currently teaching (I know that we have since changed to an online platform, but these objectives are for an in class lesson), my objectives are specific and observable, but I realize that they can be written so that they are measurable. 

For example, I have written objectives  such as

Students will be able to:

  • Identify clothing items
  • Describe workplace clothing
  • Count currency
  • Interpret an online banking statement
  • Ask and answer simple present yes/no questions with have/need/want.

While those objectives are specific to this particular unit, these objectives are not measurable.  It would be better if I revised the objectives to read as follows, in order to design my assessments and inform my instruction.

Students will be able to:

  • Identify clothing items with 80% accuracy.
  • Describe workplace clothing using learned vocabulary and the OPD (pages 92-93) for added help.
  • Count currency using one, five, ten and twenty-five cent coins and one, five, and ten-dollar bills to 80% accuracy.
  • Interpret an online banking statement to 75% accuracy.
  • Ask simple present yes/no questions with have/need/want with 80% accuracy.
  • Answer simple present yes/no questions with have/need/want with 80% accuracy.

Once these new learning objectives are in place. it would be easier to create a lesson with assessments that target that learning.


I always tend to think of differentiated instruction going hand in hand with scaffolded instruction. I am an ESL instructor currently, so if I were teaching a lesson that had identifying adjectives and an objective, I could differentiate by the difficulty of the source material that a student is reviewing, such as a compound-complex sentence compared to a simple sentence. Also varying by proper and improper. But the one idea that is now sticking in my mind with my ESL population is differentiating the modality (listening vs. reading) to allow students the ability to more personalize the instruction.

My lesson on adding and subtracting fractions, for example, would change first by having identified student objectives that more pointedly reflect the need that the student solve real life problems involving fractions.  I would get a better sense of the types of experiences familiar to my students where they would have a need to add and subtract fractions.  I would offer a variety of types of problems and activities that students can encounter that would require the use of the skills of adding and subtracting fractions.  

These types of variations are in contrast to my more typical approach of demonstrating how to perform the mechanics of adding and subtracting fractions, give several examples, have them try some examples, and reteach as necessary.

The big difference for me is to try to make the skills more relevant to the lives of the students so they see the need, and allow for a variety of ways to explore solving problems using the skills.

I am fairly new to Adult Education, so this concept of differentiated learning is new to me. I think DI will benefit my students as well as myself in more adequately meeting their learning needs. When I plan a lesson, I begin with a measurable objective, but planning the assessment next is also novel.  DI will help me be more conscientious in considering my students readiness, ability and interests. 

I have evaluated my learning objectives and found that they do not meet the  three requirements: observable, specific and measurable. Here's an example of one of my objectives: The student will add fractions with different denominators. It is not measurable. I think I could correct it by stating: The student will be able to  correctly add five fractions with different denominators. 

A current lesson I teach on algebraic functions does not currently have the most effective learning objectives.  For example, one objective I currently have is that the student be able to identify a linear function.  This objective is really not specific enough, nor is it truly measurable.  And there really should be other actions that make more clear, how the functions will be identified. 

Perhaps the objective could be written as such.

After completing this lesson, the student will be able to state that a relation is a function when given each of the following displays of relations: (1) given a table of inputs and outputs, (2) given the inputs and outputs in the form of a mapping, (3) given a list of coordinates, and (4) given a graph of the relation by using the vertical line test. The student will be able to identify whether or not a display of any or all of these relations is a function with 80% accuracy.

This seems a bit awkward, but I think it is a more clearly defined objective.

This would help shape the lesson by demonstrating the various ways functions can be displayed while reinforcing the definition of a function as a rule or relation where each input must produce only one output.

For the lesson I teach on linear functions, the assessment was designed before planning the activities. Having the assessment established was helpful in planning the activities, because knowing specifically how the students were going to be assessed, allowed for me to be able to consider a variety of options for activities each of which would still help students achieve the same objectives.  Knowing what the end goal allows for the possibility of a variety of ways to get to the same goal.