***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.



Comments (138)

Leecy's picture

Very timely and welcome, I-Fang. Thanks. Leecy

Leecy Wise
Moderator, Reading and Writing Community


athomas's picture

We usually have lessons about reading  housing ads as part of our Life Skills Unit. I will adapt the lesson using DI principles into three levels. The beginner level will learn the abbreviations and the matching vocabulary in a given ad. Intermediate level students will learn how to talk to a prospective landlord using these vocabulary the ask about an ad. Advanced level students will use the abbreviations and vocabulary to write an ad  to rent/ sell their apartment/ house. 

janis kislenger's picture

Hello Athomas,

I enjoyed reading about how you would use the Differentiated instruction and lesson planning skills in your Life Skills Unit. I think that would be a great place to divide the skills into three levels. I work with ESL students, so I also need to tier at the three levels when preparing differentiated lessons since many struggle with the English language. I have found your Advanced level really to be the most difficult when I teach puncuation. I think your lesson plan will be improved after taking this class! Good luck in the future.

Wilmer Guerrero's picture

Hello every body, My name is Wilmer Guerrero and I am an adult ESL facilitator / teacher, and part of my lesson plan  has the following components: Let's assume that I am going to teach the Simple Future Will and Going to:

this is more less how it would look like, by the way you are free to input or to share your feed back after you read this.

GOALS:  The students will be able to:

  • Apply properly the simple Future “Going to” regarding an action that has been planned or prepared. ( this is to general)
  • Create sentences where the simple future “Will” indicates a prediction or promise. ( this is much better )

OBJECTIVES:  The students will be able to:

  • Make sentences and answer questions using Will and Going to.
  • Create a composition using simple future. (too vague)


  • Trails to English Book #3.
  • Peripheral Material.


  • Read sentences.
  • Complete spaces.
  • Answer questions.


  • Will: emphasizes a promise and a prediction in future (pg. 24).
  1. I will study English at WLC next month.
  2. You will buy a new car next year.
  3. He will travel to Ecuador soon.
  • Will Not = Won’t (pg. 27).

From what I have learned, It makes sense that in the objective I have to reword some parts where the objective is more


Students will be introduced to the Simple Future Tense.

What do you think I should change or take out ?

Personally, I do believe that this course has changed entirely the way I was creating my lesson plans though I was not far from what I was supposed to do, hopefully I learn more from the comments.

thanks a lot

Leecy's picture

Wilmer, thanks for sharing your plan with us here. Following are my two cents. I hope that others will add theirs so we'll have a fortune before long! :)

A. What might you integrate into this plan's activities in order to engage more students? The activities that you have listed appeal to learners who are engaged by linguistic (reading and writing) and logical (grammar) activities. What are some other learning preferences? How might you broaden the type of experience to engage more learners? Could you add music? Art? Graphics/Images? Body movement? The more you naturally add to your plan, the greater the differentiation.

B. Considering that adults learn to the extent that what is taught relates to their "real life" interests and needs, how about throwing out a hook from the very start. Consider the following activities. Which group might appeal more to your students?

Group I
1. Write ten sentences using Will and Going to.
2. Write about something that will happen in the future.
3. Change the sentences from the past to the future.
4. Identify the verbs in ten sentences.

Group II

1. Predict what will happen in cartoon images.
2. Find sentences telling about the future in two songs.
3. Explain what will happen after you meet one of your goals.
4. Plan a trip. Draw a map of the trip that you plan to take. Describe what you will do at each stop of your trip. How much money will you spend on different items? Who long will it take you to get there? How will you get back?
5. Complete the sentence with at least five results: "If we stop all wars...." "If people continue to use fossil fuels...."
6. You are going to go camping. Tell the person next to you what you will do to get ready.
7. Listen to the following word problem. Write down what you hear. Describe what you will do to solve the problem.

C. Ideally, your goal and your objectives will be written to engage students right off the bat. Instead of stating those in grammatical or academic terms, how might you hook students right from the start? How about something like the following?

Goal: To work in a future world.
Objectives: In completing this lesson, you will...

a. Predict what will happen in a situation.
b. Plan future activities.
c. Imagine and describe a different future.


I hope that helps, Wilmer. Above all, both you and your students should share a lot of laughter and fun! :)

Leecy Wise (Moderator, Reading and Writing Community of Practice)

Lisa Hamid's picture

When creating lesson plans to increase differentiated instruction, it's always a good idea to think "multisensory".  

-Visuals:  Are you showing them something to ignite their curiosity?

-Auditory- Are they hearing something that will stay in their mind latter?  Are they saying what they are learning aloud?

-Tactile:  When instructing are you touching the board/visuals/, and are the students touching items/pointing to words/photos etc?

- Kinsthetin-  Are you and the students creating movements to what you are learning? The students should not be sitting the entire class.

When teaching past tense, act out verbs while you learn them.  They must see patterns.  Teach some regular tense verbs first, then add irregular verbs, and let them discover why a verb is regular or irregular.  

I start by acting out future tense, then present tense, and finally past tense.  For example:

Future:  I will open the door.

Present:  I am opening the door.

Past:  I opened the door.

Take turns acting out regular verbs in the above order and while writing them on the board for them to see the pattern.  Change the pronouns so they can also see what happens when a singular vs. a plural noun is used.  Let them discover the differences.  Don't give them the answers, let them figure them out.  While they do this, everyone should be saying the sentences.  Patterns and multi-sensory instruction can help out greatly with differentiated instruction.





jnthnmoore's picture

The element of Backward Design should always be noted when lesson planning, because if you are not sure of what you want to achieve in terms of outcome, then you will seldom achieve it.  For me , especially working in the areas of reading in the subject areas , I want my students to have an "a-ha" moment or some kind of epiphany with regards to knowledge or awareness of a subject. However each student comes to that point uniquely.

Leecy's picture

I love backward design, Jonathan. You mentioned, "...especially working in the areas of reading in the subject areas..." Please consider joining the LINCS Reading and Writing community and introducing the subject of reading (and writing?) in the subject areas! Thanks! Leecy

Phil Anderson's picture

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

A lesson I have taught was on putting events into a sequence or time line. The lesson was to help students take pictures or text strips that told a story or described an event and put pieces of it into sequential order from beginning to end. One way that DI could change this lesson is to create a learning center or station that students could use as a way to continue practicing the lesson. From the reading, I learned the importance of considering three aspects of students: their readiness for learning a topic, their interests about a topic and their learning profile.  In the center/station I would need to examine the materials I put there by taking into consideration that they align with these three aspects of my students. Instead of haphazardly collecting pictures from magazines and text from news articles, I would need to analyze which type of materials would help my students grow in their ability to break an event or story into a sequence. For students who are emerging readers, who like to look at images and are visual learners, I would collect or create comic strips that contain essential vocabulary just beyond their level. For students who are strong readers, who like to read and reflect on text, and would be strong cognitive learners, textbooks would be appropriate.

Leecy's picture

Great ideas, Phil, that show that you grasp the concept of differentiating instruction. Some people resist that idea, claiming that teachers don't have time to teach every student individually. As your suggestions show, it's not about making a lesson plan for each student, but addressing different learning preferences within a lesson plan! Thanks. Any additional ideas from instructors/learners out there? Leecy

WendyQ's picture

Hi Phil,

I'm coming to this a bit late, I know, and for that I apologize.  I love your idea of learning stations for students to continue the lesson.  Carol Ann Tomlinson uses a concept called "anchor activities," pre-planned activities for students who might have finished before others, or who are more advanced.  One thing I'd suggest is to leave some of this differentiation up to the students themselves -- provide q wide array of possible materials at different levels and on different topics, and let them choose.  Over time, you'll find that some will take on and master challenges you would never have imagined!  Their choices will also give you more information about them without effort on your part.


Beth Chun's picture

change the lesson?

I looked at the learning objectives I wrote on my most recent lesson plan. Several were much too general: “Students will understand . . . “ and “Students will learn . . . “ In practice I actually do assess my students with an observable, measurable, specific task – like writing a complete sentence with a present tense verb or conjugating a regular verb into 4 forms -  but my stated learning objectives don’t reflect those specific goals or assessments. I can see that stating a learning objective with specific, observable, measurable outcomes will help me focus the learning activities to be more relevant and effective in achieving the desired outcomes. I also see that I need to develop extension activities for more advanced learners. It seems to me that one easy way to differentiate is to group students together according to skill levels - the more advanced learners can work more quickly and cover more material.

Leecy's picture

Right on, Beth. I'm glad you will take a second thought re using terms like "understand" and "learn" when stating objectives. You can't assess terms like that. So here's a statement for you to consider: learning is change. If that's true, we can assess learning and understanding by observing the changes that occur. What think?

There are many ways to differentiate instruction, as you pointed out. Grouping students according to skill can be very effective. You can also group them to represent different skills and multiple intelligences. Depending on the group, I also like to put some people on the Internet with exciting things to do and report on while others work onsite with me or in projects. Here's another statement  about learning to consider: when we are laughing, we are learning. Hmmm... Thanks for contributing your comments! Leecy

Would you be willing to share your lesson in one of our groups? If so, drop me a line:  leecywise@gmail.com

Nancy Keith's picture

How would using DI change my lesson plans?  I think that being proficient at using DI would make my life easier.  First, it would give me confidence that I am doing my best to serve ALL my students.  It will give me a way to scaffold students to a higher level of understanding, while not holding some students back or overwhelming less able students.

Leecy's picture

Nancy, thanks for sharing your thoughts on planning for DI. You are right that DI will make your life easier...eventually. As you begin to plan instruction to address different learner needs, it will take a little more time to reflect on how to do that and to select best resources to integrate into delivery. Once you get used to the idea of how to best differentiate activities, then, yes, life becomes easier, both for you and your learners because they start taking over their own learning process. What fun! Leecy

WendyQ's picture

Wendy Quinones here, author of the DI course. I second Leecy's comment about DI making lesson planning easier...eventually. The thing to remember is to start small!  Sometimes it can be best to start with a lesson you're comfortable with; or sometimes you can think of a particular one where it seems there are always some students either bored or left behind. Either way, once you begin to get familiar with the process, differentiation will seem the logical way to work with your students. Best of luck! --Wendy

Laurie Paul's picture

I currently teach lessons on main idea and supporting details and I have used mostly the TABE level books with my students. I have found that even though they are adults just like anyone their attention span concerning the readings tends to become an issue. Meaning that the passages are not at their interest levels. I am relatively new to teaching GED classes so I was following the "set" protocol. But sometimes this may not be in the best interest of the students. Therefore, I downloaded expository passages about texting and driving that is definitely timely and relative to my students. I used a graphic organizer ( a concept map) so that they could record the main ideas and supporting details in a web like fashion. I also wanted them to understand that we also don't think in a linear fashion and using the the concept map was a different avenue for them to make their material look a little more "creative" than just writing it down. My two students also worked together and somewhat taught each other through their open dialogue and it worked well. It made them realize that they had a lot of knowledge and ideas to bring "to the table" which in turn upped their confidence level. Ultimately, changing my normal teaching mode worked well for them and hopefully it become more predominant in the future.

Laurie Paul's picture

I have to admit that I need to be more diligent with my learning objectives. I know what I want my students to accomplish with my lessons on parts of speech and correct sentence combining, however, my learning objectives haven't been up to par. They do exist especially with containing an observable action to demonstrate what they have learned but I need to add in a better measurement component. I work with language students and they have been progressing and have done well on their TABE tests but I truly believe that they need to also view their learning objectives so they know what it is we need to accomplish and how to get there, so to speak. I also want them to become more well rounded learners and productive citizens and just using the TABE as a measurement, to me, isn't enough. I would like to include more open dialogue for discussion so that they can use their prior knowledge and begin to see that they have a lot to offer beyond the classroom.

Laurie Paul's picture

The material within this PD provided more insight when working with students at different levels, especially with tiered instruction and scaffolding. I was a bit familiar with differentiated instruction but I found this workshop gave me various new avenues to think about when presenting my lessons. We have so many students at different skill levels that it has difficult to adjust instruction. But with the tiered instruction and group work information I now have new material to bring forth in the classroom.

Leecy's picture

Great, Laurie. If you have any examples to share, please do! Way to go! Leecy

stacy.conley's picture

I'm not sure if I'm posting the task in the correct place.  My reflection on how using differentiated instruction change my lesson would be:

I teach a math lesson on unit rates and proportions.  By using DI, it would ensure each student, no matter their level, to get a deeper understanding of how to use unit rate and proportions in real-world situations.  Also it would help in preventing the lower level students from becoming frustrated and shutting down, limiting the amount of learning that should take place.

I feel this lesson does have specific learning objectives but are they observable and measurable?  From what I have learned so far, I know I need to stop to relook at the final product.  What is it I want my students to be able to do and what kinds of real-world problems could they face that this would help them in?

Leecy's picture

Stacy, you said, " By using DI, it would ensure each student, no matter their level, to get a deeper understanding of how to use unit rate and proportions in real-world situations.  Also it would help in preventing the lower level students from becoming frustrated and shutting down, limiting the amount of learning that should take place."

What activities or approaches do you implement to, as you say, "ensure each student, no matter their level, to get a deeper understanding of how to use unit rate and proportions in real-world situations?" I would like to think that students at all levels would want to relate to real-world situations. How do you engage those different levels in similar real-life situations? Do they assume different roles in solving real-world problems?

I so often hear teachers say that they resist differentiated instruction because they don't want to do umpteen lesson plans for different levels and abilities. What do you think? You will notice that I have opinions in this regard, but I want to hear more on how others use DI. Thanks, much! Leecy

Leecy Wise
Moderator, Reading and Writing, and Diversity and Literacy Communities

Leecy's picture

Jan, first, let me thank you profusely for taking this LINCS course and, above all, for sharing your experience with the rest of us. I hope that others will jump in her with similar comments. Hat's off to you with all of our appreciation. it sounds like the material was useful to you, which is wonderful.

The fact that you looked for learning objectives is much appreciated by me since I strongly support the use of measurable statement to guide students toward their goals.

Since I don't facilitate the Differentiated Instruction course, I can't provide you with feedback on all that you have done! Instead, I have contacted LINCS support staff so that we can contact the facilitator who is reviewing your materials. Stay tuned! Leecy Wise

Correction (8/4): This course is a self-paced course. Therefore, no facilitation is present. Please disregard my last paragraph and check the post that follows this one.

Leecy Wise
Moderator, Reading and Writing Communiy


Reine Babin's picture

     I am currently teaching an ESL class.  My students are at various levels.  One of the first things I do as part of assessment is to ask my students what they need.  They are fluent enough to be able to tell me what areas they need the most help.  They can also speak for other students who are not so fluent and are afraid to speak.  Many people think of assessments as only tests, but I believe that an important part of the assessment process is finding out what are the needs of your students.  (Of course this can only be done once you have gained the trust of your students.)

     I had this conversation with my students the other day.  I took notes on the concerns that they expressed. I also noted that there were some who had different needs and concerns.   From these notes, I developed a lesson plan.  My students told me that they needed the verb tenses taught one tense at a time.  My objective: The student will be able to use the correct present tense "to be" verb in a sentence.  First, I showed a real life video of a conversation where the verb to is being used.  Then, I conducted a discussion on what the students heard being said on the video. Students would work in groups to complete worksheets using the present tense of the verb "to be."  Then, I would have the students generate their own sentences using the present tense of  several verbs.

janis kislenger's picture

I have been thinking of various lessons that I teach in differentiated instruction. I am currently thinking of one, which is about States and the Capitals to ESL students. It does have effective learning objections; such as identifying the States by names, and the capitals of each state; as well as sequencing the states in Alphabetical order. The learning objectives are specific, observable and measureable.  They help to shape the lesson, by helping the student to progress at their own learning readiness, abilities and interest. By creating specific centers that students are able to acquire various skills needed to assess this learning through activities, one is able to evaluate observable and measureable outcomes.  

Leecy's picture

If you are taking the self-paced Differentiated Instruction on your own from the LINCS Learning Portal, the activities in the course are for the participant’s own learning and interactivity with the course. Since there is no formal course facilitator in the self-paced version of the course, participants do not turn in their lessons. Participants, however, are welcome to share the parts of their lessons in the discussion threads started for the course:

Leon Moore's picture

Whenever I teach a lesson in math, I practice differentiated instruction. I learned about differentiated instruction around ten years ago. I might tell one student to do problems 1 - 20, while another student is working on word problems involving application in real-world problems. Differentiated instruction does work when done one level above the student's current ability as it does stretch the student. Some students will be stretched enormously and may still display some type of learning anxiety. Independent learning and scaffolding help increase student success. As students increase their self-confidence, the scaffolding may be removed as he becomes an independent learner.

Pam1's picture

The current lesson I teach after reviewing differentiated instruction I would be more deliberate about the assessments that I have students do, I would continue to use my current strategy of small tests but I would do them after the completion of each subunit.  This way I can determine is the foundational skills being taught are being comprehended.  Another strategy I will do is to specifically have more supplemental assignments for those students who may need lower level practice to allow for the scaffolding of information and skills.  I feel that this will allow those students to feel they are comprehending the material without frustrating them.

Leon Moore's picture

It is important to help students understand the material with a minimal amount of frustration.

andrea black's picture

In my daily lessons I feel as I do not have clear and precis learning objectives. Being since this is what holds a differentiated lesson together, it is very important. Learning objectives must be specific, observable and measurable. I see why they are so important in provided a level of challenge for every student. This is something I must begin doing in my correctional setting. 

Leecy's picture

Right on, Andrea! I am an ardent advocate of giving students clear and measurable objectives! That way, both instructor and student are on the same page, and both know what will be assessed. I also find that clear objectives provide excellent items for review and planning: "This is what we accomplished, and this is what is still left for next time." In addition, clear and measurable objectives equip instructors with a perfect tool to assess whether or not differentiation is adequately planned, as you so wisely pointed out.

Have you seen the list of Bloom's verbs? They provide outstanding verbs for stating objectives at different levels of critical thinking.

http://www.fresnostate.edu/academics/oie/documents/assesments/Blooms%20Level.pdf Leecy

Steven Letourneau's picture


I also teach in a correctional setting. I run into the same problems now I look back at past lessons. We have an added pressure of literally having gifted students with learning disabled students in the same classroom. If I did whole group instruction all day every day, half my students would quit the first week... Even though I know this sometimes I struggle.


Sherry Watkins's picture

Differentiated instruction is such an important skill for adult education instructors.  This was a great review of the essential skills of writing objectives and making sure that all students have success in each of my lessons.

Steven Letourneau's picture

In our Harlem Renaissance elective class, we tie together what was happening in Harlem to what W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington was advocating for in previous decades. Some students struggle with reading Dubois and Washington while others grasp it readily. I would in the future have a three tiered approach to Dubois. Group 1 would read and analyze the material, as is. Group 2 would get the material with vocab words defined and difficult passages explained. Group 3 would read excerpts but the majority of the material would be reworded for easier understanding.

Although this would be difficult to create initially, it would give your less competent students a chance to me your objectives.

Steven Letourneau's picture

In the current Unit I am teaching, The Harlem Renaissance, I have objectives that meet the characteristics of good objectives.

By the end of the Unit, the student will be able to:

1. explain and cite examples of personification in the first chapter.

2. discuss how education is a pervasive theme throughout the text and cite examples from the text to support this theme.


My greatest weakness has always been the assessment piece. I tend to be old school, write a paper or give a test.


Leecy's picture

Hi, Steven, I'll jump in here with my two cents. Your first objective is clear and measurable. That means that you can assess it. In fact, I would use rubrics to assess that objective so that students know exactly how to meet top expectations for explaining and illustrating "personification." To rubric criteria might state something like, "Your explanation included clear and accurate details and at least three examples of "personification." No test needed there. Instead, you asked students to perform to meet your criteria.

Your second "objective" includes a non-measurable term, "discuss," which would be hard to evaluate. Instead, I would recommend something like, "Discuss in writing [or in a presentation] the pervasive use of personification in the text, citing examples to support its use." In other words, a student might sit with another and discuss something without providing any evidence of knowledge re the topic. Make sure that your objective statements are measurable, and, therefore, "assessable." Your top rubric criteria here might say something like, "You provided credible evidence to show the author's pervasive use of personification as a tool in writing. You cited at least three strong examples of personification from the text." Something like that.

Steven, the big "no-nos" in writing objectives are uses of very general terms, like "learn," understand," "read," and more, which cannot be measured! You are certainly on the right track. If you want links to writing effective rubrics, ask, and it shall be shared! Leecy


Steven Letourneau's picture

Thank you for the feedback. I would love some links to effective rubrics!

Leecy's picture

Steven, below are links to a few rubric resources. You’ll find more in your course content as you prepare your final project.

REMEMBER: Just because something is posted, even as a model, doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Follow your own knowledge and guidelines in developing rubrics, and use the models just for ideas!

1. Rubrics are for students. They should be written in student language. If a student is a beginner, the rubric should be expressed in beginner terms.

2. Rubrics are not checklists although they can refer to checklists. Instead, rubrics express the exact criteria to be met by students in completing a project.

3. Rubric criteria are expressed in measurable terms. Using terms like, “understand,” “learn,” “ read,” “think about,” and others like them do not allow you to assess them. You cannot assess student performance that way. Instead, go to Bloom’s Taxonomy and grab some good, active verbs!

4. Rubrics don’t state a span in scoring. Students either meet the criteria or they don’t. Nothing in between.

5. Well-written rubrics work well as teaching tools. Student know exactly what they need to do to meet top criteria!

Some resources – Remember – Use criteria models as ideas. Many are very faulty. Use your own knowledge to emulate or select.

  1. Chocolate-Chip Cookie Rubric - http://www.uen.org/Rubric/rubric.cgi?rubric_id=2730 - One of my favorite examples. You may not like the criteria, but if you are aiming to please the chef grading you, that is what you need to do to get an “A!”
  2. http://www.teach-nology.com/web_tools/rubrics/- lots of links
  3. http://health.usf.edu/publichealth/eta/Rubric_Tutorial/default.htm - Nice tutorial
  4. http://www.tools2learn.ca/rubric/rubric.html - A different take on writing rubrics
  5. http://www.assessmentfocus.com/rubrics-rubric-makers.php


Leecy Wise, Moderator, Reading and Writing, and Diversity and Literacy CoPs


Di Baycich's picture

I've used RubiStar a few times. You can select from choices they have on the site, edit the rubrics they have, or create your own. http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php 

Leecy's picture

Indeed, Di. This is a great resource as long as users remember to edit the text used for different criteria. Among teachers to whom I recommend this nifty site, I admonish, "The site gives you a great start. Take the criteria with a grain of salt. Copy it and adapt it to your students and to their language levels! Thanks, Di. Leecy

Sherry Watkins's picture

I am not currently teaching a class, but I am creating an online math module for some of our learners.  I plan to have 2 or 3 different levels of assignments and activities for students to complete as they progress through the lessons.  Students will take a pre-test online which will give readiness information.  For the number of problems missed in the section- students will be assigned basic, intermediate or advanced assignments and activities.  All assignments and activities will be available to all learners, so if an individual wants to work up or down a level, it will be available to them. I am hoping this differentiation of an online module will assist students with their learning goals.

Leecy's picture

Sherry, indeed, your process of having students select (or be assigned to) different activities or assignments on the same topic is a good example of differentiation. I also like that all assignments are available to all students who may wish to dip into other levels! Nice work. Leecy

Leecy Wise, Moderator, Reading and Writing, and Diversity and Literacy CoPs


Jeanne Grunden's picture

I think that in my lesson plan the learning objectives are specific and observable but I need to be more specific with the measurable part. I think that the specific and observable objectives help shape the lesson by keeping the lesson focused on the desirable skill learned and that a percentage measurable objective will improve outcomes.

Leecy's picture

Actually, Jean, if something is observable, it is usually measurable. In other words, if you can see the outcome for something, you can certainly find a way to grade it, hopefully by rubrics since I am a strong supporter of performance-based assessment. You may just be referring to feeling that you might be more specific in stating your measuring.That makes sense. Thanks for sharing. Leecy

Jeanne Grunden's picture

In a lesson that I currently teach after I teach the sill I provide students with a series of worksheets for them to practice the skill just learned. They start with an easy skill practice sheet, then do a harder skill practice sheet, and finish with a TABE worksheet that has them answer a series of multiple choice questions which ends with 5-6 word problems. In order to further differentiate the lesson I can have students choose which worksheets they want to do and not have do the whole series of worksheets. This would allow students to choose their own level and pace to practice the skill taught. 

Leecy's picture

Jeanne, you've described effective practices for further differentiating your reinforcement activities. You might also consider reviewing Bloom's list of action verbs and having students extend their learning by asking them to reflect or respond to items at different levels of Bloom! Thanks. Leecy

Leecy Wise, Moderator, Reading and Writing, and Diversity and Literacy CoPs


Lynne Alexander's picture



It  looks like many of you have excellent lesson plans. Does anyone ever share theirs?

Lynne Alexander


Steven Letourneau's picture

This course is valuable because it refreshes what we all should already know.  Unfortunately, I have always known the theories but never put them to practice. Once I actually used what was covered in this class, it made lesson planning much easier. I will use this everyday in my classroom.

This is a well put together course.

Steven Letourneau's picture

By having very specific and measurable objectives and differentiating the activities, my students enjoyed the class period. I paired weaker students with stronger students to complete a task. With out strong objectives and a rubric, my students would have never known what the expectations of the task were. All of this was from the direct result of taking this course.

Thank you.

Leecy's picture

You statement resounds strongly in my heart and bones, Steven. Strong objectives and an effective rubric, both written in student language, pave the way to great learning. Thanks!

Leecy Wise, Moderator, Reading and Writing, and Diversity and Literacy CoPs


Jeanne Grunden's picture


I like the way that you paired weaker students with stronger students to complete a task. I also have success with this technique in the class that I teach. I have found that students respond well from having other students help them and that it works well to hear the process explained in a peer's voice.

Ed Pirie's picture


I am really interested in the course many of you are doing with regard to lesson plans. The discussion I have read seems to be very positive about the value of this on line course. Would any of you care to comment please.


Ed Pirie

Central Vermont Adult Basic, Education, Inc.


Leecy's picture

Ed, are you asking for sample plans that people are developing? Unfortunately, this forum doesn't allow attachments. However, if you want to send me your plans, I'll post them on the Web and add a link here for all to see. Additionally, it would be fantastic for you to license your work under Creative Commons, so that others can modify and share, with attribution to you, of course. Leecy (email below!)

Leecy Wise, Moderator, Reading and Writing, and Diversity and Literacy CoPs


Leon Moore's picture

This was a nice review of what I learned earlier in my teaching career. I recently did a lesson on perimeter of a triangle. My tier 1 students needed to complete the exercises at the rate of 80% accuracy with integers, fractions, and decimal measurements. My tier 2 students needed to complete the exercises at the rate of 80% accuracy with variables and constants denoting the measurements. Both groups also worked backward in figuring out a missing side given the perimeter and having two of the three sides. I regularly practice differentiated instruction, but it was nice to review the points why I do so. 

Leecy's picture

Thanks for sharing a good example, Leon! Leecy

Leon Moore's picture

My lesson plan was specific, measurable, and observable. They shape the lesson by having the students engage in activities that I can see in the classroom and sets a standard for them to achieve. My lesson went well as all my students accomplished the goal of 80% accuracy. 

Val HALLA's picture

I teach in the education department of the local community college and I am also a credentialed trainer. I will probably use this more for my college classes where I see the students weekly and they have many written assignments that need to be handed in throughout the semester. I have always had a big range of the abilities of the students in my class, some because English is their second language. I will begin to look at the students abilities differently to see how grading will be done. I have always been tough on their written assignments. I felt if they were communicating with parents, they should be able to write proper English. As for those who wrote with the slang that they speak, it will be more difficult. Any suggestions?

Val HALLA's picture

I teach a Lab I and Lab II class through a local community college. I can see now that my objectives need to be more specific. We want the Lab students to interact with the children but that is all it says. I think we need to add a percentage to this. It has to be reasonable because they do have some writing to do in the classroom - observation, specific journal entries to name a few. I need to look them over and see what can be done.

Leecy's picture

Val and all others in this forum, if you want to share a few objectives here for comment, I and others, I'm sure, will be glad to comment. I'll be waiting! Thanks, Leecy

Leecy Wise, Moderator, Reading and Writing, and Diversity and Literacy CoPs


Pam1's picture

Currently in my social studies class students are given a current event article that has interesting content and is understandable by students at all levels, I have the students work together in groups discussing what they have learned and determining the answers to questions that are posed to them.  Once everyone has completed their assignment we come together to discuss the article using the questions as a prompt. The lesson is scaffolded in that there is some content that students at the lower level can easily understand, however there is some words that middle and upper level students will understand more quickly.  When they work in groups they have a chance to discuss at their level of understand and ask questions of each other.  Once we have completed the class discussion which often relates the article to current events heard on the news, I will also often pose questions that are not in the assigned content to encourage all students to relate it to various experiences and how they turned out.  An additional assignment is to have each student pick a few things from the article the didn't know and write a paper about it.  This encourages students to use additional skills of comprehension, analysis and application in their writing process. 

Leecy's picture

Love the example you've shared, Pam. May I post your example in our LINCS Reading and Writing community? Thanks, Leecy

Pam1's picture

Hi Leecy, I am sorry I must have overlooked this comment if you would still like to post it to the Reading and Writing community it is okay with me.



Leecy's picture

Thanks, Pam! :) Leecy

Jeanne Grunden's picture

I teach a math lesson on how to divide fractions. Originally, I did not design the assessment before planning the activities and I found that for some students there was a disconnect in their learning process. It made it harder for them to grasp the full process of dividing with fractions. If I develop the assessment before hand and work my way backward in the lesson process I can assure that no steps are missed in the learning process. I think by doing this students will experience more complete comprehension from the lesson on dividing with fractions. 

Leecy's picture

Jeanne, thanks for your example and other comments here and in other responses on your practice differentiating instruction in your math classes. Yes, indeed, developing assessments beforehand help both you and your students focus on instruction much more. In fact, if you design projects that require students to apply fraction division, you can then design effective rubrics for performance and engage students even more. I believe that we've had a good discussion elsewhere in this forum about rubrics. I'm a super fan! Leecy
Leecy Wise, Moderator, Reading and Writing, and Diversity and Literacy CoPs

Ruth Heitsman's picture

I don’t always design the assessment before I do lesson plans but then I generally use formative assessments and summative only at the end of a section. When I am teaching something like writing, I love using a rubric. I found, when I was in college, the rubric helped me stay focused and often provided the “how to” for the assignment.

WendyQ's picture

Hi Jeanne,

Wendy Quinones here, author of the DI course. You've grasped one of the key principles of DI -- we need to know where we're going in order to plan how to get there. In my own process of learning to use DI, I discovered that while I had many wonderful activities that students loved, when it came time to figure out what they were to learn from these, I was sometimes stumped. It led to a lot of hard thinking and some loss of fun activities. But of course, fun isn't really the point, is it? You are so right -- working your way backwards from what you want students to learn (what Wiggins and McTighe  call "backward design" in their wonderful book Understanding  by Design) goes a long way to ensuring that no steps are missed. Nice work!

Jeanne Grunden's picture

I teach a lesson on adding and subtracting fractions where the objective is for students to add and subtract fractions at an 80% accuracy. The activities match the learning objective because I can observe and measure their progress through the various levels of easier to harder worksheets that students work on either independently or in pairs. Also during class, at students' request I work different problems out on the board and have the class walk me through the process of the problems. This allows me to see which students understand the full process and allows the opportunity to reteach the process with students help through their understanding of what was taught. These activities ensure that the learning objective is met.

Ruth Heitsman's picture

The ability to differentiate by content, process, or learning activities makes it vital that these align with the learning objectives and the assessments. It is also important to make sure that your learning activities support with your learning objectives. If I say, “the student will be able or the student will know”, it is important that my activities give them the tools to do what I’ve said. I often use formative assessments as it is a quick way to find out if my students are understanding the material or if I need to make an adjustment.

Jeanne Grunden's picture

I think that this course helped me to realize the importance of working backward in the lesson process. I was able to create a lesson plan with clear objectives and activities that not only enhanced students learning, but clearly met the objectives. By having the assessment picked out first it made it easier to provide simple to complex material and have students begin with concrete problems and work towards abstract problems.

Ruth Heitsman's picture

It is always important to be reminded of the connection between the learning objectives, assessments and activities. Long ago when training, I would spend a great deal of time on activities and never had clear objectives or assessments. Once I learned that there needed to be real purpose in what I do, it made so much more sense to take the time for the learning objectives and the assessments. This gave me real purpose for the activities. This course has been helpful in reminding me the backward planning process that I will be able to use. I also liked the ideas about differentiating for students based on readiness.

Jeanne Grunden's picture

The lesson plan that I did was on dividing fractions and students were to divide fractions at 80% accuracy. After learning the skill with a video clip and with instruction on the white board, students were given the option to choose from easier to harder worksheets to practice the skill taught and to work either individually or with a partner. I did learn that I need to provide more options of harder worksheets for the students who did only the harder ones. The lesson went well and students completed the lesson at an 80% or higher accuracy. I found the information provided in this course very helpful and easy to use. Thanks.

Ruth Heitsman's picture

The learning objectives will be the same for the students; however, the application and practice work for the lessons will be different. Activities for individual students will be based on their readiness such as meeting them where they are in knowledge and skills. Scaffolding may be needed for some students. The assessments will be aligned with the learning objectives.

Ruth Heitsman's picture

It is very important to have learning objectives that are specific, observable, and measureable. If they are specific, your lesson may result in several outcomes because you got off track and wasted time covering too broad or too many topics. If they are not observable, it is hard for you or the students to see the action to take or demonstrate the performance you expect. Action words help students know what to do: compute, describe, write, create, etc.  If they are not measureable, then you will not know if the student has done what was requested and met the acceptable standard of performance. Using learning objectives will make your lessons more focused and help the student understand expectations.

Leecy's picture

Right on, Ruth, in every way. Thanks for contributing such useful comments, especially as they relate to stating effective learning objectives, which guide the rest of instruction. Thanks! Leecy

Marianne Taylor's picture


I face the same issues that you do in the correctional setting.  I don't have the answers on how to differentiate instruction to such a diverse group, hence the reason for taking this course.  I would appreciate any feedback you might have.

Leecy's picture

Marianne, I hope Steve and others are able to drop in to offer more suggestions.

Depending on the rules within your correctional institutions, inmates may or may not have access to technology even though the Internet is probably not allowed. I'm thinking of CDs or thumb drives, games, and other downloadable content that can be used from external drives.

Someone in LINCS proposed Internet in a Box as an alternative for use in environments that don't have or don't allow Web access. You might look into that tool if you are allowed to use technology at all. I'm a huge supporter of differentiating instruction using technology as students can be doing different things.

Grouping students and giving them different roles to accomplish a task or project is another way.

Using students as instructors also provides alternatives, where more accomplished students practice their creativity while teaching something they want to know. As research tells us, we learn what we teach.

I hope that others drop in to add more ideas. Thanks for asking. Leecy

David J. Rosen's picture

Hi Leecy and Marianne,

The "Internet in a Box" solution may refer to the Widernet Project's Egranary Digital Library, used in many places where reliable Internet connections are not possible, and in corrections institutions.

David J.Rosen


Kathy_Tracey's picture

The i-Pathways project has implemented a solution  (Internet in a box) that has successfully used. All of the features of the i-Pathways project are loaded on an Oasis servicer and then wired to computer labs - therefore no Internet is required, but all of the features of the learning management system with the curriuclum are available. It's the best combination of both worlds - technology to manage multi-level classes, live updates so the curriculum is never outdated, and a secure wired connection. Contact me offline if you have any questions about this solution. Kathy Tracey (ktracey@cait.org and 309-298-1804)



Leecy's picture

Kathy, could you tell us a little more about how Internet in a Box is used in iPathways? Is the content strictly geared to GED prep? How does it all work? Thanks. Leecy


WendyQ's picture

Hi Marianne,

Corrections is always such a challenging environment! I wish, as the author of this course, that it would provide you with all the answers, believe me. And I surely hope that you found more of them as you proceeded through the modules. There are few if any ready-made answers, though -- using DI as a lens for examining your experience and your setting will help you come up with your own unique solutions to your unique problems.


--Wendy Quinones

Tina Hunsel's picture

How would differentiated instruction change a lesson I currently teach? As an online AEL instructor, I know there many DI strategies can enhance the educational experience of online adult learners. I can offer students to access videos in addition to, or instead of just reading an online lesson text. Students can participate in Adobe Connect Lessons (a real-time meeting platform) with our instructors. Students may be assigned additional resources, such as SkillsTutor, to fill needed learning gaps.

Leecy's picture

Right on, Tina. Have you tried Voki? It's a free animation tool that allows you to create customizable  characters that talk. You can embed the code right into your discussions, new forums, etc.. Such fun. What ideas do others have here to add to Tina's? Leecy

Leecy Wise, Moderator, Reading and Writing, and Diversity and Literacy CoPs

WendyQ's picture

Hi Tina,

What great ideas for working with DI online! I'm Wendy Quinones, author of the DI course, and I can see that you are grasping the concept brilliantly.  Have you tried any of these strategies?  I also teach high-school-level ABE  students online, and my students haven't been too receptive to these.  I'd love to hear your experiences.


Geraldine Bryant's picture

Whenever I teach a lesson in math to my Seniors (at the Senior Center). I practice differentiated instruction. I was unaware that I was already pr acting DI. Some of my students are quick to tell me they have been out of school five, ten, fifteen and even more years and what an enormous stretch this class is/has been for them. It is truly rewarding to see 65-85 year older students working math problems (decimals, fractions, percents, etc.); especially when the light comes on and stays on. To see their self-confidence rise to a new level is just amazing. I just love watching them grow and move from one level of really "getting it" to the next. I will continue to follow the DI elements of learning objectives, assessment and tiered activities.

WendyQ's picture

Hi Geraldine,

Wendy Quinones here, author of the DI course.  You are so right -- I always tell adult ed teachers that we all practice DI because we have to! The difference is whether we are winging it or have firm principles and techniques to rely on.  I hope the course helps you get even more light bulb moments.


Lori Krecioch's picture

This course has really helped me to focus on the differences in the ability levels of my students, and it has helped me with ideas to incorporate in lesson planning. While I did always think about the differences in ability levels, I didn't always plan for assessing the students differently. This course has helped me to see that I can even change the way I implement an assignment to alter the actual lesson itself one or another to help individual students. I also really enjoyed the writing assignment examples because that is the area in which I concentrate. 

Leecy's picture

Lori, that you will implement more differentiation in lesson planning is a big addition to the field. So many think of differentiation as individualization. Now you know better, and more, you know how to match that knowledge to assessments. Your students will benefit immensely!  Glad that you enjoyed the course! Leecy

WendyQ's picture

Hi Lori,

Wendy Quinones here, author of the DI course. I love it that you are thinking about ways to include DI in your existing lessons. So many people feel they have to start all over, which makes the whole process that much more overwhelming. Primarily a writing teacher myself, I know how much DI helped me and my students.  Best of luck!

Elsie Manning's picture

In the study of differentiated instruction I have noted the various elements it contains. I am aware of the different parts that are essential to Adult Education, especially ESL.. I has been that the development is also applicable to recognized that most of our classes are multilevel in nature; therefore the variables needed to teach the class is essential to the learning process for the students involved. The assessments are absolutely necessary to fine what and where the students are upon entering the class. You discover their thoughts, understanding, cultural and ideals and life experiences. Each of these adds to the learning process for the student. The further assessment during the process of the classes keep the instructor informed of the progress being made and what can be done to help further the students growth and success. the Final assessment may be applied in group work and testing and or writing projects to reflect the lesson outcome.

I also found and have use the " zone of proximal development" may be advantageous for those student which are unaware of their ability  to go beyond what  they image themselves to be capable. that element to difficulty always amazes them and they do receive a feeling of accomplishment and a desire to continue their classes

Leecy's picture

Elsie, thanks for your thoughtful and accurate comments re differentiation. So many people confuse the practice with individualization, which is a different approach.

I love that you bring up differentiation in assessment. To me, that is one of the most oft ignored aspects of differentiation. When we apply a variety of ways to assess student progress, we are helping different students learn much better. Thanks for the reminder of “zone of proximal development,” as well! Leecy

Genita Morenas's picture

The principles make perfect sense to me. I used to write general objectives but now I will be specific. Students should be able to read four digit numbers and by the end of the lesson students should be able to write the number in words.

I took it for granted that students especially adults knew their basic numbers but now I will make sure that the activities are tiered  for  low beginners ,and high beginners.

I am definitely planning topics and activities that will enhance their culture and strengths using technology. I feel technology has become part and parcel of life today.



WendyQ's picture

Wendy Quinones here, author of the DI course you're taking. I'm so glad the DI principles make sense to you Genita -- most of us find we've been using some of them in our classes purely out of necessity, but isn't it a relief to have a coherent framework?  You've done a good job with that LO, which can often be one of the most difficult things for teachers to grasp. I like it that while yours is specific, it leaves a lot of flexibility. Will the numbers be dictated? Will they be written in digits for students to translate into words? Will students simply produce numbers on their own? All -- and I imagine many more options -- are possible, and leave much room for tiers and differentiation. Well done!

Beth Chun's picture

With DI, I focus more on the needs of the students and less on my infatuation with the content. Being a grammar nerd, I sometimes get caught up in the structure and form of the language. Instead, I want to focus on closing the gap between where my students are and where they want to be.

For example, before DI, I tended to overwhelm my students with too much information and not enough practice. With DI, I start with the end in mind: articulate the objective, devise a simple but effective assessment, identify the main skill and sub-skills needed to succeed, and then craft a scaffold of activities with a minimum of direct instruction and a variety of hands-on, interactive activities to build understanding and confidence. 

My instruction seems more direct and focused. My students like the hands-on, active approach.

WendyQ's picture

Beth, I recognize that dilemma! Wendy Quinones here, author of the DI course. And I love that phrase -- "infatuation with the content." As a fellow grammar nerd, I know how easy it is to be deeply fascinated with a grammar point while students are glassy-eyed. It sounds as though you've found a way to put DI to work in a way that will indeed help close the gap between where your students are and where they want to be. Giving them more hands-on practice might even help them come to like grammar! It also sounds as though it has helped simplify your lesson planning, which is what I found, too, when I integrated DI into my practice.I'm so glad it has helped you!

S Jones's picture

I realized teaching middle and high school that if students were behind in math or whatever, the "solution" was to cram in *everything* they missed and move faster (with the same teaching methods that hadn't worked before, though sometimes that was more an issue of being developmentally ready for abstractions).   

I decided I'd figure out what students should not leave my classroom without knowing... things like what we celebrated on July 4th (Freedom? from slavery?)   ... and in math, knowing that 2^3 was 8  --and why!!! and that 1/8 + 3/8 was 1/2, not 4/16  -- and why!!!....   I'd touch on 3/17 + 4/3 (and the absurd word problems going wiht it)... but the thing we review again and again to automaticity are those basics that actually have a chance of building understanding. The "how to do an easy one and why" made students a whole lot more likely to be able to do harder ones because the "and why" part replaced the "or maybe that's not what I need to do...I'll just guess."   







Chris Ann Cavil's picture

This was a very interesting read.  I am familiar with differentiated instruction from my past years as a Montessori teacher of multi-age students.  I appreciated the six dimensions of differentiated instructions.  They are very important in designing a lesson for students of varying ages and levels of readiness.  I am now, after many years of working with middle school student, am doing the same for adult learners.  I find that " student's interest" is a key area in differentiating the lessons.  Most importantly, giving students an understanding of how the skills presented will be needed by them in the workforce or daily lives.  A lesson in fractions can be taught in so many ways that can peek the students' interests and be delivered to show it need in everyday living situations.  The idea of working backward to design a lesson plan is great.  I find that many teachers use this approach somewhat automatically when trying to meet the need of an adult education classroom.




Leecy's picture

Chris, you certainly grasp the intent behind differentiating instruction. You are so very right that "A lesson in fractions can be taught in so many ways that can peek the students' interests and be delivered to show it need in everyday living situations." Adults only connect to instruction when we connect to them! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this important approach! Leecy

KayG's picture

The last lesson plan I created could have been more tiered, allowing for more observation of the students grasp of the skill being taught. The learning objectives were clear, specific, observable and measurable. I will allow for more observation due to the information in this course.

Leecy's picture

Sounds like a plan, Kay! You mention observing students. We often forget, however, to give students time to observe and reflect during sessions. I hope you'll consider that aspect. Many learners like to observe a lot before being asked to perform. Thanks for your comments. Leecy

KayG's picture

I found the course instructive with much information. I particularly found the rubric information and lesson plan site helpful. Is there any more current information available regarding ensuring that the lessons cover any common core that is encompassed by the GED? 

Susan Collins's picture

I believe most important is the evaluation process of the students' background, knowledge, and overall learning style in order to adapt DI to the students needs.

Leecy's picture

Hi, Kay. I'm going to post your question in the Teaching and Learning community, asking members there to address your questions. You can access comments made in that group, but you will need to join the group to response to what others are saying. Hopefully, you'll start a good thread regarding you question. Thanks! Leecy

Marie McCray's picture

Differentiated instruction would increase the students knowledge of the lesson because I would be using different styles. The different styles of teaching would insure that each student would understand better. I would use hands-on-activities appropriated for them. The students would be instructed on their levels of understanding. I would use old learning to teach new learning.

Leecy's picture

Marie, those I good goals. Hands-on activities would certainly appeal to a lot of neglected activities. What other differentiation techniques might you use? Thanks for posting our thoughts! Leecy

jerry hopkins's picture

Each student is instructed to divide their life into six categories. A list of 36 possible categories is given to each. based on individual experiences, they choose from the list the six categories that pertain to them. They are then instructed to reflect and think about 16 items that pertain specifically to each category they have chosen.

Leecy's picture

Jerry, I love this idea! I hope you'll share it in the communities to which you belong. I notice you belong to the ELL community. I moderate the Reading and Writing CoP and would love to have you post this there. If not, I would love permission to post it as an idea for differentiating instruction! If you can add the list of 36 possible categories, that would help even more. Thanks. Leecy

Josh Anderson's picture


That's the most intuitive sounding needs assessment I've ever heard of.  Would you be willing to share a copy?

Winifred Beattie's picture

The group who did this lesson were pretty close in ability in Algebra and Geometry.  Determining the equation that fit a set of data was new to most of them (This was the learning objective of the lesson.)  The task involved collecting available data from the NASA website and determine the area of a rectangle proportional to the one that was one of the solar panels on the moon camera.  Then the students had to determine how many grains of dust the proportional rectangle would hold altogether.  Finally they had to predict when the actual solar panel would be inoperable because it was totally covered in moon dust.  The activity was done in groups of two or three.  Because they worked together, they all accurately produced an answer within 95% of the actual number that NASA published on its website.  The best part of the task was that the groups found the problem interesting and "doable."

Leecy's picture

Winifred, what a charming and effective lesson! It is an example of an integrated, differentiated, and collaborative activity that is also fun! I hope you'll post this activity in the Math and Numeracy community. Please share. Thanks! Leecy

Leecy Wise, Moderator
Reading and Writing CoP


Winifred Beattie's picture

The group who did this lesson were pretty close in ability in Algebra and Geometry.  Determining the equation that fit a set of data was new to most of them was the learning objective of the lesson. The task involved collecting available data from the NASA website and determining the area of a rectangle proportional to the one that was one of the solar panels on the moon camera.  Then the students had to determine how many grains of dust the proportional rectangle would hold altogether.  Finally they had to predict when the actual solar panel would be inoperable because it was totally covered in moon dust.  The activity was done in groups of two or three.  Because they worked together, they all accurately produced an answer within 95% of the actual number that NASA published on its website.  The best part of the task was that the groups found the problem interesting and "doable."

Amy Lopez's picture

In working in correctional education classrooms, I find that the use of choice menus works wonders to differentiate instruction. As an example, I created a tic-tac-toe menu for activities connected to the students' novel reading in English. In a correctional ed classroom, a teacher may have students in English I-IV at all levels of skill ability and progress (e.g., 1st semester of English I when it's actually 2nd semester). By delivering mini lessons and then issuing a choice menu, students of all levels are able to learn the same concept at different depths of knowledge.

Leecy's picture

Perfect, Amy. I love the idea. Would you give an example of one or two choices that would go into any of the X and 0 boxes? I'm intrigued. Thanks. Leecy

Gerrit Geurs's picture

I recently did a lesson with adult learners on the essential concepts of probability: mean, median, mode, and range. I had it all planned out that since attendance-wise I have a fickle group who show up at different times, I would have the definitions of the four terms on the board and then a copy of the practice worksheet, and that after it was completed (banking on it taking about 20 minutes) students would move on to their own individually paced content and curriculum. What could possibly go wrong? The answer to the rhetorical question is nothing went wrong, so much as nothing went right. Although, it did provide me with a good opportunity to look back.

I knew my learning objective: all learners will be able to identify mean, median, mode, and range, and then apply them with a data set. I even had assessments chosen. Where things fell apart- or more likely were less efficient- was in my anticipation that all my learners would be able to accomplish the tasks in the same way. My "higher," independent learners would be okay with my plan. My "middle" learners would be okay with a couple of examples. My "low" learners would need direct instruction, guidance, and continual practice until they started being able to solve things on their own. If I had actually identified and applied this, things may have gone much smoother. Planning for differentiation is something I struggle with.

Gerrit Geurs's picture

A lesson I am currently teaching is on using evidence from a reading to support a stance. I am preparing my learners for the HSE, and want them to do well on the writing section, specifically the essay. The learning objective is fairly cut and dry: "After the lesson, students will be able to locate a sentence in an assigned reading that supports an argumentative statement they have written." I know what I am looking for, as well as how my learners are going to demonstrate that they have nailed the lesson.

If I had not prepared this lesson with anything more than the idea that "I want my students to be able to use evidence," then maybe we would get to the end of the lesson, maybe we would not have arrived at the end. Maybe I would know what I am looking for, or maybe I would not know.

The learning objective for me is not so much of a challenge as much as preparing learning activities. 

Dianne Brown's picture

I am a MI-BEST Basic Skills Instructor.  I work with AE students who are co-enrolled in Adult Education classes and a Career-Tech Pathway. I concentrate on the student weaknesses.

This is how I use differentiated instruction. Currently I am working with 2 students who are taking Heating and Air  classes. They lack basic math skills. One student is in the beginning level so I work with him on applying his multiplication skills. the other student is in the intermediate level. I work with her on doing word problems related to her actual HVAC course. Consequently this is giving them more practice in math and preparing them for their upcoming math GED test.

Leecy's picture

Dianne, it's great that you can have those two students practice different math skills within HVAC. If you work with them at the same time, there are many ways to have them practice occupational math online. That way, you can give one your individual attention while the other becomes engaged online. I have used http://khake.com/ a lot in the past while integrating academic skills into occupational interests. It's a very old site that is no longer maintained, but the resources are valuable. The HVAC area is http://www.khake.com/page23.html. If you Google "HVAC math," a big list develops. Just ideas. Leecy (Reading and Writing CoP Moderator)

Amye Howell's picture

I work with Mi Best students who are in the Diesel Equipment Technology Career Pathway.  I  work with them individually as well as team teach in their English Composition I class.  Currently, they are working on passing the writing section of the TASC, and they write on different levels.  With my advanced student, I allow him to write and proof his paragrapghs and essays independently.  Then, I give him additional practice with grammar as needed.  With my lower level student, I cover a different grammar topic with him weekly on an individual basis.  He proofs sentences and paragraghs individually, and then I go over each one with him.  I provide power points and videos on the topic at hand.  I give him supplemental grammar exercises to complete as well.  Then, he writes his paragraghs, and we proof and edit them together.  I enjoy working with both of these students and look forward to their success on the TASC as well as in the DET program. 

Leecy's picture

Amye, it sounds like you and Dianne (above) are using very similar approaches, and I applaud you both for integrating math and writing into occupational topics. Using reading passages from occupational training and having students comment on those in writing as you appear to be doing is a great strategy. Your level differentiation is so important in retaining students! Nice work.  Leecy

Shanna Cole's picture

Since today is 9/11, I am showing a short video from the History Chanel that gives a timeline of events as they occurred on 9/11/01. I have assigned various assignments to different groups in my classes. Some are creating a timeline and listing facts in order of their occurrence. Some groups are writing an argumentative essay on citizens privacy rights. Others are researching other acts of terrorism throughout the world and building a short power point presentation on what they have found. Others are defining a list of vocabulary words pulled from the video and using them in a sentence. There are many different things going on in the classroom but we are all on the same subject and topic. 

Leecy's picture

Shanna, you have posted a perfect scenario to describe effective differentiation around a topic. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing. Leecy (Reading and Writing CoP Moderator)

Shanna Cole's picture

My lesson objective when teaching the format of a paragraph was not specific enough. I changed " Student will be able to write a properly formulated paragraph" to "Student will be able to write a properly formulated paragraph that includes a topic sentence and three supporting sentences." Grammar and punctuation as well as transition words will be added in later on in the lessons.

Jennifer Storts's picture

The classes of ESOL at the local college contain adult students of all ages and backgrounds.  Some students have had no prior education from their home country and others have had college certificates.  I have noticed that the mind's ability to learn is different from those who are illiterate compared to those who have had college education.  I have the classroom objectives divided into several categories.  I start the class with a phonics lesson pinpointing to a specific vowel sound.  I introduce the phonic sound and vocabulary with a word search and movie on Monday.  I have developed Quizlet sets to introduce the sounds through rhyming words, opposites, and pictures.  I utilize the phonic strategies from Tutor Ready.  This activity is good for the intermediates because it strengthens their ability to pronounce the English words correctly.  For the high beginners, I introduce/maintain singular/plural nouns using more words with the same vowel sound.  For the students who are intermediate, we will practice the 4 P's of verb tenses by using charts.  The benefit of the whole class participating is that the beginner students see what goals they need to achieve when learning English language. 

Other activities conducted during class time is technology session by introducing several web sites to enhance the vocabulary of English.  The students access addition websites that read

My assessments are watching and listening when the students speak to me.  I watch their writing skills to see if they are able to produce a sentence or spelling words correctly.  I do not know any other languages so they have to use their English to ask me questions.  I give them a lot of credit when they try. 

This course has reminded me to be more specific in my lesson planning and searching for different activities to enhance the students' ability to learn.   


Leecy's picture

Jennifer, thanks for providing great examples of differentiating instruction. You are addressing the learning needs of a big variety of students well! You said, " I have noticed that the mind's ability to learn is different from those who are illiterate compared to those who have had college education." I wonder if you would comment more on that difference. Very interesting. Leecy

Leonidas Santelises's picture

Since I work with adults who come from Spanish speaking countries, I cater my lessons to accommodate their needs. And that means teaching my lessons in Spanish so that they can better understand the information. Also, because I have much older students at time I have to make sure that I explain things in ways that would make it easier to understand. And that may be me sitting down with them and going over the material in a simpler way or giving more explanations. This technique is extremely helpful and necessary in the lessons that I teach. 

Leonidas Santelises's picture

I teach courses in child care regulations. I will adapt the lesson using DI principles into three levels. The beginner level will learn the abbreviations and the matching vocabulary in a given regulation. Intermediate level students will learn how to come up with ways to look up these state regulations. Advanced level students will be able to implement these regulations in their child care setting. 

Leecy's picture

Leonidas, your second example here for having learners approach tasks for the same topic at different ability levels is a good example of differentiation, where all get to contribute their own strengths in developing knowledge and skills around a topic. Your first and earlier example describes an approach that many advocate for teaching a new language although it is not as much of an example of differentiation. I invite you and others here to consider taking that approach one step further, showing how you might differentiate tasks in that Spanish-speaking group of older adults. Thanks for your examples! Leecy

Dave Breedlove's picture

I teach ESL to adults who know little or no English. They come from a variety of educational backgrounds and literacy levels - some can read and write in their own languages while others cannot. For the first few weeks of class, my lesson objectives include recognizing and producing targeted English sounds. To bring differentiated instruction into these lessons, I could try and group students by their readiness for both recognition and production. Students with less readiness could use flashcards with targeted sounds for recognition (place different sounds in stacks like "P" in one and "B" in another, etc). Students with more literate backgrounds could work in pairs to produce the sounds both orally and in writing (one student says the sound and the other writes it).  

Meggin LeVeaux's picture

Recently, I taught a lesson that required adult students to locate four resources (library, recreation center, park, and hospital) in their community and answer basic questions about those resources. Some of these questions included hours of operation, contact information, and directions to the resource. Since I considered all four resources important information, it never occurred to me to differentiate the instruction.

One way I could change my instruction is to require the less proficient students to find fewer resources than those students whose English and technological skills are more advanced. Further, I could change some of the questions to better fit the students Zone of Proximal Development. For example, I have a few students who are still struggling to understand the English alphabet, so writing directions to the different resources proved a difficult task. I could have differentiated my instruction my having those students draw a map instead of hand write out multi step directions.

Leecy's picture

Meggin, you description of how you might differentiate the activity you implemented provides an excellent example of the practice! Having some students work together might also help in completing assignments. Nice work. Thanks for sharing very useful suggestions. Leecy

cfranken's picture

In my ABE class, I see this approach as particularly useful as I have learners at vastly different levels working on the same skills. The lesson I am currently working on to try this approach would be about word choice. As I have varying levels, the vocabulary knowledge is a significant challenge. Some students are ready for difficult words, and some struggle with more basic words. In previous lessons, we have defined connotation and denotation, and I would like to create an activity that focuses on lists of words to place in positive and negative categories. This would be a good opportunity to differentiate as to build several lists, instead of one list for all students. It would be best to provide a usage example for each word, helping students work in their "ZPD". I can have a few words that are more difficult to understand, but provide context clues in the example to help students discover the meaning (students have learned context clues and do continual practice with these techniques during class).  As they develop proficiency with connotation and grouping, I would have them build sentences of similar meaning, but one sentence with the positive and one with the negative word. Again, this is a good opportunity for differentiation as some students can work with compound and complex sentences and some with simple sentences.  The learning outcome is the same, but the process to get there is nicely differentiated as to capture the wide array of student skills.

Leecy's picture

You are right on track, C! You have different strokes for different folks! Another form of differentiation, depending on your group, would be to have different tasks assumed by different students: define, illustrate, apply in..., discuss different meanings, Websites, etc... Sounds like you'll have fun, so your students will, too! Leecy

Micaela Allison-Shropshire's picture

Initial assessment should be analyzed, then test level and score would be considered in determining what learning plan to apply. Each learning plan could be individualized with the teacher creating general beginning, intermediate and advanced lessons. Then make individualized changes according to quantitative and qualitative skills of the students.

Leecy's picture

Indeed, Micaela, initial assessments, if they are not too serious, can provide could clues for differentiation. Of course, you don't have to always differentiate by levels. You could do so, as I suggested to C. above, to use strengths, fill gaps, and more. Thanks! Leecy

cfranken's picture

I currently teach a lesson writing a claim statement for the ASE RLA GED Extended Response. The LO for the lesson is to write a statement that picks a side, uses the author's name and title, and lists three specific reasons the argument is superior to the other. This is a very specific learning objective that is measurable and guides the lesson.  The students use significant background knowledge from previous lessons regarding elements of an argument and identifying author's purpose, tone and word choice. When approaching this lesson, the students find the goal to be attainable. They do need to read the selections, make a choice, and have 3 reasons supporting their decision.  I show several essays with clear, precise claim statements to give examples, as well as having them rework sentences on their own and then in pairs, analyzing claim statements and supporting reasons. This lesson is always one of the more successful lessons I teach because, I believe, the LO is very specific and the students have had a few weeks of background information to help them reach the goal.

Amy's picture

Hello, cfranken~

Would you be willing to share your lesson plan for writing the ER for the GED?  My students could really benefit from this.  Thank you.  Amy

Leecy's picture

Hi, C. Thanks for sharing another example of differentiation with us here. I love the plan and the fact that your objective is so specific. Does the differentiation occur at the start, with students reading selections that match their different reading and writing abilities? Differentiation could also occur through different rubric criteria at different levels. Just thinking here. 

cfranken's picture

Thanks!  I do use essays that have a good, basic structure and are concise for lower students so they have an easier time identifying elements of argument, but we move on to more "GED like" essay readings which are not as well constructed as time goes on. I use a differentiated rubric for those with lower skills and work hard on scaffolding readings throughout the course by first modeling my own reading process and skills (I highlight, write comments, reread sections, and begin to identify elements of argument as we learn them - Ethos, Pathos, Logos).  Eventually students slowly start working the process on their own and then in groups with varying levels so the more advanced students can share their findings with the lower students helping them identify the elements of argument (I like to use highlighters of different colors for them to identify claim, facts vs emotional arguments/word choice, and any logical fallacies - different colors really help them SEE the structure of the argument from a glance after analysis; it's pretty amazing as it allows them to compare the elements visually side by side).  The rubric for lower students is differentiated for the LO (I.e. find one specific type of logical fallacy vs several unspecified types for more advanced students).