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Differentiated Instruction workshop

Our district is sponsoring a variety of workshops they expect teachers to attend this summer. Three major topics: the new state standards, differentiated instruction (DI) and inclusivity. I recently attended the DI workshop and wanted to share some thoughts and resources. Kristi Coggin, an instructional facilitator with MNPS shared this information in her workshop.

What is Differentiated Instruction?

  • A collection of best practices strategically employed to maximize students’ learning at every turn, including giving them the tools to handle anything that is undifferentiated.
  • Highly effective teaching.
  • Requires us to do different things for different students, based upon individual student needs.
  • Whatever works to advance the student when the regular classroom approach doesn’t meet students’ needs.
  • Designed to tap into different student readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles.
  • Teaching different students the content in different ways, based on how students learn.
  • a Philosophy

With DI the philosophy you believe:

  • All students have areas of strength.
  • All students have areas of weakness.
  • Every brain is as unique as a fingerprint.
  • Each student brings prior knowledge and experience to a new learning situation.
  • Emotions impact learning.
  • Learning is a lifetime journey.
  • All students can learn.

Learning is based on a person’s

  • Preferred Learning Style
  • Experiences
  • Interests

Ways to Identify Differentiated Classrooms

  • Content is delivered with varied styles (i.e. technology, direct instruction, small groups, one-on-one, lesson planning, etc.)
  • Assessment is on-going and varied including closure activities.
  • Performance Tasks should reflect the need of the learner.
  • Instructional Strategies should be varied and engaging to all learners.

As a school librarian, I have no trouble identifying with these traits. I do hold those beliefs and I advocate for a variety of attacks when it comes to content, process, product, and assessment. So what did I benefit the most from this training? Choice Boards, student ownership of their learning (an AASL 21st Century Learner standard/disposition), and the assessment tools. I particularly liked these assessment tables:

Assessment Tools for DI Informal
Before During After
1. Squaring Off 1. Thumb It! 1. Talking Topics
2. Boxing 2. Fist of Five 2. Conversation Circles
3. Yes/No Cards 3. Face the Fact 3. Donut
4. Graffiti Facts 4. ABCD Cards 4. Agree/Disagree Cards

Assessment Tools for DI Formal
Before During After
1. Written Pre-test 1. Journaling 1. Charts
2. KWL 2. Learning Board 2. Table Pass
3. Journaling 3. Teacher-made Tests 3. Journaling
4. Surveys 4. Portfolios 4. Post Tests
5. Inventories 5. Checklists 5. Portfolio Conferences
6. Rubric
7. Effective Question

Internet Resources collected by Kristi Coggin:



Other resources  I found to support further study of Differentiated Instruction:
The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners by Carol Ann Tomlinson. 
Kagan Publishing has a list and I’d recommend everything by Carol Ann Tomlinson – 

CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) has a book list.

Teachers, Change Your Bait! Brain-Compatible Differentiated Instruction by Martha Kaufeldt. 2005, Crown Publishing Ltd. ISBN: 1904424619

We used this article in the workshop. The principals involved loved it and are planning to have all faculty members read it at the beginning of the year inservices. 
Wilmes, Barbara, Lauren Harrington, Patty Kohler-Evans, and David Sumpter. "Coming to our senses: incorporating brain research findings into classroom instruction." Education Digest 74.3 (Nov 2008): 24(5). 

What are Choice Boards? Teacher designed choices in a variety of formats (organizers) that allow students more choice in how they share their learning. Here are some examples:

Differentiating Math 

From Parajo Valley’s GATE 

An example of a Medieval Choice Board: Be sure to click the link to download the word document.

An easier to read site on Responsive Teaching and Best Practices with DI 

Differentiation in the Real World discussion on Tic-Tac-Toe/ Choice Board 


  1. Amy Bowllan says:


    THIS is most useful! I will certainly be sharing this and posting it. Great!



  2. DI is the buzz word in our district as well, thank.


  3. Diane,
    Your description of DI is a great reference for those who are unfamiliar with the concept.
    I agree that DI is a great approach to meet the needs of students. Although it takes some work at first, I’m sure you’ll find that it pays off when attempting to reach unmotivated learners.
    Thanks for the post.


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