Five Easy Ways to Differentiate Instruction


Five Easy Ways to Differentiate InstructionChances are you already use a number of methods to differentiate instruction in your classroom. Stop and think about recent lessons. Are you . . . 

  • using different pacing and/or time allowed
  • having students help others- peer tutoring
  • using different forms of projects such as essays, speeches, presentation methods
  • providing more structured instructions or steps for completion
  • asking higher level questions [Bloom’s Taxonomy] within your lessons

By making slight adjustments to activities and assignments you are differentiating the same materials to meet the needs of your students.

All teachers want to provide learning opportunities for individual students who progress at higher and lower learning rates; however, finding the time to create different assignments can be extremely time consuming. Here are five ways to differentiate instruction that are manageable.

Five Easy Methods for Differentiating Assignments

RAFT Example

RAFT (RAFT is a writing strategy to help students focus on four areas of communication:    Role of the Writer, Audience, Format, Topic)

Students select the role, audience, format and topic from a chart listing approximately 16 categories. Within one lesson you may have a student who is a reporter writing an article for women about ways to recycle. In the same lesson, a student might be an advertiser creating an ad for youth on ways to take trash and turn it into furniture. The possibilities are great even within your structured lesson. You can read more about RAFT here and download a free sample lesson using this method.

Student Response CardsStudent Response Cards 

Using student response cards is a method for checking student understanding of a topic by having students hold up cards with the answers to teacher asked questions. The cards may simply be A, B, C, D or color coded cards in which each color stands for an answer. I use student response cards listing the following:

  • parts of speech
  • figurative language terms such as similes, metaphor, and so on
  • story elements

Response cards can easily be differentiated by having some students write definitions or draw clues on the back sides of the cards.

Fill in the Blanks 

Many printable practice pages come with full page answer keys. Print out a copy of the answer key. White out key words in the answers. Duplicate the page with missing words to select students.


Cubing is an activity that asks students to look at an item or topic from six different levels of complexity. Students can visual the six components of cubing by looking at an actual cube. Each side of the cube represents one of the six points students must write a paragraph.

  • Describe- What does the item look like?
  • Compare – How does this object compare to a similar item?
  • Associate – What items do you think about when you look at this item/topic?
  • Analyze – Describe its parts.
  • Apply – How can I use, present, or change it?
  • Argument – Present an argument for or against the item/topic.

I recommend trying this method with a simple concrete item such as a beach chair before moving to more complex topics that will require research such as the Revolutionary War.

Cubes can easily be differentiated by interest and complexity of topics.

Tic Tac Toe Choice Boards 

With the Tic Tac Toe Choice boards, students are given a choice of nine items printed in a 3 by 3 grid to look like Tic Tac Toe. Students must complete three of the activities of their own choice. The boards need to have a variety of activities that include different types of learning. For example, for a list of vocabulary words students might:

Write the words in shaving cream. Draw a picture of each word. Divide the words into syllables.
Write sentences with the words.
Write the words in triangles. Make up a song or rap using the words.
Use the words in a letter to a good friend telling about your school. Use the words in a story.

Make up riddles or silly questions with the words.


Gay Miller


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