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Differentiated Instruction (DI) recognizes all learners in the classroom as unique and individual; their strengths and weaknesses, their interests, their learning style and their needs. Differentiated learning requires the learner to take greater responsibility for his or her own learning. Teachers who differentiate understand that learners have an active role in learning, making decisions and solving problems, and that learners construct knowledge as opposed to covering content. In a differentiated classroom, learners have choice.

In setting up the differentiated classroom, teachers also have decisions to make. The Innovative Teachers' Companion can help you make these effectively on:

Content & Context

The information learners are expected to engage with. Is it necessary and relevant to the learner? What do my learners already know? This can be achieved through using a whole range of graphic organizers, such as Concept Maps, KWHL, Y-Charts and PCQ.


How learners engage with and make sense of that information. Are collaborative and challenging tasks presented? What cognitive and cooperative strategies have been used? How do my learners learn best? Ensuring that active learning takes place such as debate, analysis and criticism in order to interact with information.


How they communicate that information to others. Have learners been given sufficient choice in presenting what has been learned? Has the journey been scaffolded and supported? Is the length and complexity of the product geared to the learner? For example, the same information can be presented as a paragraph, a story map, a skit, a PowerPoint presentation or a group presentation.

Differentiated Learning in Action!

Debatable Issues!

At the beginning of a topic, ask students a higher order question, such as:

  • Is global warming really an inconvenient truth? (Geography)
  • Was Richard the Lionheart really a good king? (English/History)
  • Is it possible for Goldilocks to reconcile with the Three Bears? (Relationships-General)

Students complete this initial task through the strategy 1:4:P:C:R. This will identify their prior knowledge, areas that require further research and their interests. A class debate could then take place through the strategy Judge Jury.

Students now thoroughly research the topic, filling the gaps in their knowledge base as discovered in the initial activity as well as the core information as directed by the teacher/curriculum. Resources such as the internet, newspapers, journals, magazines and discussions with recommended agencies are all available to students.

Students choose to present their final findings on the issue as a persuasive PowerPoint, documentary, skit or magazine article.