Differentiation Tips for Parents

Differentiation Defined

Differentiation can be defined as a way of teaching in which teachers proactively modify curriculum, teaching methods, resources, learning activities, and student products. The needs of individual students and/or small groups of students are addressed to maximize the learning opportunity for each student in the classroom. ~Tomlinson, et al.

Differentiation is changing the pace, level or kind of instruction you provide in response to individual learner needs, styles, or interest. ~Heacox

Why Differentiation?

When learning tasks are consistently too hard, students become anxious and frustrated. When tasks are consistently too easy, boredom results. Both boredom and anxiety inhibit a student’s motivation to learn, and – eventually—harm achievement as well. Differentiated instruction helps teachers avoid student anxiety and boredom that can be evident in one-size-fits-all curriculum.

Differentiation Is...

  • Having high expectations for all students.
  • Adjustment of the core content.
  • Assigning activities geared to different learning styles, interests, and levels of thinking.
  • Providing students with choices about what and how they learn.
  • Flexible because teachers move students in and out of groups based upon students’ instructional needs.
  • Acknowledgment of individual needs
  • Articulated, high level goals reflecting continuous progress.
  • Assessment to determine student growth and new needs.
  • Adjustment of curriculum by complexity, breadth, and rate.
  • Educational experiences which extend, replace, or supplement standard curriculum.

Differentiation Is Not...

  • Individual learning plans for each student.
  • More problems, questions, or assignments
  • Get it on your own
  • Recreational reading
  • Independent reading without curriculum connections
  • Free time to draw or practice your talent
  • Cooperative learning groups where the gifted kid gets to be the leader
  • Activities that all students will be able to do
  • Interest centers unless linked to core content and at a complex level

The Parent's Role

  • Asking teachers to specify ways in which differentiated instruction will be provided.
  • Understanding that teachers can not (and should not) differentiate all assignments and materials every day.
  • Encouraging students to let teachers know when assignments are a good fit and when they are not.
  • Encouraging students to compete against themselves rather than comparing themselves to peers.
  • Volunteering in the classroom.

Helpful Web Sites

If you have any questions, please contact Shari Ledahl, District Curriculum Coordinator, @ 763-497-6536 or sharilynl@stma.k12.mn.us