Essential Question 1:  What is Differentiated Instruction?

Why is it that we always wish or want for life to go back to “normal” or for things to be how they “used” to be?  Our life experience no matter how long we’ve lived it, tell us that things are never normal or exactly the same.  From day to day, there are countless ways that things are “different” and we can’t recreate yesterday exactly the way it happened.  There is the familiar or the ordinary, routine things we do or have, but it’s never exactly the same.  That’s very much how I feel about differentiated instruction; I just accept that no two days will be alike and I should plan more than I think I need.  I have a general structure and routine but I expect to change my plan throughout the day.  Differentiated classrooms have “flexible grouping, which accommodates students who are strong in some areas and weaker in others” (Tomlinson, p. 3).  Differentiated instruction is acknowledging the diversity of learners that you have and believing that they add value to your instruction.  It means that you incorporate students’ readiness, interests, and learning styles into your instruction (content, process, and product).

It’s interesting to recognize that in the corporate world, these traits and elements of differentiation are vital to the success of a business.  Companies devote significant resources to researching interests, behaviors, and preferences of their customers; there are elaborate technologies and teams of employees who constantly analyze data that could help businesses to be more productive and responsive to consumers!

I chose to make my infographic on the student elements of differentiation, based on Smith and Throne’s (2009) Table 2.1 – Definition of Student Traits and Possible Strategies for Differentiation.  I wanted to separate the curricular elements and will create an additional illustration for content, process, and product.

DI Infographic by @rockislandgirl8 01-16-2014

For a web view of my infographic, go to

I believe that students (and teachers too) bring diversity to the learning environment; as the teacher, my role is to cultivate an appropriate, supportive, and relevant learning environment for the students.

In my infographic you see three (3) student traits that necessitate differentiated instruction:

In the classroom (black box), students are arranged in general proximity to a white icon that represents an INTEREST area – sports, traveling, gaming, science, YouTube, music, computers, photography, just to name a few.  The students are not “categorized by their interest area because at any time throughout the school year, those interest areas can change or students shift to other areas.  They can also drift towards the middle of the room, when they seem to have a general lack of interest in what their peers find fascinating, or they are too hesitant to share what they are curious about.

In the yellow oval, we see the students in a lineup with arrows to indicate a range of READINESS, which is how prepared they are to learn and what prior knowledge they have on the content.  The shorter icons represent students who are less ready to learn and obviously the larger icons are students who are more prepared for a particular lesson.

In the purple starburst, you see each student icon represented by a different color; this is an illustration of the various learning styles of students.  I wanted to keep it simple in the theme of the infographic and not include types of learning styles, so for my purposes, I just wanted to use color to show various styles.

And lastly, on the right of the black box, you see a quote by Carol Ann Tomlinson that I chose because I felt that it was an appropriate fit for my infographic theme (Conklin & Sorrell, 2009).


Conklin, W. and Sorrell, C.  (2009).  Applying Differentiation Strategies.  Shell Education.  Retrieved from

Smith, G. E., and Throne, S.  (2009).  Differentiating Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms.  Eugene, OR, USA: ISTE, 2009. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 14 January 2015.

Tomlinson, C.A.  (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2001. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 14 January 2015.

5 thoughts on “Essential Question 1:  What is Differentiated Instruction?

  1. Wow! You did an awesome job on your infographic and I loved how it related to the classroom and the students’ interests. I also loved how you did the picture of the students and the larger the icon the more ready they were. Definitely portrays a classroom. Nice job!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mia,

    This statement from your inphographic “We all learn in different ways on different days” is so true! We always say students learn differently, but I think we do forget that it’s not always the same student getting the extra help. Every student has their moments. I can have one student score extremely high on a lesson then the next day or lesson, score extremely low and need support all the way through the lesson. I loved your analogy of differentiation. Trying to repeat a day is never exactly the same. I never thought of DI this way, but it’s so true. There are always things that will need to be changed or modified for students. I don’t think there has been a day during any of my lessons that I haven’t modified for students or completely changed the approach. I constantly have flexible groups in my classroom. It’s important to give extra support to students and assess all the time. I think non-educators , think of assessment as just grading papers. It was interesting talking to some friends this weekend about differentiation. They had no idea how much assessment (informal, formal…) went into our daily schedule.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really like the amount of color and how you describe what the color represents. Nice work. I agree with Amanda, students learn differently on different days, and that is why it is so important to teach students in multiple ways. I also liked the icons you have in the top half, I see youtube, and a game controller. That tells me, it take whatever it takes to reach students.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your response to this weeks question was filled with a lot of wisdom. I agree that going back to the way things used to be is not necessarily a good idea. Although many of our values stay the same over the years, our lives do not. We live in an ever changing world that requires us to continually adapt. Kids do not learn the same way they did when I was a kid. Technology has been a big player in that change. I appreciated your comment about no two days ever being alike. Some days, I feel like my lessons were absolutely wonderful. Other days I feel like my kids would have done better if I had just stayed in bed. There are days when my kids are academically amazing and others when they respond as though their brains are out of power and they forgot where their chargers are. As educators, we need to be willing to adapt to these ever changing environments. If we don’t, our kids will be the ones who will lose.
    Fantastic infographic! Just like the rest of your blog posting, it was full of wonderful words of wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

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