Differentiated Lesson Planning

Explore these templates to begin the process of differentiated planning in your classroom
239 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

Differentiation is tailoring instruction to meet the needs of the learners in your classroom. Students learn in different ways and therefore need flexibility in how they are taught. As a teacher, you can differentiate through content, product, and process according to students' interests, readiness, and learning profiles. Differentiated Lesson Planning can help you organize and break down an overwhelming process in order to begin differentiating in your classroom.

Implementation Steps

60 minutes
  1. Review the BetterLesson Differentiated Lesson Planning Template in the resources below.

  2. Determine the key objectives and essential questions of the lesson.

  3. Use the planning template to outline the following (KUD):

    1. What students will Know (standards, content)

    2. What will students Understand (principles, generalizations)

    3. What will students Do (outcomes, objectives)

  4. Use assessment data to group your students into levels in order to help you think about their needs.

    1. Assessment data is key to effective differentiation, so be sure to frequently assess students in a meaningful and productive way.

  5. Consider students' needs, interests, and learning styles and decide if you will differentiate through content, process, or product.

  6. Check these off on the template to help you organize your plan and brainstorm what elements you will include in your specific lesson. There are specific examples within the template, but you can also use the ASCD website (included as a resource below) to help you think of other ideas.

  7. After you have decided how you plan on differentiating, begin planning the lesson, incorporating elements of differentiation in.

    1. In addition to differentiating through content, process, and product, consider the ways in which students vary in their readiness, interests, and learning styles. It is helpful to keep these in mind and to address these characteristics in the planning process.

      1. When differentiating in response to readiness, consider the level of difficulty of the task and whether or not the student will need additional peer or teacher support.

      2. When differentiating in response to interest, align activities to students' interests.

      3. When differentiating in response to learning style, address a wide variety of learning styles in your lessons and learning activities.

  8. Reflect on whether or not the lesson effectively addresses the needs of all your students.

  9. After teaching, assess student mastery of the objective.

    1. Did the differentiated lesson support students to reach the goal?

    2. Collect this data to support you to further differentiate based on students' needs and to iterate on your own lesson plans to better support student mastery.

Additional Resources:

Overview of Differentiating by Content, Process, and Product (Source: Carol Tomlinson)

Student-Centered Learning Objectives

In order to reach a learning objective, students need to know "where" they are going. Student-centered learning objectives for daily learning are expressed in student-friendly language, tell what students will do differently after the learning, are specific and measurable, and are assessed at the end of the lesson. It is important that students know, in a timely way (immediately if possible), how they perform on meeting their daily lesson objective. Using student-centered learning objectives not only allows you to know whether students have acquired the desired learning, but they also tell students the purpose of their learning and whether they achieved it. Couple this teaching move to goal setting and reflection to grow student ownership of learning. Watch out for the tendency to write objectives as descriptions of the learning. If you currently aren't writing lesson objectives, tied to standards, start with that step first and then convert the learning objectives into student-friendly language. 

Differentiated Lesson Planning Templates

Consult the resources below to explore several differentiated lesson planning templates.

Differentiated Lesson Planning When Using the EL Education Curriculum

When using the EL Education curriculum, the first place to consult for ideas to meet the needs of all learners is the specific EL lesson plan. There are multiple sections that provide ideas for how to scaffold that particular lesson including the 'Supporting English Language Learners' sections, 'Levels of Support' and the 'Universal Design for Learning' sections. For additional ideas, consult the three documents below that offer a range of scaffolding strategies, including some that require a low level of planning to ones that require a more systematic approach.