How to Differentiate Instruction (Without Losing Your Mind)

By Liana Loewus — February 06, 2019 1 min read
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Instructional expert and esteemed blogger Larry Ferlazzo wants you to know: Differentiation isn’t as hard as you might think.

In an animated video published by Education Week this fall, he explained that differentiating instruction is really about getting to know your students and being flexible with the ways they demonstrate their learning. It is not, in fact, about spending your evenings planning a separate lesson for each student.

Today, we’re publishing two more videos about differentiation featuring Ferlazzo and veteran teacher Katie Hull Sypnieski. (They recently co-authored a book called The ELL Teacher’s Toolbox.)

In the video below, Ferlazzo and Hull Sypnieski describe techniques they use to differentiate lessons for English-language learners. Those include strategies like pairing up students of different language levels and playing classroom videos at slower speeds.

And in the other video, below, the teachers talk through the kinds of questions they ask themselves when planning a lesson for a multi-ability classroom. What will students do if they finish early? How can the materials be modified to make them useful for all types of learners?

The goal with differentiation is to make any single lesson accessible to all students. “Not everybody will get the same exact text or use the same strategy,” Hull Sypnieski explains in the ELL video, “but it’s fair because you’re meeting every student where they are.”

For more information (and tips) on differentation, see Differentiated Instruction: A Primer and this collection of blog posts from Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo.

You may also want to check out this widely read 2015 opinion piece by educational consultant James R. Delisle about why “Differentiation Doesn’t Work” and the response from education professor Carol Ann Tomlinson.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.