Examples of differentiated instruction in the classroom

Each student has a different learning style. Chances are that not all students learn a subject in the same way. So how can you deliver your lessons better to reach everyone in the classroom? Think of examples of differentiated instruction in the classroom.

Differentiated instruction or differentiated instruction is the tailoring of content, process, or product” to suit the “readiness, interest, and learning profile” of a specific student.

In this article, find out exactly what that means, and how does differentiated instruction work in the classroom? And some examples of pedagogical differentiation

Definition of pedagogical differentiation

Differentiated instruction means adapting instruction to meet individual needs. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products, or learning environment, using continuous assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to teaching.

Teachers who practice differentiated instruction in the classroom can:

  • Design lessons based on student learning styles.
  • Group students by common interest, topic, or ability for assignments.
  • Assess student learning using formative assessment .
  • Manage the classroom to create a safe and supportive environment.
  • Continually evaluate and adjust lesson content to meet student needs.

How to implement pedagogical differentiation in the classroom?

Teachers can differentiate at least four elements of the classroom based on student readiness , interest, or learning profile:

  • Content : What the student needs to learn or how the student will access the information;
  • Process : Activities in which the student engages in order to make sense of or master the content;
  • Products : Culminating projects that require the student to repeat, apply, and extend what they have learned in a unit;
  • Learning Environment : The way the classroom functions and feels.

Teachers can differentiate instruction in four ways:

1. Content

As you already know, the foundational content of the lessons should cover learning standards set by the school district or state educational standards. But some students in your class may not be fully familiar with the concepts of a lesson, some students may have partial fluency, and some students may already be familiar with the content before the lesson begins.

What you could do is differentiate the content by designing activities for groups of students that cover different levels  of Bloom’s taxonomy  (a classification of levels of intellectual behavior ranging from lower-order thinking skills to higher-order reflection). The six levels are: Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create.

Students who are unfamiliar with a lesson may be required to perform tasks at the lower levels: remembering and understanding. Students with some proficiency might be asked to apply and analyze content, and students who have high levels of proficiency might be asked to complete tasks in the areas of assessment and creation.

Examples of differentiating activities:

  • Match vocabulary words to definitions.
  • Read a passage of text and answer the related questions.
  • Think of a situation that happened to a character in the story and a different outcome.
  • Differentiate fact from opinion in history.
  • Identify an author’s position and provide evidence to support that view.
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the lesson.

2. Process

Each student has a preferred learning style, and successful differentiation includes providing material to each style: visual, auditory and kinesthetic, and through words. This process-related method also takes into account that not all students need the same support from the teacher and that students can choose to work in pairs, small groups or individually.

And while some students can benefit from one-on-one interaction with you or the classroom aide, others can progress on their own. Teachers can enhance student learning by providing support based on individual needs .

Examples of process differentiation:

  • Provide textbooks for visual and word learners.
  • Enable auditory learners to listen to audiobooks.
  • Give kinesthetic learners the opportunity to complete an interactive online assignment.

3. Product

If the student creates at the end of the lesson to demonstrate mastery of the content. This can take the form of tests, projects, reports or other activities. You can assign students activities that demonstrate mastery of an instructional concept in a way that the student prefers, depending on the learning style.

Examples of end product differentiation:

  • Read and write learners write a book report.
  • Visual learners create a graphic story organizer.
  • Auditory students make an oral report.
  • Kinesthetic learners construct a diorama illustrating the story.

4. Learning environment

The conditions for optimal learning include both physical and psychological elements. Additionally, a flexible classroom layout is key, incorporating various types of furniture and layouts to support individual and group work. Psychologically, teachers should also use classroom management techniques that promote a safe and supportive learning environment.

Examples of environmental differentiation:

  • Divide some students into reading groups to discuss the assignment.
  • Allow students to read individually if they wish.
  • Create quiet spaces where there are no distractions.


In conclusion, the goal of differentiated instruction is maximum student growth and individual success. In short, the goal is often to bring everyone up to “grade level” or to ensure that everyone has mastered a prescribed set of skills within a specified time frame. 

The teacher can then measure everyone’s progress only against a predetermined standard. Such a goal is sometimes appropriate and it can be helpful to understand where a child’s learning is in relation to a benchmark.

Read also: 5 Strategies of pedagogical differentiation

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