CorePlanner Blog


4 Ways to Differentiate Seamlessly

Differentiating lessons is very challenging!

The scene in a fully differentiated classroom is like a grand ballet unfolding: children moving around, different groups playing different roles, and the teacher waltzing between all of it. It can be intimidating to emulate! Today I thought I’d compile some of the quick ways I differentiate my instruction to meet a spectrum of ability.

1.  Differentiate your delivery

a. Most students have an attention span between 7-14 minutes. I use that timeframe as a cue to switch things up every 10 minutes or so. Because a topic will take an entire class period to teach, I don’t switch topics, I just switch delivery. If I start with a lecture, I’ll transition to answering a few questions. If I start with inquiry, I’ll transition to a think-pair-share or question/answer. This transition keeps all students focused and enables students with all intelligences to flex their understanding of the topic at hand.

2.  Differentiate the level of analysis required

a. Try to pose questions that fall in all 3 buckets:

i.   Accessible/discrete
ii.  Require prior knowledge
iii. Highly analytical requiring defense of idea

b. This will allow students of all abilities to be challenged. Then, if you ask for student volunteers, you know there are some questions which all students can answer. Be sure to scaffold who you call on so that students who seldom participate can join the conversation!

3. Offer different reading levels

a. For many of the students I work with, reading ability is a huge barrier. If you teach a content outside of reading, aim to offer reading material at various levels. You can do this 2 ways:

i.  Photocopy the text you’d like all students to use and mark up a copy for lower level readers. Highlight important parts, cross out unnecessary details they don’t need to read, and add notes about vocabulary they may not know.

ii. Work with your librarian or reading teacher to find resources at the student’s level. The Lexile Framework for Reading is a good place to begin.

4. Use prior knowledge

a. Some students will struggle with material without prior knowledge. Link topics to things they are familiar with or provide a short video clip to ground them in the experience before they approach the lesson. This will increase their confidence (“oh yeah, I know about this…”) and engage them.

What are quick tips you can share for differentiating your lessons?


-¬‐ Annie Krut, M.Ed.

Annie is on a mission to teach kids the skills they need to be happy. She’s using neuroscience, the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Get the curriculum at: and join the conversation on Twitter: