Curriculum Spotlight: Newsela

My first master teacher just introduced me to Newsela which she uses all the time with her fifth-grade class. It is a free site that cultivates news articles for students to read. The best part, each article is available at a variety of reading levels so you can differentiate for your students without any heavy lifting. Some articles are also provided in Spanish, which can be a great resource for ELL students or even Spanish classes. 1

5 Misses: Differentiated Instruction

Yesterday, I gave five examples of Differentiated Instruction. Today, I am sharing five things that are not differentiated instruction. Everyone makes mistakes but maybe this post can help guide you away from misclassifying a strategy as differentiated instruction.

  1. Giving students different manipulatives to work on the same concept in the same way. For example, one student gets M&Ms, another uses Jelly Beans and another uses legos. Students are all using a manipulative in some fashion to build one to one correspondence while counting.
  2. Providing a single list of activities or books to the whole class and letting the students select their own off the list. Student choice boards or lists are great but if there is one list for all of the students it doesn’t count as a type of differentiated instruction.
  3. Assigning homework to the class but letting the high achievers skip it. Not assigning a task is not a form of differentiated instruction.
  4. Letting advanced students have free time, play time or even leave class early. Again, lack of instruction activities does not count as a form of differentiated instruction.
  5. Having high achievers teach the low achievers.
    1. Wait didn’t I say peer tutoring is a form of differentiated instruction? I did and it is when the arrangement is reciprocal, both students are acting as the tutor for a topic and student for another topic.
    2. However, if there is not a give and take if only one student is providing aid to another student without it being reciprocated then it is not differentiated instruction.

Give me 5: Differentiated Instruction

  1. PEP: Personalized education plan book that contains individually leveled materials for either enrichment, practice or remediation
  2. Adaptive Interactive Lessons and Assessments: These activities measure how a student is doing and adjust to either easier or harder to put them right in their ZPD (zone of proximal development); challenging to do manually but lots of software is out there that uses this idea-especially in Math.
  3. Different sets of comprehension questions for readings or books that are leveled to the student’s reading comprehension abilities
  4. Coaching one-to-one for a student to help them with their individual challenges
  5. Peer tutoring groups, perhaps student A is strong in Math but weak in reading and student B is weak in Math but strong in reading, pairing them together they each have an opportunity to mentor the other, this can be pairings or small groups.


Now that I have given you 5 ways to accomplish differentiated instruction, tomorrow I will show you 5 ways that are not differentiated instruction.


Steever, S. (2015). Personal Education Plan (PEP) Books. In Best Practices for Elementary What Award-Winning Teachers Do (2015 ed.). New York, NY: First Skyhourse Publishing.

Curriculum Spotlight: Reading Rockets

Reading Rockets is a great resource for Differentiated Instruction information and mainstream reading instruction. They have pages on classroom strategies, a professional development course, articles about how to tackle specific challenges and the information of why these challenges arise, fluency, comprehension, content area literacy, dyslexia, ELL, Phonics…just to name a few.

Professional Development Spotlight: ASCD

The ASCD Differentiated Instruction Page has a huge collection of links for differentiated instruction including articles, videos, book suggestions and online PD courses. It is an extensive resource and if you are struggling to figure out differentiated instruction or even just looking for a new approach, this is a great site to start your researching.

SUPER Resource Spotlight: Edutopia

Edutopia has been a go-to stop for education resources. I think one of my favorite parts is the video archive which lets me view other people’s projects in action to get a better understanding of what it might look like in my own classroom.  Seeing a positive example of a success in the classroom will help me be better prepared to design similar curriculum for my own class. Edutopia has great articles and videos on a wide array of topics including but not limited to technology integration in the classroom, differentiated instructionassessments, cooperative learning, project-based learning, curriculum development, etc. The list goes on and on, certainly worth bit of time to explore.

Professional Development Spotlight: Cult of Pedagogy

Cult of Pedagogy is a great website site to indulge in curated on the articles and info on the craft of teaching. Totally a great site for professional development where they explore the craft of teaching, dig into the theory behind teaching and explore the emotions of teaching. I believe that by reading posts that explore what makes up teaching written by more experienced teachers, that I will have the opportunity to gain wisdom from their knowledge and experiences.