Introduction to Differentiated Instruction Lessons and Units

Lessons usually focus on a core understanding or principle in a given unit of study. They can last a part of a class period or can span several days. Lessons contain certain objectives that the teacher decides to address and the student must demonstrate that they have learned.
Joyce VanTasssel-Baska

A Unit is a framework for a set of curriculum experiences that are organized around common ideas, information, concepts, and principles. Units are comprised of purposeful lessons, strategies, and activities. There is usually some culminating product, like a project, alternative assessment or test, at the end of a given unit. Specific criteria for mastery of the objectives should be determined and articulated prior to evaluating the products or other culminating tasks.
Joyce VanTassel-Baska

Principles of a Differentiated Classroom

  • Learning experiences are based on diagnosis of student readiness, interest and/or learning profile.
  • Content, activities and products are developed in response to varying needs of varied learners.
  • Teaching and learning are focused on key concepts, understandings and skills.
  • All students participate in “respectful” work.
  • Teacher and students work together to ensure continual engagement and challenge for each learner.
  • The teacher coordinates use of time, space and activities.
  • Flexible grouping ensures consistently fluid working arrangements, including whole class learning, pairs, triads, and quads, student-selected groups, and random groups.
  • Time use is flexible in response to student needs.
  • A variety of management strategies (such as learning centers, interest centers, compacting, contract, independent study, collegial partnerships, tiered assignments, learning buddies etc.) are used to help target instruction to student needs.
  • Clearly established individual and group criteria provide guidance toward success.
  • Students are assessed in a variety of ways appropriate to demonstrate their own thought and growth.

The Differentiated Classroom:
Responding to the Needs of All Learners
by Carol Ann Tomlinson

General Resources