How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms

How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms

How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms

How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms


Curiosity and inspiration are powerful catalysts for learning. In this 2nd edition of a book that has provided inspiration to countless teachers, Carol Ann Tomlinson offers three new chapters, extended examples and information in every chapter, and field-tested strategies that teachers can use in today's increasingly diverse classrooms. Tomlinson shows how to use students readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles to address student diversity. In addition, the author shows teachers how to differentiate, or structure, lessons at every grade level and content area to provide scaffolds --as well as high-speed elevators--for
• The content of lessons,
• The processes used in learning, and
• The products of learning. Teachers can draw on the book's practical examples as they begin to differentiate instruction in their own classrooms. Strategies include curriculum compacting, sidebar investigations, entry points, graphic organizers, contracts, and portfolios. As Tomlinson says, Differentiation challenges us to draw on our best knowledge of teaching and learning. It suggests that there is room for both equity and excellence in our classrooms. How is this book different from the 1st edition?
• 3 new chapters, focusing on teacher responses to student differences, providing new examples and strategies, addressing parent involvement, and discussing grading and assessment.
• 16 new illustrations, showing examples of differentiated content, products, and processes.
• New foreword.
• More references and resources.
• New, larger format and design


The students populating U.S. classrooms today are a diverse lot. They come from differing cul- tures and have different learning styles. They arrive at school with differing levels of emotion- al and social maturity. Their interests differ greatly, both in topic and intensity. At any given time, they reflect differing levels of academic readiness in various subjects—and in various facets of a single subject. And to complicate things even further, readiness and interest can vary for a given student over time and depend- ing on the subject matter.

Teachers in mixed-ability classrooms face multiple challenges, at every grade level. Each September, many 1st graders arrive already able to read 3rd grade books with comprehension, while their peers grapple for months with the idea of left-to-right print progression or the dif- ference between short and long vowels. Some 3rd graders make an independent leap from multiplication to division before any explana- tion has been offered. Many of these same chil-

dren, when they reach middle school, also make connections between themes in social studies and literature, or apply advanced math- ematical tools to solving science problems before other students in their classes grasp the main idea of a chapter in the textbook. In high school, students who may have been previously identified as [slow] or [average] may surprise everyone when they're able to develop a com- plex and articulate defense of a position related to scientific ethics or economic strategy. And some of their classmates who had, until now, found school a [cinch] must work hard to feel comfortable with applications at a more abstract level.

In life, kids can choose from a variety of clothing to fit their differing sizes, styles, and preferences. We understand, without explana- tion, that this makes them more comfortable and gives expression to their developing person- alities. In school, modifying or differentiating instruction for students of differing readiness . . .

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