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A Florida State University Center

How to Differentiate Instruction

What is Differentiated Instruction?

Differentiated Instruction is matching instruction to meet the needs of individual learners. The teacher forms small, flexible teacher–led instructional groups based on student data and observations. The teacher groups students with similar instructional needs, limiting the size of the group based on the intensity of instruction needed. The focus and format of reading skills instruction varies with the skill level of the students. How often and how long the teacher meets with each small group varies depending on student needs. Students who are more at risk will need to meet more frequently and for longer periods. This small group targeted skill instruction supplements and reinforces high quality and consistent initial reading instruction.

When is Differentiated Instruction Implemented?

Differentiated Instruction is implemented during the 90+ minute reading block. Whole group instruction is provided using the core reading curriculum as a guide, and is usually followed by small group reading centers to develop reading skills both cooperatively and independently. During the reading center time, the classroom teacher meets with small groups to provide systematic and explicit instruction in identified reading skill areas.

How is Differentiated Instruction Implemented in the Classroom?

Differentiated Instruction is implemented in the teacher-led group. The teacher forms small, flexible groups based on student data and observations. Students and classes vary from one another in many important ways. For that reason, there is no one correct way to place students into small groups for instruction. The suggested number of students per group is 1-4 for struggling readers (intensive and strategic) and 5-8 for those students on grade level for reading. The smaller group size is needed for struggling readers because it allows the teacher more opportunity to individualize reading instruction. The classroom is then organized based on how frequently the teacher needs to meet with each group per week (e.g., group meets daily, group meets 3 times per week) and the number of minutes per day (e.g., 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes).

Select a grade level to view information on forming groups.