Differentation Literacy

Why Important


Differentiated instruction for students with diverse needs requires an educator who is willing to make critical decisions in a timely manner that make learning accessible to each and every student in the classroom. According to Morrow and Gambrell (2011), differentiating instruction requires a two pronged belief system. The first belief is that “teachers need to recognize that the process of becoming literate follows a developmental path from the simple to the complex, from the concrete to the symbolic, from the conventional to the unconventional, from the cradle to the grave” (p. 413). The recipe for success is as unique as the individual. The second belief is that successful differentiated instruction involves resisting “the tendency of some schools to create a ‘one size fits all’ curriculum, which implemented, will not meet the needs of all children” (p.413). It requires using a variety of research-based strategies used to energize data-driven instruction.

Differentiated instruction and literacy instruction

No two students are the same, nor do or will any student in a class learn the same. Almost any classroom will have students from backgrounds with circumstances that with either hinder or promote there learning. Educators should not try and make all students alike. Educators should us instruction that offers a wide range of possibilities to address the needs of the student.The expectation is that all students grow in their reading ability.

Teachers must study their students to teach them well. Educators need to study each student individually. To do less would not provide the student with the attention she or he deserves. While educators assess their students at the same time educator should work the student so that they can get to know themselves as learners so that they can make decisions about their own learning. Strategies for understanding students as individual learners are:

i. Student surveys

ii. Observations

iii. Interviews

iv. Think-alouds

v. Checklists

vi. Progress notes

vii. Performance tasks

viii. Reading portfolios

Effective teachers teach up. Educators need to develop and implement authentic curriculum which will allow individual students to meet their goals.Educators must understand the need of the students to achieve academic literacy. Educators are discouraged from labeling student because they fail to meet preconceived notations of what a successful student might look like. Responding to students’ readiness, interest and learning profile enhances student success.Designing and organizing instruction that is focused is a critical component for educators. Without the focus, the instruction is inefficient and students end up completing easy activities which do not promote new learning. Creating a classroom environment which supports successful reading for all students should be the focus of the educator and classrooms need to have a variety of books which promote literacy. One size fits all curriculums and expecting each student to read at the same level and same books will not lead to successful reading outcomes.


i. Must use content based literacy to achieve goals

ii. Provide discipline specific strategy instruction

iii. Increase opportunities to read

iv. Incorporate different literacy materials

v. Literacy assessment

vi. Use challenging text with explanations

vii. Use text which are of zonal of proximal development

viii. Use text which build self-efficacy

ix. Use a variety of levels of text

x. Examples

1. Math read with precision

2. Science transform material from one form to another

3. History how to evaluate sources and analyze evidence


Lenski, Susan. (2011) What RTI Means for Content Area Teachers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. Issue 4, p276-282. retrieved from: http://cup.blackboard.com/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_1_1

Tomlinson, C. (2009). Intersections between differentiation and literacy instruction: Shared principles worth sharing. New England Reading Association Journal, 45(1), 28-33

Watts-Taffe, S., Laster, B. P., Broach, L., Marinak, B., Connor, C. M., & Walker-Dalhouse, D. (2012). Differentiatied instruction: Making informed teacher decisions. The Reading Teacher, 66(4), 303-314. doi: 10.1002/TRTR.01126


Ashley Bumgarner

Cynthia Martin

Regina Brimmer