How to Write Lesson Plans That Are Differentiated

How to Write Differentiated Instruction Lesson Plans

As professional educators we all know and understand that all the students in our class do not learn in the same way. We also understand that we do not have a class full of students achieving at the same level. So how do we cater for all the individuals within our class, and how do we make sure that each of those students has the best opportunity to learn the material we are teaching? The answer is simple, differentiated instruction. I am going to take you through some simple steps to help you prepare differentiated lesson plans that will go a long way towards making sure that each of your students has the best chance of understanding the concept/s that you are trying to teach.

The first step in creating differentiated lesson plans is to identify the intended topic or outcome that you hope to achieve, or move towards achieving, in your lesson. You will need to consult the relevant curriculum document that is used in your school district.


Once you have clearly identified what you are hoping to achieve, you can begin to investigate ways of teaching the topic and/or reaching the outcome. For example, in math you may identify that you want to teach your class the method of long multiplication. Once this is identified it becomes much easier to look for resources and teaching aides that can help you to reach this outcome.

The second step is to write a basic lesson plan that is aimed at your grade level students. This is the standard level that the students in your class are expected to meet. For example if you are a 4th grade teacher you would write a lesson plan that would teach the expected outcome at that level. Once you have a basic lesson plan, you can start to include differentiated instruction strategies, presentation methods, tasks and equipment. A basic lesson plan should include:

  • The outcome or intended topic
  • The grade level
  • The duration of the lesson
  • How to introduce the topic
  • Teacher led instructions
  • Student tasks
  • Assessment

Once you have a basic lesson plan written, you can then begin to expand on that lesson. Begin first by investigating the different ways that you can present the material that the students need to learn. How can you explain your concept? Most teachers choose to complete the teacher led section of their lesson by talking to the students. This can be great for the auditory learners in your class, but you may find that your visual learners will be left behind. Investigate the possibility of using a recorded version of yourself on the interactive whiteboard or data projector. You can also use these tools to complete the examples as you show the students. There are many educational games that can be played on interactive whiteboards to enforce what you are teaching. Another option is to ask one of your high achievers to present the lesson in your place. Try to use a number of different ways of presenting the material, as you are more likely to get through to a larger percentage of your students.

Next, investigate the tasks that you can set for your students to allow them to practice the concept or outcome you have been teaching. Remember that not all students learn in the same way, so try to incorporate a number of different tasks that require the students to use different skills to complete them. Also consider tiered activities. This means that you set a number of different goals for different students. You cannot expect your lower achievers to complete what your more accomplished students will complete. Also consider using flexible groups. Can the students work with each other to complete the task? Brainstorm what types of resources you could use to help the students understand the concept.

Finally, how are you going to assess that your students have moved toward the outcome(s) that you are teaching. Assessment should be simple and authentic, meaning that it comes out of the tasks that your students are doing and it has been included as part of the lesson, not just quickly added at the end. Remember that assessment(s) should also be tiered to allow student to achieve at their level.  Here is an example of a differentiated language arts lesson plan (PDF file).

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One Response to How to Write Lesson Plans That Are Differentiated

  1. Cathy G says:

    Thank you for this post. I have been struggling with the concept of differentiating the instruction in my classroom since we were informed that we would be switching to that model. My frustration level has dropped significantly and I did pick up one of the books shown on your site. It has been very helpful and has given me a lot of great ideas that I’m putting to use nearly every day. Thanks again!

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