Hermann Gmeiner Middle School Grade Five Website

Foundations & Implications of a Differentiated Classroom

School Year: 2015/16

Class Student Population : 21

Racial Breakdown : 11 (White), 4 (Black American), 2 (Hispanic), 2 (African), 2 (Chinese)

Class Teacher : Ms. Priscilla Sanni-Thomas




On behalf of all school faculty and administration, I would like to welcome all stakeholders to the new school year with the premier edition of the series on Differentiated Classroom Instruction. In this issue we discuss :

A. What is differentiation? Its purpose in the classroom environment?

B. Creating a safe and secure positive learning  environment.

C. Meeting social and emotional needs of students. Ways to eliminate student fear of failure.

D. Teacher expectations of student work and assignments.

E. Describe how you will provide students opportunities to succeed.

F. Assessment Matters.

G. Stakeholder Resource Corner.



Differentiation occurs whenever a teacher varies his/her mode of instruction in order to afford students with different learning styles the equal opportunity to absorb what is being taught such that they are able to successfully demonstrate the learned knowledge. Puckett (2013) describes one of its purposes as ” making frequent changes to basic approaches in response to stuent needs”(Sec.1.1).

Armed with the understanding that students are unique in the way by which they process information, differentiating instruction in my classroom is key to the success of every day’s learning experience as it meets individual students at the level of their needs by providing alternative avenues to understanding a given topic or information. Thereby creating a classroom environment that heightens student motivation for learning through recognition of their uniqueness and ultimately increases academic performance.



In order to create a positive learning environment which is safe and secure it is important for me as a teacher to :

  • Be informed of student cultural differences so as to honor their cultural diversities by incorporating aspects of various cultures into curriculum and the classroom environment.
  •  Help students develop respect for one another’s differences by exposing and eliminating prejudices through frequent interactions and knowledge sharing since research by Pate (1981) reveals that students working in inter-ethnic groups break the boundaries of prejudice through friendship (p.289).
  • Fraser (1982) reveals in a research based article that incongruences in student and teacher perception of the classroom environment creates a disconnect in the actual environment between teacher and student. Hence I need to listen to my students’ expectations that they bring to the class and share miy expectations with them as well. Through dialogue, we can produce a set of rules and expectations that work for the entire class community and honors a safe, secure and positive learning environment.



Fear of failure is worse than the actual experience of failure because it rids student of the opportunity to aim for success thereby causing them to automatically choose failure without having made an attempt to succeed. For this reason, I will focus on building an atmosphere where :

  • Mutual respect between students will be promoted among classmates and teacher
  • Student-centered learning is upheld and pursued through the open welcome of student suggestions and contributions toward learning
  • Students see the teacher as a resource for discussing academic concerns and difficulties
  • The teacher is not a dictator but a facilitator of learning
  • The socio-emotional concerns of students that need to be addressed by a professional will be brought to the attention of parents

These will promote a student’s self confidence and prepare him/her for success due to the development of a positive self image.



The purpose of making clear my expectations of student work and assignments is to foremost inform my teaching methodologies and the modifications that may need to accompany them. It is also to allow my students to recognize that they are working together with me as a team to achieve a set outcome and provide guidelines to demonstrating their understanding of course content learned. Expectations include:

  • Responding to all prompts of the rubric using meaningful and applicable expression to exhibit understanding of the lesson in on3’w own way

Because assessment in itself is also based on differentiated procedures, recognition wil be given to effort made towards task completion hence:

  • Students must attempt to complete tasks in the manner in which they understand the lesson and assignment given




Because individual preferences affect learning styles, opportunities to succeed will take into consideration the conditions under which different students’ motivation for learning are maximized. The Dunn and Dunn Learning Styles Model explained by Puckett (2013, sec 2.5) informs this practice.

  • Environment. Students in my class will be able to choose the seating positions that best suit them; rear, front, middle
  • They will be allowed to practice what is learned in class and explore a topic further using varied learning tools of their choice; text books, school library resouces, computers and the internet, video games and academic software.
  • Emotional. Depending of the type of motivation that works for each student, informed by learning about their differences, I will reinforce behaviors appropriately and give feedback in a manner that best works for the individual student. Knowing that certain cultures render may have influences on a child’s view of achievement, I will be able to encourage my students who are better autonomous learners to research more, explore further, learn by experimenting while guiding them in order to keep them equally motivated about their learning.
  • Sociological. The class will have varied learning opportunities which include small group activities for brainstorming, large group activities for presentations, outdoor teamwork opportunities, studying alone or reading alone among others. This will afford students comfortable setting where they can easily express themselves based on their preferences but also creates intentional challenging opportunities to learn to adapt to either learning environments as we do not live in an ideal world.
  • Physiological. By incorporating various instructional method opportunities during lesson delivery (audio, video, text, hands-on activities) different students will flourish at their level of comfort. for instance, students can make the choice of either accessing the English Literature book for the year by text or download the audio format)
  • Psychological. An understanding of the mental processes that underly student dispositions and classroom behaviors makes willing to accommodate student who may seem overly impulsive, slow, over-cautious, fearful a shy. These difference will be tolerated with an appreciable level of control in order not to suppress any student’s attempts to express themselves or participate in class, thereby allowing them the opportunity to learn more.



In this differentiated classroom, assessment will use mostly formative techniques because at every moment, learning takes place or can be assessed. Assessment therefore would be to obtain information on what has been learned in order to analyze progress and inform further and future varied instruction. Assessment just as instruction will also be varied by giving different students varied opportunities to show what they have learned. As such assessment will take the form of written test, as well as quizzes, pre-assessments in the form of follow up questions at the end of lessons, or peer assessments. This will provide all students with several opportunities along different comfort styles to analyze what they have learned.



Feel free to learn more about differentiated instruction to prepare yourselves for what the new school year is brining.

Recommended Resources:

Hackett, N., & Hasty, E. (2012, March). Differentiated instruction: How to ensure success for all students. Retrieved from http://irvington.k12.nj.us/depts/sdv/post_sub/12-13_Diff_Instr_Handbook.pdf

Puckett, K (2013). Differentiating Instruction: A Practical Guide. Bridgepoint Education: San Diego, CA.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms [electronic resource] / Carol Ann Tomlinson. Alexandria, Va. : Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2001.

Walpole, S., & McKenna, M. C. (2007). Differentiated reading instruction [electronic resource] : strategies for the primary grades / Sharon Walpole, Michael C. McKenna. New York : Guilford Press, c2007