Applying Differentiation Strategies


Do you want to try different types of differentiation such as tiered lessons, choice boards, or inquiry learning in your classrooms this year?  The books pictured below are available in the professional section of all elementary school libraries.  The purple book contains K-2 sample lessons.  The green book contains 3-5 sample lessons.  If the copy is checked out of your library, ask your librarian to borrow a copy from another school library.

Tiered Assignments

A tiered assignment has everyone working on the same skill or type of project.  However, the specific tasks vary in difficulty so that your students are all working on “just right” tasks which are not too easy nor are they too challenging.

Below is  a list of tiered lessons available in the books. The lessons are complete and require very little teacher preparation.

For grades K-2

Write Your Own Story (with tiered pre-writing guide sheets)

Schools Now and Then (which includes photographs of classrooms and two levels of reading content)  allows students to compare and contrast classrooms during two times in history.

Goods and Services—provides an opportunity for students to distinguish goods from services.

For grades 3-5

Reading Cubes—has students analyzing the plot of sequence of events from a story with differentiated activities based on Bloom’s taxonomy.

Stickers and Attributes—Students classify stickers.  Process and content are differentiated based on student readiness.

Thirteen Original Colonies—a jigsaw activity based on ability.  Students focus on researching a region of colonial America.  Text is provided for research purposes.


Teaching for High Ability Students

ASCD offers differentiating strategies for high ability students in a classroom setting.  Some of the classroom strategies mentioned to keep all students challenged and engaged are to offer the 5 most challenging problems that will be taught in an upcoming unit FIRST to see if any students pre-test out of needing to start with the basics.  Other strategies like always having enrichment activities prepared and speaking to student interests will help keep students engaged and focused leading to a better learning environment for all. Also, don’t forget high ability students will still need direction and support! Read more about implementing differentiated instruction for our high ability students here: 

Six Strategies for Challenging Gifted Learners

“Encourage high-ability students to take on challenges. Because they’re often used to getting good grades, gifted students may be risk averse” Azzam

Gifted Students and Overexcitabilities

Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski discusses overexcitabilities and students’  inborn intensities showing heightened ability to respond to stimuli. This article discusses the 5 OEs, or 5 overexcitabilities, that highly gifted students may possess. These 5 OEs include psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual, and imaginational.

Dabrowski discusses the importance of keeping students challenged and states, “The lack of mental stimulation can be a problem for these children in school.”  She mentions these children may also have a hard time “ignoring” any problems with peers or bullying at school and will probably need more help dealing with managing reactions.


Let’s Ring In The New Year With SMART Goals!

Happy New Year everyone!  This is a great time to focus on setting goals with our gifted students.  SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

We can support our gifted students in setting quality goals by:

  • Helping them identify the kind of person they want to be (the ideal self)
  • Keeping them aware of the strategies and skills they’re developing to achieve the ideal self
  • Providing effective feedback on goal attainment

Check out the article below to learn more!

William and Mary National Curriculum Network Conference

What is the National Curriculum Networking Conference?

The conference offers sessions on curriculum, instruction, assessment, and advocacy for
high-ability learners. NCNC provides networking opportunities; highlights special materials, practices, and curriculum approaches that are responsive to the needs of advanced students.

Save the Date!

The NCNC conference will be held March 7-8, 2019.

Registration Link
Click below for more information:

Smart is Not Easy: What Grit and Growth Mindset Really Means for the Gifted Child

Registration for this SENGinar is closed.  Recorded SENGinars are available for sale from the SENG Store approximately one week after the live presentation.  If you are interested in purchasing this SENGinar or in learning about previously  offered SENGinars visit the SENG site.     

Click here for the SENGinar List

Scroll down to the bottom portion of the page.  

Gifted programs provide opportunities for gifted students to experience challenging tasks and to have opportunities to demonstrate persistence in order to be successful.    Everything in life is not easy but for many of our students mastering academic skills is fairly easy.

Learn why it is important for gifted children to learn how to work through challenging activities independently in this upcoming webinar from SENG.   This is an important topic.

When:  Thursday, November 8th  7:30-9:00 PM 

Cost:  $30 Members/$40 Non-Members

Deadline to Register: 11/08, 3 PM   REGISTRATION LINK

Seminar Summary from the SENG site:

“When smart kids find that everything comes easy, an essential aspect of self-development gets lost in the bargain: the development of persistence, self-discipline, and tolerance for failure. While these aspects are rarely discussed, Angela Duckworth’s seminal research on “grit” has much to say about gifted students, as does Carol Dweck’s research on “growth mindset.” Many assume that high IQ predicts success, but their research showed that passion and perseverance mattered a whole lot more – and on average, the smartest kids actually had the least grit.”

Underrepresented Student Populations

Why are there certain groups of students who are overlooked when it comes to referral and identification?  Perhaps cultural bias exists in the assessment process.  Nonverbal tasks, as well as flexibility of thought in varied situations are a few of the more appropriate measures.  Henrico gathers multiple criteria to help provide balance.

Donna Ford, of Vanderbuilt University,  gives some insight into the inappropriate ways students are sometimes assessed.    Donna Ford’s article



Competitions for Kids

Participating in competitions can help students learn skills they will use throughout their lives.  You can set up your own classroom competitions using the ideas and materials found on these sites.  Once you are comfortable with the process; sign up and have your students participate in local, state, and national competitions.  When you are ready, talk with your principal about possible funding for the contests of your choice.  HCPS students have previously participated in the contests listed below.

Destination Imagination grades K-12

Destination Imagination Information Link

Destination Imagination problems  engage participants in project-based challenges that are designed to build confidence and develop extraordinary creativity, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork skills

GeoBee for grades 4-8

Geography Bee Information Link

An annual competition designed to inspire and reward students’ curiosity about the world.  The site contains many resources.

Math League Contests for grades 4-5   The Math League Information Link

Promotes enjoyment and study of mathematics. The contest problems  are written to provide  a positive experience for students who appreciate a mathematical challenge.  Students solve problems in their classrooms.



Math Olympiad for grades 4-8

Math Olympiad Information Link

There are the five monthly contests administered from November through March in the classroom.   Math problem solving contests are for teams of up to thirty-five students.  Coaching materials contain practice problems and detailed problem solving strategies.


Rubik Cube Competitions for grades K-5 (Division 1) Rubik Cube Information Link

Students learn the secrets to solving the Rubik Cube then compete to see who can be the fastest.  Sets of cubes are available to be borrowed.  The site contains many resource materials and lesson plans.  Awards are handed out for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams and soloists in each division.


Stock Market Game for grades 4-12

The Stock Market Game Information Link

The Stock Market Game is an online education program used to help teach math, social studies, business, economics, and language skills while learning about the stock market and how to invest wisely.  Students in grades 4-12 participate in teams and manage a simulated investment portfolio.

The 24 Challenge  for Elementary Students    The 24 Challenge Information Link

The 24 Challenge is a tournament-style competition organized around the 24 Game.  Over a period of months preceding the event, teachers use the 24 Game in their classrooms to help students hone their mathematics skills.

Word Masters for Grades 3-8   Word Master Challenge Link                                                    Word Masters helps students apply analytical and metaphorical thinking.  All students in a class complete the challenges but only top scores are reported.