Lesson Plans That Meet The Needs of All Students

Differentiated lesson plans are an excellent tool for meeting students' needs in the mixed ability classroom.

By Deborah Reynolds


Differentiated Learning

Imagine a classroom in which one lesson plan could meet the needs of everyone. You can have that by including tiered lesson plans into your instruction. Tiered lesson plans are designed to specifically meet the instructional needs of all of your children. It accomplishes this through differentiation.

Differentiation of instruction begins with pre-assessing. You must know where your students are in order to determine where to start and where to go from there. In an average classroom, you will have some students that range from below grade level to high-ability and/or gifted. So, for example, if your math objective for the week is regrouping up to the tens place, you will have students that range from confusing addition and subtraction to those that can regroup up to the thousands.

Tiered lessons can address those diverse abilities. After pre-assessing, the teacher's lesson plan can consist of three or more different individual, partner, or group activities. Each child will be working on an assignment geared specifically toward where he or she is with that particular standard/objective. For example, the high-ability and gifted students can create subtraction word problems in which the answer must be 12. This is an open-ended activity in which the students are working on their level and given the opportunity for critical and creative thinking. Students that are confusing addition and subtraction may be working in a small group with the teacher using dry erase boards.

Tiered lesson plans are the answer to today's diverse classroom. It gives the teacher the freedom to adapt each lesson towards the various levels in his or her classroom. Tiered lessons incorporate pre-assessing into the plan which is essential to determining what students know and need to know. Here are some lesson plans that use tiered activities to differentiate.

Tiered Lesson Plans:

Merrily Moving Mammals

The lesson addresses vocabulary on animal movements, sounds and characteristics (height, weight, speed). This lesson begins with a pre-assessment in which students answer multiple choice questions and sort animals into groups. The lesson tiers the assignment through instructional tips on how to modify the lesson for diverse needs. This is a very detailed unit of fifty plus pages and each lesson contains specific tips for differentiation.

Design a Zoo

Students will design a zoo for the town while developing habitats and choosing the animals that would best fit in those habitats. This lesson is designed to be modified for all ability levels/diversities. It contains suggestions for gifted students, SEI (Sheltered English Immersion), special education students. This is a great tiered lesson plan; however, it does not contain information on how you would pre-assess.

Creative Jobs

The students identify French products, the people who create them, and the materials needed to produce the products. They compare these products with those found in their own country. This lesson begins with a pre-assessment in which the students match pictures of French jobs with words. Each lesson contains suggestions for how to tier the activity. It also contains extension activities for those students that are ready to move on to a higher level.

Making the Thirteen Colonies

Students will study one of the three colonial regions that existed before to the Revolutionary War and compare each colony. To begin the lesson, the students will take a 45 question pre-assessment that includes matching and multiple choice questions. Students will be using streamed videos to research the colonies. This lesson is tiered by grouping the students according to ability levels and providing different activities and resources for each group based on their needs.

It Matters

Students will identify the attributes of each state of matter. The lesson pre-assesses by asking the students about objects that the teacher will show the students. The students will record their responses on a dry erase board. The lesson plan is tiered by grouping the students with partners, in a teacher-directed group, or a parent facilitated group.










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Deborah Reynolds