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Useful Differentiation Ideas for the ELA Classroom

Use these differentiation ideas for the ELA classroom to help you plan your lessons and meet the needs of your students.

Use these differentiation ideas for the ELA classroom to help you plan your lessons. Using effective differentiation strategies can improve your lessons to help students engage and retain class content. We had a great #2ndaryELA Twitter chat on Differentiation in the ELA classroom.

Several teachers shared their best ideas during the chat. Teachers are using lots of graphic organizers, audiobooks, assignment choices and many other great strategies to enhance the learning experience for their students.

Differentiation Ideas For The ELA Classroom

Read the curated Twitter chat below for ideas on using Differentiated Instruction in the ELA classroom.

Q1: How do you differentiate reading to meet all learners’ needs?

  • I use levelled texts to reach all students. Ex: @literarymaven has a great R&J bundle with abridged passages, close reads, and questions. 
  • Different levels of texts all focused on the same skill to meet students’ different interests & levels, use of audio
  • Students get a lot of choice reading and I help them select novels at their level. Most of my reading assignments also have choices so students can respond to reading with a task at their level
  • I use resources like Newsela for nonfiction texts in which I can change the reading level
  • I use a variety of methods – audiobooks, menus, smaller assignments – but I am big into creating patterns to help strugglers
  • Taking a lesson from elementary reading and using guided reading groups by reading level and interest
  • As a 1:1 iPad school, I can also use functions that read the text aloud to students
  • I used to use Achieve3000 for different levels of nonfiction texts
  • Lots of scaffolding, think time, conversation/collaboration. I also LOVE #Newsela!
  • I have been known to do a modified Daily 5… 
  • Choice is necessary! The workshop model allows for different amounts and types of scaffolding, focus, and reading level
  • Now as an RTI specialist I use a program called Read Naturally with grades 3-6
  • LOVE Newsela 
  • CHOICE is key! 
  • I upload audio versions of most of our texts to Google Classroom to support my struggling readers
  • I like to use resources that level the same text in three or four different Lexiles.
  • 5 stations: Read to self=SRA Reading Lab Word Work=Academic vocab
    Computer=games posted on Edmodo 
  • I teach a #reading class using #READ180 but am looking for new program 


Q2: How do you differentiate writing to meet all learners’ needs? 

  • Students write on choice topics, but at their level. Ex: my Honors may embed and analyze 2 quotes per paragraph, with Reg at 1 
  • I always start with basics–writing a paragraph–and build from there based on kids’ needs
  • Lots of modelled & collaborative writing, choice of prompts, use of sentence starters for struggling writers
  • My writing program is scaffolded and uses the writer’s workshop model. Lots of practice and choice writing
  • Students can choose which pieces to use for evidence for their writing skills, and 1-2 can be choice pieces
  • I am curious how you all incorporate choice into your reading and especially writing
  • This is my first year using Google Classroom, and I’m liking it so far. It will be even better when we’re 1:1 next year! 
  • Skill practice=activity to practice main idea etc. Writing=writing paragraphs or language review
  • I differentiate writing by using patterns, writing frames, INB foldables, & anchor charts/walls  
  • Anyone else use Compass Learning? I love that it’s at the just-right level for each student! 
  • Choice is key, especially when working with my kids in large, urban schools. Kids get a choice in all aspects I have different graphic organizers for different students to reflect what they need
  •  It levels non-fiction articles with questions, activities, writing for each article 
  • I use sentence/paragraph/essay frames. Choice. INB, and LOTS of practice


Q3: What role does choice play in differentiation in your classroom?

  • Students get to choose a topic or output, with choice boards that span different multiple intelligences. Ex. Write a journal entry & draw a comic
  • Choice is one of the best and easiest ways to differentiate for our students
  • Choice is HUGE factor, choice of texts & novels, choice of after reading questions, activities, writing & projects
  • Choice is provided in stations through menu boards 
  • I think choice is great, especially in independent reading and within writing topics but at the end of the day, students have to master certain skills and that’s where I see choice start to be an issue 
  • It’s similar to Achieve3000 (we have both) but directly correlated to MAP scores. It’s from NWEA. 
  • Choice for my students in almost every aspect except the standard/objective. Product, resource, etc. Natural fit for PBL model.
  • Choice is the natural motivator. It engages students in learning and makes them ACTIVE readers
  • Tech helps with #choice. Students used @Newsela to choose article to analyze for persuasion – they all picked diff ones = engaged
  • I keep pushing for more choice in my professional learning community. I’d LOVE to move to a workshop model! 
  • To differentiate you have to give choice. I start with allowing my students to listen to audio instead of silent reading
  • I control the choice by giving the students 3 ways to show what they know about main idea
  • When I assign a text let’s say Night I always have an alternate text like Left to Tell for students to choose
  • When I assign a synthesis essay I always pull 2-3 options. This makes students feel as if they have a choice 
  • We do sustained silent reading daily so choice is alive & well! I conference w/ students, we have a weekly group share, book talks 


Q4: What differentiation tool or strategy do you find the most effective? Why?

  • I keep students on the same text in all levels, so they can discuss at lunch, etc. I change requirement but keep the core ideas the same
  • Validating audiobooks as “real” reading helped my students enjoy independent reading
  • Choice boards are a fav in my classroom. Can be used for so many things  
  • Patterns have been the most effective with writing
  • Choice boards or menus are my favourites. Also love cubing and its various forms
  • Thematic Book Clubs (Literature Circles) are naturally differentiated and allow for choice
  • Thematic so they are digging deep 
  • I’m loving #HyperDocs now!
  • I LOVE having book clubs in my classroom. Students learn without realizing it!
  • Differentiation isn’t just about meeting students’ different levels, but also their interests
  • Today I was preparing materials for a rising ninth-grade camp and I pulled four different synthesis essays they could write
  • Only if the choice is helping them level the text – it needs to be modelled and taught. But yes – on its own it’s not 


Q5: Share any differentiation strategies, resources, or lessons that you love.

  • I’m also a big fan of menus based on Bloom’s taxonomy. Have created both skill and novel based menus 
  • Lots of different ideas here as well:  
  • I’m a big fan of natural differentiation – workshop model, literature circles, small grouping, and conferencing
  • Graphic organizers are a strong differentiation strategy. You can always provide partially filled-in graphic organizers – check out these great graphic organizers.
  • I like using articles from @Newsela for specific Lucile levels. I also use the New York Times learning network for diff text
  • I also have used Cloze with word box

I hope these differentiation ideas for the ELA classroom have given you some different ways to think about your lesson plans.

Additional Differentiation Ideas For The ELA Classroom

  1. 5 Ways to Differentiate Using Technology
  2. Article of the Week Differentiated Lessons

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