Differentiation Strategies

We recognize that you may face the challenge of having students with a wide range of educational backgrounds, abilities, and needs within the same class. The variety of instructional approaches in our programs can help all students succeed.

See some of these strategies below, along with the resources provided in our programs.

Hands-on activities provide concrete experiences

Laboratories, investigations, and modeling activities provide students with a direct connection to scientific ideas.

Flexible grouping allows for variations in student support

Many of our programs incorporate the 4–2–1 model of cooperative student grouping. Four students work together in a group as they share materials and exchange ideas. Students read and discuss in pairs. Individual students are responsible for recording thoughts, ideas, and outcomes from each activity.

Integrated formative assessments

Assessments that are ongoing and diagnostic can be used to inform decisions on whether and/or how to differentiate instruction.

Literacy strategies support reading comprehension and writing skills

Various literacy strategies can be implemented in activities that involve reading and writing. After repeated use, students should be able to determine which strategies work best for them.

Discussion strategies facilitate communication

Successful group interaction takes the right setting and the right tools. These ingredients can help students build group communication skills when learning about science.

Guided procedures are an option for inquiry labs

In some activities, students are asked to design scientific procedures to carry out an experiment. Allowing students that need assistance, to follow optional step-by-step procedures (instead of designing them) allows them to focus on conducting the experiment and collecting data.


English Language Learners

A student who is learning English is likely to understand far more about scientific concepts and classroom procedures than he or she can communicate orally or in writing. In adapting instruction and assessment to meet the needs of English Language Learners, the following strategies can be useful:

  • Constructing a word wall. A word wall is a visual reminder of new vocabulary and related concepts and makes words easily accessible. Students can then enter both words and definitions in their science notebooks, preparing their own glossaries.
  • Allowing students to discuss responses to questions orally before they write their answers.
  • Incorporating visual organizers, such as Venn diagrams and Discussion Webs during or after reading, and before students write, as ways to help them organize their thoughts.
  • Using Writing Frames to help students construct written responses to assessment questions.
  • Conducting Writing Reviews to provide structure for students to edit each other’s work. Peers often provide appropriate language modeling that can be instructive.

Embedded Supports

Research indicates that students with learning disabilities should be treated as similarly as possible to other students in the classroom, and the teacher’s expectations for acceptable behavior and class participation should be the same for all students. Learning-disabled students, however, need modified curriculum, instruction, and assessments so that they can participate in the same activities as other students.

Our programs provide many tools that support students with learning disabilities, such as:

  • Providing already constructed data tables.
  • Constructing additional forms of literacy strategies and incorporating them into the activities.
  • Allowing students to discuss their ideas in pairs or small groups before writing individually.
  • Modifying the form in which students will answer questions.

Academically Gifted Students

Programs for gifted and talented students assume that these students need challenges and opportunities beyond those provided in typical instruction if the students are to fully develop their potential.

When modifying and adapting instruction and assessment to meet the needs of academically gifted and talented students, the following strategies can be effective:

  • Encouraging students to analyze and revise procedures or activities to address limitations in models and labs.
  • Finding ways for students to extend explorations that could answer new questions, such as conducting additional lab investigations.
  • Increasing the depth of background information presented.
  • Asking students to present more than one viewpoint and to find evidence to support other points of view.

Differentiation in our literacy supports

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Embedded strategies help teachers explore students' thinking and give students multiple opportunities to confront their preconceptions.