Episode 61 3 Ways to Differentiate Your Classroom

In this episode, Dan talks about differentiated teaching, a method for using different approaches for students at varying learning levels based on a standard.

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Episode 61 3 Ways to Differentiate Your Classroom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Students learn at varying paces, depending on how educators teach a lesson. Some might catch on quickly with a lecture, while others may understand a concept better through other methods. The regular classroom setting, however, does not often account for this variance.

This one-size-fits-all approach can spell trouble for many students. When education is inflexible, some may struggle and fall behind. Differentiation is one way to address this. In this episode, you will learn about differentiated teaching, a method for using different approaches for students at varying learning levels based on a standard.

Learn how you can apply differentiation in your classroom by tuning into this episode!

Here are the three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Learn the three types of differentiation.
  2. Discover how to create a resource that combines all three types to guide you and your students on the learning journey.
  3. Earn a certificate of completion and an hour of PD by applying what you learn in the workbook provided.

Video show

Show Notes

Episode Highlights

Differentiate the Content

  • To get an idea of what your students know so far, have them complete a diagnostic assessment at the beginning of the lesson.

  • Classify them into two to four groups depending on their level of knowledge.

  • Design individual lessons appropriate for each student group’s level.

  • You can colour-code the lessons so that each group knows what instructions are for them.

  • The class can organise themselves in their groups so that you can easily give them further instructions or advice as they work on their activities.

How You Can Do This

  • Dan applies this when teaching seniors. He divides them into two strings based on their level of prior knowledge and the goals they want to achieve.

  • Recognising that some students want to achieve high marks and some only need to pass the course, Dan creates activities to meet them where they’re at.

  • He adjusts not only the amount of work but also the depth of work.

  • NAPLAN results, as well as what you know of your students, can inform your approach to their learning.

  • Listen to the podcast for more examples of adjustments you can do!

Differentiate the Learning Process

  • Differentiating the learning process means providing students with different ways to learn and apply the content.

  • When planning your lesson, consider what your students may prefer or need.

  • Certain skill-based content will have specific processes; you can still differentiate these processes by providing various contexts.

How You Can Do This

  • You can give a collaborative learning activity to excelling students while providing direct instruction to those who need more guidance.

  • You could also use the modelled teaching approach, where you illustrate the process while students follow along.

  • Dan shares how he applies both of these in his flipped classroom. He sorts his students based on whether they have viewed the required content or not and their level of understanding.

  • He then assigns them different activities based on these, making sure to give more guidance for those who need it.

Differentiate the Product

  • Differentiating the product is essentially allowing students to produce different outputs as evidence of their learning.

  • You might consider the medium, such as essays, videos, podcasts, infographics and the like.

  • Make sure you have different criteria for the product when your students have different levels of production.

  • This differentiated approach allows you to focus on the student’s growth in their learning process rather than comparing them to other students.

How You Can Do This

  • One way you can differentiate the product is by having different questions that match a student’s level of understanding with the respective criteria.

  • Dan mentions how he has exam questions worth different marks and criteria and allows his students to choose which ones to answer.

  • For different products with the same level of understanding, you will want to use the same success criteria.

  • Having standard success criteria allows you to be consistent in checking your students’ progress in these more extensive tasks.

  • Tune in to the episode to hear more examples on differentiating the products your students can make!

Bringing It All Together

  • You can put all these differentiation approaches into one resource, such as a choice board or a HyperDoc.

  • Check out this episode’s workbook for an example of a choice board!

  • Using a choice board or HyperDoc, you can include three to four choices that students can make—different content options, how they can process that content and the ways they can showcase their learning.

  • You can also provide ways for students to take what they’ve done on the choice board further and keep them engaged.

  • Try developing a teaching activity that incorporates one type of differentiation or combining all three approaches. Then, create a choice board that meets the learning needs of your students.

5 Powerful Quotes from This Episode

‘I try and create for them some still great learning activities, some fantastic things for them to do but that meet them where they’re at and that basically match up with their goals’.

‘As you plan a lesson, consider the different processes that your students may prefer or may need when it comes to the content that you’re looking at’.

‘I’m looking at differentiating the product and also my criteria based on my student goals and also based on where they’re at and where they’re getting to. With this, you also get to focus on their growth as in their learning, rather than comparing it with other students’.

‘Once you’ve created that [the choice board], make sure you then implement it, reflect on it, see how it goes, get feedback from your students, et cetera. Make sure you’re doing this well, so you can improve it next time’.

‘Differentiate the content, differentiate the process, or differentiate the product and see how it goes in your classroom’.



  • National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) test results can be a tool to determine your students’ level of knowledge.

  • You can use choice boards or HyperDocs to guide your differentiated learning approach.

  • Receive 1-hour NESA-accredited PD or a certificate of completion by accomplishing the workbook for this episode!

  • Join the Effective Teaching community on Facebook.

Enjoy This Podcast?

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To fostering effective learning,



  1. Sherill Townsend

    This was really interesting to find out how Dan differentiates his students, but also how the content and the learning is differentiated. I’m also very interested in using Hyperdocs, so that really peaked my interest!

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