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Differentiating Instruction: It's Not as Hard as You Think (Video)

"To some educators, it conjures visions of having to create a different lesson for every student in the room, and long nights of planning and grading," says veteran teacher and writer Larry Ferlazzo in a new explainer video for Education Week. "That insanity is not what differentation is all about." 

The animated video is the first installment in a multi-part video series about differentiated instruction from Ferlazzo and fellow teacher Katie Hull-Sypnieski. The two co-authored a book recently called The ELL Teacher's Toolbox.

The video fleshes out, with numerous examples, an often-muddied concept. "Differentiating instruction is really a way of thinking—not a pre-planned list of strategies," says Ferlazzo. It involves getting to know students and being flexible about how they demonstrate their learning.

So one student may write an essay about football, while the rest of the class writes about natural disasters. And one student may sit on top of his desk to read, while the others sit in their seats. The key is that students are all ultimately reaching the same learning goal; they're just taking individual paths. 

To learn more about differentiation, check out this Education Week primer

As with most topics in the realm of classroom instruction, there's controversy over whether differentiation really is what's best for students. See this widely read 2015 opinion piece by educational consultant James R. Delisle about why "Differentiation Doesn't Work," and the response from education professor Carol Ann Tomlinson on why, in fact, it does. 

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