How do you make decisions about your own actions for students in a differentiated classroom? What is your criteria for intervention, and/or for letting learning happen?

differentiationI often write reflections of my day or lessons and I have found that is usually where I make decisions for my actions in my classroom. Reflection is a very important process for me. I usually find myself thinking about a specific student’s needs and how I can meet those needs. According to Minott (2009), reflection “is a ‘tool’ that enables teachers to develop the capacity to learn from their experiences. But more importantly, reflection improves their ability to effect purposeful change and integrate various aspects of teaching. This is critical to the DIP, for learning from, and developing one’s experience or knowing of what ‘works’, and being able to implement change and new ideas based on a reflective use of such practical knowledge is a requirement for the effective adaptation of content, process, product and environment to students’ interest, readiness and learning styles.”

I group students by levels for our reading instruction because the district requires all of fourth grade students to be grouped by their intervention tier for reading. However, I have my tables set up in small groups and I change the groupings around twice a quarter. I plan specific lessons that require students to work with their table group or shoulder partner. I also give them choice time a couple times a week, which allows them to pick their partner or partners. “Using a variety of grouping strategies allows you to match students and tasks when necessary, and to observe and assess students in a variety of groupings and task conditions” (Tomlinson, 2001).

There are a few areas that I feel need improvement. First, I need to allow students more time to make sense or process the information they are learning. “Process is how students make sense of the content. They need time to reflect and digest the learning activities before moving on to the next segment of a lesson” (McCarthy, 2014). I also need to work on giving fewer directives. I am very directive and I catch myself doing it and falling back into it often. It usually occurs when there is a behavior issue in my classroom. I have a student who pushes my patience like it was an Olympic event that he is training to compete. Alber (2015) writes, “Students mirror our energy. If we stay calm when teaching — giving instructions, addressing individuals or the whole class — it’s amazing to see that this, too, happens with them. Whether we want the responsibility or not, we are constantly modeling for the children we teach ways to be out in the world.”

I have seen the things I do get mirrored by students with their shoulder partners. Often, I hear my students use the same encouraging tone and words that I use in the classroom when working with a partner. My students love to help one another and they are very accepting of each other. I have worked hard to create a safe classroom environment and we have a class meeting each morning to celebrate successes and discuss concerns. I know that it is true that “students learn best when they feel safe, respected, involved, challenged, and supported. Thus, a learning environment that invites each student to be a full participant in the classroom—with full support for the journey—is a necessity for robust differentiated instruction” (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010).


Alber, R. (2015, September 7). The Power of Keeping Your Cool. Retrieved January 28, 2016, from Edutopia:

McCarthy, J. (2014, July 23). 3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from Edutopia:

Minott, M. (2009). The Role of Reflection in the Differentiated Instructional Process. Retrieved January 27, 2016, from College Quarterly:

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. Alexandria: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD).

Tomlinson, C. A., & Imbeau, M. B. (2010). Understanding Differentiation in Order to Lead: Aiming for Fidelity to a Model. Retrieved January 29, 2016, from ASCD, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development:


3 thoughts on “How do you make decisions about your own actions for students in a differentiated classroom? What is your criteria for intervention, and/or for letting learning happen?

  1. Cherie,
    I really related to a lot of what you said. I always think I am doing a good job at being a facilitator in their learning, but too often I catch myself being directive. It is frustrating because it doesn’t match my teaching pedagogy, but it is still something I need to work on. At least we recognize the areas of improvement, right? I also completely agree with the process time and wrote about that too. I always feel pressure to rush through content when the most critical thing we can do is be patient and let our students digest the information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that it is beneficial that we recognize the areas of improvement in our teaching. It gives us opportunities to fix it. I feel like I never have enough time to teach everything I’m expected. I’m constantly revamping my lessons and instruction to meet expectations. It is frustrating, but it helps me from getting into a rut.


  2. Cherie,

    You are also one of my favorite bloggers. I love hearing about how you handle a certain topic in your classroom. You have also offered words of wisdom from your experiences and I appreciate that. I think you are correct with having to know your students limits and when to intervene. I do believe in letting students work out a difficult situation if possible. This method often prepares them for dealing with difficult people and challenges in the real world. However, knowing when to step in is a great way to connect with your students. Sometimes we need that third party to help shift the focus.


    Liked by 1 person

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