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Putting Differentiated Instruction to Work in the Classroom

By guest blogger Helene Hanson, author of Differentiated Instruction: Enhancing Teaching and Learning Educational literature is replete with well thought out and researched strategies and programs that are designed to improve the teaching process and improve student learning. In many cases there is data to demonstrate success based upon implementation of the identified methodology. School districts often embrace, perhaps even mandate, a specific program, only to move to a newer approach a year or so later. Teachers are often caught in the very difficult position of having to revamp or alter their teaching.

Helene M. Hanson

Helene M. Hanson

However, through all the changes in best practices there has been one that remains tried and true: Differentiated Instruction. Known as a practice that can be utilized universally, DI’s model has three main components. They include: what to teach, the planning and design of lessons; how to teach, delivering lessons; and how to measure progress, assessing student learning. For teachers this includes the who, what, where and how of teaching. At the core of DI is instruction of each child, utilizing the way the student learns. It assumes that every child can learn and that, in the absence of learning, the teacher has the responsibility to modify/adapt instruction to meet the unique needs of the learner. Thus, both student and teacher experiences success. Perhaps of great significance is the fact that DI supports and enhances some of the most popular methodologies found in today’s literature, and supported by research. These include Universal Design for Learning, (UDL), Brain Compatible learning, Multiple Intelligences, Cooperative Learning and Response to Instruction ((RTI) also known as Multi Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). Implementing DI may seen daunting at first, but it is well worth the effort. It involves taking several steps, including:

  • Gathering pre-assessment: Identify students’ interests, motivation, and prior knowledge before content is taught. This enables the teacher to appropriately challenge and match instructional needs to instructional strategies. For example, conducting student interviews, administering student surveys or questionnaires, assessment of student work samples, the Developmental Reading Assessment, running records, formal and informal pre-tests, etc.
  • Connecting learning to prior knowledge: Activate prior knowledge through strategies such as interactive group discussion and questioning techniques, KWL charts, etc.
  • Varying Instructional Input: Present information in different ways, utilizing visual and multi-modalities, analogies, metaphors, graphic organizers, digital, etc.
  • Using flexible groupings: Design student groupings purposefully to address instructional goals and learners’ needs. Heterogeneous groupings work well for promoting critical thinking, concepts and generalization, and open-ended discussions. Homogeneous groupings are effective for drill and practice, answering comprehension questions and for math computation. Groups can be teacher led or student led. They can be collaborative such as project-based groups or performance-based where specific concepts, strategies and skills are presented.
  • Providing Ongoing Assessment: This informs instructional decision making and provides teachers with data about how their students are learn- ing. It should identify what students are learning well and what the challenges/impediments are to their learning. Ongoing assessment can take many forms, such as review of writing samples or portfolios, classroom quizzes, journals, classroom discussions in large or small groups, pre/post unit tests, etc. Technology can be judiciously used for data collection and tracking of student progress. Students can effectively track their progress and share results with teachers.
  • Provide Feedback: Feedback, as a component of formative assessment, needs to be timely, specific and constructive. It can be in writing, such as comments on an essay, or orally, after a student performance/presentation. Error and miscue analysis can also provide feedback to students. Use of rubrics, exemplars, anchor papers and other systems provide learners with standards against which to compare their work. Students can also learn how to give constructive feedback to their peers, but this needs to be well supervised with explicit guidelines.
  • Adjusting Instruction: It can be tempting to carefully plan an instructional lesson, using all the techniques that have been addressed in this guide and then to dutifully follow the plan. But, to be truly effective, the teacher must be vigilant in recognizing when a change, minor or major, is needed to ensure that the instructional needs of ALL students are being met. Instruction must be adaptable and flexible; most of all It must be personalized for each student. The teacher must know when to adjust the content, and/or the process by which the student learns, and/or the product by which student mastery is determined, as well as the physical learning environment.
  • Designing Active Lessons: Engaging students in their own learning generates and sustains motivation. It can be achieved through a variety of approaches including learning centers or station-learning, project-based learning and cooperative learning. Brain-based learning supports the active engagement of students, with the teacher becoming a “facilitator” or “coach” engaging students in the process of discovery. Recent developments in technology facilitate active learning.

To learn simple, proven strategies for integrating DI in curriculum planning, instruction, and assessment, and to get more information on frameworks that support DI and how to use DI to reach students with special needs, consult my quick-reference laminated guide on Differentiated Instruction from National Professional Resources.

Stacy Dean’s Universal Design for Learning Recommended Resources

The following are recommended resources cited in the laminated reference guide UDL and ESSA by Stacy Dean.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Strategies for Multiple Means of Representation

Strategies for Multiple Means of Expression

Strategies for Multiple Means of Engagement:

Additional Resources on ESSA:

Helpful Websites on UDL:

Additional Resources:


Working with Your Students’ Parents: Forging Productive Relationships

A guest blog by Dr. Kenneth Shore, author of The Bullying Prevention Book of Lists, A Teacher’s Guide to Working with Parents, and others.

Most teachers learn a vital lesson soon after entering the classroom: you are more likely to have success teaching your students if you have a close working relationship with their parents. Put another way, parent support of their children’s education is the cornerstone of school success. Teachers are thus well-advised to focus not just on presenting engaging lessons but also on forging a partnership with parents founded on mutual respect, open communication, and an understanding of each other’s pressures and constraints. In this way teachers can help address issues with their students before they become larger problems.

teachers-guide-working-with-parents-cover-tgwpBy building a connection with their students’ parents, teachers can learn key information that will help them work more effectively with their students, understand their educational and psychological needs, and learn about their strengths and weaknesses as well as any talents and interests they may have. Teachers may use this information to tailor lessons to the needs of their students and enhance their academic motivation. Similarly, a close working relationship with parents allows teachers to keep them updated on their children’s progress and offer suggestions for how parents can support their performance at home.

For simple, effective strategies for how to establish positive and productive relationships with parents, check out the quick-reference laminated guide A Teacher’s Guide to Working With Parents. It includes ideas for how to

  • reach out to parents and offer ways they participate in the classroom
  • communicate with parents at the beginning of the year, throughout the year on an ongoing basis, and when a student is struggling or excelling
  • optimize parent-teacher conferences and back-to-school nights
  • deal with angry or challenging parents

Among the recommended strategies found in the guide is sending home a newsletter for parents that includes items such as:

  • Homework and test policies
  • Grading policies
  • Upcoming tests and projects
  • Field trips and special events
  • Learning activities for parents
  • Expressions of appreciation
  • Guest speakers
  • After-school programs
  • School-related web sites
  • Upcoming birthdays
  • Current instructional topics
  • Homework hotlines
  • Extra-curricular activities at school
  • Suggested art and science projects
  • Suggestions for dealing with cyberbullying
  • Book recommendations for children and parents
  • Community resources (for example, social service organizations and private tutors)


Get Expert Guidance on Using UDL to Implement Florida State Standards

The Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as the federal legislation for K-12 public education, gives states greater responsibility and flexibility to set rigorous academic standards and design high quality assessments that are accessible to all students. The law calls for states to use the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)—a scientifically that “(A) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and (B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students”—in developing assessments (and alternate assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities) and delivering instruction.

udl-and-florida-state-standardsThe new quick-reference laminated guide Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Florida State Standards (FSS) by Joseph Casbarro is designed to help Florida educators understand and incorporate UDL. It provides an overview UDL, along with strategies for providing multiple means of representation, multiple means of expression, and multiple means of engagement. It also describes specific UDL best practices that enhance implementation of the Language Arts Standards (LAFS) and Mathematics Standards (MAFS). Other features include a UDL lesson planning framework and a review of approaches— such as differentiated instruction, brain-compatible learning, multi-tiered system of supports, cooperative learning and project-based learning— that support UDL in the classroom.

Hot off the press, the guide is now available for purchase on our website. Schools may make tax-exempt purchases online by setting up a “Schools” account. Quantity discounts are offered on this and all laminated reference guides published by National Professional Resources/Dude Publishing.

About the Author

casbarro-j-2010-color-no-bkgrdJoseph Casbarro is the Chief Operating Officer at National Professional Resources. He worked as an educator for 30 years in public schools, holding administrative positions including building principal, director of special programs, and assistant superintendent of schools. He received his PhD in school psychology from Syracuse University and has taught for many years at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Casbarro is the author of the book Test Anxiety & What You Can Do About It, as well as several quick-reference laminated guides published by National Professional Resources/Dude Publishing.


Maurice Elias To Give SEL Keynote at NJ Healthy Schools, Healthy Students Conference

Author Maurice Elias, psychology professor at Rutgers University and director of the school’s Social-Emotional Learning Lab, will give the key-note address at the New Jersey School Health and Climate Coalition’s first Healthy Schools, Healthy Students conference series, “School Climate and Bullying: Where Are We Now? What Do We Need to Do?” on August 15, 2016 at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, NJ. Dr. Elias’ presentation will explore the key elements necessary for students to thrive socially, academically, emotionally, and physically in school.

Maurice Elias

Maurice Elias

Dr. Elias, a national expert on social emotional learning and social-emotional and character development, worked to establish the field of prevention, school-based preventive intervention, and social competence promotion as a credible, important, and rigorous area of research, practice, and public policy. He is a founding member of the leadership team for the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL, which helps make evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of education from preschool through high school. His publications for National Professional Resources/Dude Publishing include the laminated reference guides School Climate: Building Safe, Supportive, and Engaging Classrooms and Schools and Schools of Social-Emotional Competence and Character.

Attendees to the conference will include representatives from the healthcare and education sectors, state and local government, professional associations, private foundations, and not-for-profit organizations. For additional information visit To learn more about Dr. Elias and his publication, visit

Now Available: The Bullying Prevention Book of Lists, A Comprehensive Resource for Educators

The new book, The Bullying Prevention Book of Lists, by Dr. Kenneth Shore, is an invaluable resource for any administrator, teacher,The Bullying Prevention Book of Lists or school staff member wanting to understand more about bullying and take meaningful steps to respond to and prevent it. It is designed for readers to be able to quickly access critical information, detailed guidance, and effective strategies.

In ten concise chapters the book addresses a broad spectrum of topics, including the following:

  • The 5 “W”s of bullying: What is it, When does it occur, Where does it take place, Why do young people bully, Who is likely to engage in bullying.
  • Facts and figures on bullying.
  • The effects of bullying on students who are bullied, students who bully other, and students who witness bullying.
  • The legal responsibilities of schools.
  • The meaning and methods of cyberbullying, as well as warning signs and safeguards.
  • Special considerations for legally protected classes of students, including students with disabilities and LGBT students.
  • Building safeguards against bullying into a student’s IEP.
  • Creating a positive and safe school climate for all students.
  • Promoting values of respect, tolerance and honesty.
  • Developing bullying prevention policies.
  • Engaging parents.
  • Choosing and implementing comprehensive bullying prevention programs.
  • Preventing bullying through social emotional learning.
  • Delivering anti-bullying lessons.
  • Decreasing bullying in the schoolyard and on the school bus.

In an extensive Resources section, Dr. Shore recommends useful organizations and websites for school staff, parents and students, as well as links to downloadable surveys and guidance documents, and fiction and non-fiction books for students in elementary, middle and high school. Selected short and full-length films, songs, and anecdotes of celebrities who were bullied are also included in the Resources section.

The book is now available for purchase at

About the Author:

Dr. Kenneth Shore has written numerous books, including The ABC’s of Bullying Prevention: A Comprehensive Schoolwide Approach,  and the laminated reference guides, An Educator’s Guide to Bullying Prevention; Classroom Management: A Guide for Elementary Teachers; A Teacher’s Guide to Working With Parents; A Parent’s Guide to Working With Teachers, and Bullying Prevention for Students with Disabilities (all published by NPR, Inc./Dude Publishing). In addition, he is the featured presenter in the video series, “The ABC’s of Bullying Prevention.”

Did You Know? 5 Facts About Bullying [Infographic]

There is not an educator in America today for whom bullying is not a concern and bullying prevention is not a responsibility. In this infographic, we outline the most common types of bullying, as well as identify some hard to believe statistics about bullying in schools.

bullying prevention infographic - 5 Facts About Bullying

The Bullying Prevention Book of Lists

In his new book, The Bullying Prevention Book of Lists: A Practical, Easy-to-Use Guide for All School Staff, Dr. Kenneth Shore presents need-to-know information on the various types of bullying and offers practical and realistic strategies for responding to bullying incidents and preventing them. Designed to provide school administrators, teachers, and support with quick access to key information and practical strategies. Order your copy today for just $12.95 at

Stay tuned, more great infographics from are coming your way! Want to receive free resources in your inbox? Join our exclusive offers list today!

Co-Teaching and Technology Laminated Guide Resources

The new laminated reference guide Co-Teaching and Technology: Enhancing Communication and Collaboration by Marilyn Friend and Brian Friedlander recommends free and low-cost technology tools that co-teachers can use to improve collaboration, co-planning, differentiation, data collection, instruction, student engagement and more. Readers of the guide will find explanations of the programs and applications listed below, along with suggestions for how to use the tools in co-taught classrooms.  The following are quick-access links to the tools referenced in the guide, which is available for purchase at

Cloud Computing Tools:

Planning Tools:

Data Collection Tools:

Tools for Instruction:

QR Code Generators

NPR Inc. Authors Present at CEC Special Education Convention & Expo

Exhibit-with-banner2We at National Professional Resources are proud to publish books and laminated reference guides for educators by some of the top experts in the field. Next week, at the CEC 2016 Special Education Convention & Expo in St. Louis, several of our authors will be presenting and hosting workshops. If you are at the conference, please try to check out some of these exciting sessions, listed below. Products by these experts will be available for purchase at a deeply discounted rate at our booth, #829.

Don’t forget to come by Booth #829 and say hello– and enter to win a presenter prize package! See you there!


New Laminated Guide, Using Data to Improve Student Learning, Now Available

The Newest in Our Line of Quick-Reference Laminated Guides for Educators

Using-Data-to-Improve-Student-Learning-Cover-UDSLFrom David Bateman and Jenifer Cline comes the new 6-page, quick-reference laminated guide for educators, Using Data To Improve Student Learning: Making It Meaningful to Classroom Teachers. The guide is a practical tool for helping teachers understand, collect, and interpret data, and use it for data-based instruction.

The guide answers the questions

  • What Are Data, Testing, Assessment and Evaluation?
  • What Are Different Forms of Assessment?
  • What Are Standardized Assessments?
  • How Are Standardized Assessments Normed?
  • What Are Criterion-Referenced Assessments?
  • What Are the Purposes of Standardized Tests?

Additional information is provided on how scores are computed and reported for different tests, and what various types of scores reveal about a student’s learning. The authors also gives examples of non-standardized data that should be used in conjunction with standardized data to get a holistic understanding of the student.

The guide is now in-stock and available for immediate shipping. Bulk discounts are available for 10 or more copies. For more information on this product and to order, visit

About the Authors:

David Bateman, PhD is a professor in the department of Educational Leadership and Special Education at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania where he teaches courses to future teachers and administrators in learning disabilities, special education law, and the introduction to special education. He has been a classroom teacher of students with learning disabilities, behavior disorders, intellectual disabilities, and hearing impairments. He is currently Public Policy Chair of the Division for Learning Disabilities and is active in the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities in Washington, DC. Bateman is the co-author of A Principal’s Guide to Special Education, and The Special Education Program Administrator’s Handbook, and A Teacher’s Guide to Special Education.

Jennifer Cline is a special education administrator in Great Falls Public Schools in Great Falls, Montana. has worked as a special education administrator for the past 10 years both has a special education cooperative director and a district level special education administrator. An active member of CASE and CEC, Ms. Cline has served as the president of Montana CASE and on the professional development committee for CASE. She is coauthor of the A Teacher’s Guide to Special Education, Efficient and Effective Management of Resources.

The authors will be presenting a full day workshop at the 2016 CEC Special Education Convention and Expo on Wednesday, April 13, “Workshop 5: What All Administrators Need to Know About Special Education.

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