Differentiated Instruction

Research shows differentiated instruction is effective for high-ability students as well as students with mild to severe disabilities.

• When students are given more options on how they can learn material, they take on more responsibility for their own learning.

• Students appear to be more engaged in learning, and there are reportedly fewer discipline problems in classrooms where teachers provide differentiated lessons.

• Differentiated instruction requires more work during lesson planning, and many teachers struggle to find the extra time in their schedule.

• The learning curve can be steep and some schools lack professional development resources.

• Critics argue there isn’t enough research to support the benefits of differentiated instruction outweighing the added prep time.

There are 4 ways to differentiate instruction:

• Content- what are you teaching?

• Process- How will you teach it?

• Product- What will be the outcome?

• Learning Environment- whole group? Small group?

• Use Bloom’s Taxonomy (think lower-level to higher-order thinking).

• In Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy:

Remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create. Use robust verbs in your lesson plans. What will the students do?

•A flexible classroom allows for independent, paired, and group work.

•“Wiggle chairs”, floor space, and a quiet area are essential.  

Wiggle chair
Study carrel


•Break some students into reading groups to discuss the assignment.

•Allow students to read individually if preferred.

•Create quiet spaces where there are no distractions.

Refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy when planning a lesson.

Children’s Books That Are Inclusive

Children love books they can relate to. They need to see themselves represented in the pages. Books that present differences help students feel less alone, more connected. I have been carefully scrutinizing children’s books that lift children out of a sense of isolation. The following are books I highly recommend. I am not selling or being reimbursed in any way for my endorsements. Check them out to help students learn about the importance of inclusion.

“When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part.” Rudine Sims Bishop

Grow Grit Press  (Author), Jelena Stupar  (Illustrator)

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Emergent Bilingual Students

Effective Practices that Support Emergent Bilingual Students 

  1. Identify your students’ language backgrounds and Proficiency Levels (please see page 18 of the ELD Standards Framework) 
  2. Provide effective Integrated ELD and Designated ELD instruction 
  3. Use appropriate and planned scaffolds to support academic language development and content knowledge
  4. View SOE Module #6: Supporting Emergent Bilingual Students for more effective practices and strategies.

Build Connections with Families 

  • Access students’ “Funds of Knowledge” via a Family Survey or Inventory, such as this one from the Learning for Justice website: Family Interview.
    • Connect learning to students’ lived experiences.
  • Ask students to share any extenuating circumstances you should be aware of regarding their learning.
  • Encourage families to have conversations in their home language to aid academic language development.

Provide Opportunities to Build Academic English 

Independent vs Dependent Learner

This book should be on every teacher’s desk as a resource for promoting an inclusive classroom. It is important to remember that dependent does not mean deficit. We want all students to work to their full potential. Here is just one sampling of the valuable guidance from acclaimed author, Jaretta Hammond:

Dependent Learner

Relies on the teacher to carry the cognitive load most of the time

Unsure how to tackle a new task

Needs scaffolds to complete a task

Sits passively until teacher intervenes

Poor retention of information

“I don’t get it.”

Independent Learner:

Relies on the teacher to carry some of the load temporarily

Uses strategies and processes for tackling a new task

Will attempt new tasks without scaffolds

Has a way to get unstuck

Has learned how to retrieve information from long-term memory

“Oh, I see how is related to…..”

I Hope You Dance

When I taught a Special Day Class there were children in my classroom with a variety of differences. I think back on my time with fondness and deep appreciation because I learned that growth is not always measured by a test. I learned so much about patience, acceptance, compassion and inclusion from my exceptional students. They showed me what determination is and how to keep going when the going gets tough. I remember the way they cheered each other on when their classmate’s effort resulted in improvement. They smiled easily and didn’t shy away from taking a risk because they celebrated all effort. They taught me to do the same.

I learned not to limit them, because they had large imaginations that never ceased to amaze me. . They loved being exposed to possibilities. When I saw that the previous teacher used scripted copies of black and white text, I asked for real books. I was told that is was, “subject to debate.” I incurred the wrath of my principal when I asked to be on the “debate” team. I simply wanted my students to have access to the same books that other students were getting. Here is my favorite quote on inclusion:

I hope every child gets to dance.

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Children’s Diverse Fairy Tales

No big changes from what you would expect from a telling of The Little Mermaid, but it is set in the Carribean with vibrant island colors and a notably dark-haired and darker-skinned Little Mermaid. I love the illustrations by Nivea Ortiz, they are vibrant and keep little ones who aren’t reading independently yet enthralled.

A funny re-telling of the classic fairy tale Princess and the Pea. Set in Peru and with a dash of Spanish words throughout the rhyming text tells the story of a prince who is being prepped for marriage and his mother who is making sure that only a real princess makes the cut. The queen is absolutely a monster-in-law, but the sweet prince makes up for her and then some. This book is a fantastic read-aloud, and I can’t give it away, but there might be a funny twist at the end too.

There are no twists or changes made to the classic tale and the text is short enough for a circle time read. Children adore the rich colors used in the illustrations and I love that there are no big changes to the story, simply a different lens and location.
A retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears that takes place during Chinese New Year. Goldy Luck is asked to take some food over to her neighbors but when they aren’t home curiosity gets the better of her and she gets into all kinds of trouble.
A retelling of Little Red Riding Hood that has a sick Auntie with spots and it’s up to Little Red to get her what she needs. Instead of a wolf, there is a Hungry Lion who has no clue what he’s getting himself into!  Kids love this book, the illustrations are hilarious and the story is fun. I don’t think it’s particularly African, in the way that Rachel Isadora’s books successfully incorporate cultural references in a much deeper way, but this is a fun read that has a brave little heroine and is definitely worth reading and finding a place for it on your bookshelf.
This is a story about respect and how there is a difference between being comfortable in other people’s houses and crossing lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Beautiful book that celebrates these lessons and the West African culture of Ghana.
In this version of Stone Soup a fisherman gets tricked into helping to make soup. This book is told from the point of view of the fisherman but the illustrations show a different point of view. (China)

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Diversity in the Classroom

Every Voice Heard — We are a Family

A school culture that promotes diversity in the classroom teaches students something that’s important: how to live and work in a society where every individual is unique. Diversity in the classroom teaches students to appreciate different perspectives and draw stronger conclusions. Challenging students to consider different perspectives can also teach them how to interact with their peers on a social level, and equip them with skills they’ll use for the rest of their life.

*********If it’s difficult to change your existing curriculum, use the opportunity to ask students why different perspectives aren’t included and challenge them to apply critical thinking skills.

  • Shut down discrimination whenever you hear it. Speak out against slurs and derogatory comments.
  • Use language that promotes positivity and doesn’t reinforce existing stereotypes (for example, the phrase “boys will be boys” shouldn’t be used to justify sexism or aggression) .
  • Respond effectively to inappropriate comments or actions. Take infractions seriously and inform parents when necessary.
  • Encourage students to include all of their peers if you see division forming along racial or economic lines. 
  • Remove existing markers of inequality in your school. (For example, make sure students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch programs aren’t singled out and made to feel different.)


  1.  https://www.embracerace.org/resources/16-ways-to-help-children-become-thoughtful-informed-and-brave-about-race?gclid=CjwKCAjwhMmEBhBwEiwAXwFoEYMKMfRZlLSr6Mz-KZLe-9Xmjo_XnbUBZR4Z3wNolDKmth–f4kujBoCsecQAvD_BwE  
  2. https://www.embracerace.org/resources/young-kids-racial-injustice
  3. https://www.gcu.edu/blog/teaching-school-administration/4-ways-celebrate-diversity-classroom
  4. https://www.naturespath.com/en-ca/blog/15-activities-kids-learn-different-cultures/
  5. https://blog.brookespublishing.com/8-ways-to-show-young-children-that-diversity-is-a-strength/
  6. Printables:  https://www.teachervision.com/subjects/social-studies-history/culture-diversity
  7. Activities: http://www.sbhihelp.org/files/Diversity88Ways.pd

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Children’s Books on Diversity

Our world is a tapestry and each of us contribute to the whole. These are books that celebrate our unique identities that are more alike than different.

Written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Leslie Staub. This book takes the reader around the world, showing how we may all be different in so many ways, but we have so much in common as well. The sweet message is accompanied by vividly colorful illustrations showing diverse people, families and homes
Written by Maria Dismondy and illustrated by Donna Farrell. This book, inspired by a true story, follows a young boy who moves to a new school where everyone speaks a different language. One of the other boys in school doesn’t want to accept him, but he soon learns an important lesson of friendship and kindness from his peers reminding the reader how beautiful cultural diversity can be.
Written by P.K. Hallinan. This sweet story shows why we should strive to gather a rainbow of friends. Diversity is beautiful. The adorable illustrations and simple rhyming text introduce the idea that we have lots of different kinds of friends, and they are all special.
Written by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly. This book uses simple text and colorful photographs to introduce young readers to the many different shades of color that skin can be. This is a great toddler children’s book about diversity.
Written and illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka. This story celebrates the wide range of skin colors in the world, as well as all the beautiful colors found in nature. The lyrical text is combined with beautiful illustrations highlighting all the beautiful colors.
Written and illustrated by Calida Garcia Rawles. Lida and Lisa are first cousins who do everything together. When they play dress up one day, they start to see the differences in their appearances. Their wise grandmother helps them see that they can be different and still the same.

Written by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Lauren Tobia. This rhyming book shows a diverse group of babies who are all happy in their skin. The sweet illustrations and rhyming text show readers all the ways that our skin is similar.

Written by Carmen Parets Luque. All families are different, but all families are special in their own way. The author introduces readers to the many different types of families in the world through simple text and creative illustrations of stick figures and buttons.

Written by Carmen Parets Luque. All families are different, but all families are special in their own way. The author introduces readers to the many different types of families in the world through simple text and creative illustrations of stick figures and buttons.

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Childrens’ Books That are Relatable

A good book can spark imagination, teach us, and take us on a journey.

I love to share resources for children by topic. Kindly share with me if you have collections of special interest and I will add them. 😉 Teaching children to read and to Love reading is my passion.

We have all had a lousy day. Relatable text is important for children to make text-to-life connections.

Lucy is teased for being different. She finds courage to be herself.

This book helps children learn our fears are greatly exaggerated.

Kids will learn to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, lend a helping hand, and inspire others to do the same.

A book to teach about emotions and anger management.

Nurturing your child’s creativity might be one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child and to the world.

This is a story about loving yourself and respecting others.

This book introduces children to the practice of using mindful affirmations for support and encouragement when they need it. 

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Support for Diversity and Inclusion

Supporting and celebrating diversity and inclusion in school works because it gives all children the potential to achieve, and creates an environment where those with additional needs are not segregated and seen as ‘other’; they are part of the same community of learners. Inclusion addresses negative cultural attitudes and misconceptions about people with disabilities, or those who are members of minority communities.

Websites, Blogs, and Media About Inclusive Classrooms:



Is it inclusion?

This chart, developed by inclusion expert Nicole Eredics, can help you understand what inclusion is and isn’t.

Child spends the majority of the day in the general education classroom.Child spends the majority of the day in a special education classroom and goes to a general education classroom for one or two periods.
Child’s desk is included with the other groups of desks in the classroom.Child’s desk is away from the other desks in the classroom.
Child has access to and is included in classroom lessons and activities that are adapted or modified to meet his/her special needs.Child works on his/her own curriculum.
Child attends outside activities with the class including assemblies, field trips, enrichment classes, and recess.Child is given alternate activities and options with other special education students.
Child is an independent, valued, and respected classroom member.Child is looked upon as helpless, needy, and dependent.
The child’s paraprofessional facilitates access to the curriculum and classroom activities.The child’s paraprofessional determines access to the curriculum and classroom activities.
The paraprofessional encourages child to complete work as independently as possible, while providing support when needed.The paraprofessional does not provide many opportunities for the child to complete work independently and “hovers.”
Child receives specialist support (therapy, speech, and language) with minimal disruption to the class routine and program.Child is pulled from the classroom lessons and activities for specialist suport without consideration for what the child will miss.
The teacher can identify your child’s strengths and areas for improvement.The teacher refers to the specialists and paraprofessionals to identify child’s development.
Child can name classmates and has many common classroom experiences.Child does not know classmates and does not have many common classroom experiences.

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Book Videos

Outstanding story about overcoming fear.

 The Emperor’s Egg video

Learn about Emperor penguins in this delightful, informative book.

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