Differentiating for and Anticipating Student Need

All the students I teach now are ELL learners, and their English levels vary enormously from individual to individual. So I have to keep in mind that I always plan my lesson for different English proficiency levels. I also had some kids with ADHD problems last year and the year before, and I anticipate there will be more in my future career, so I will be mainly addressing these two categories.

Differentiating for ELL Students

There has been much discussion about what constitutes appropriate content, instruction, and assessment for English language learners. As educators have grappled with this issue, it has become clear that educational parity can only be achieved if ELLs have an opportunity to learn the same rigorous academic content as native English speakers. The best way to achieve that goal is through differentiated instruction that takes into account ELLs’ English language proficiency, as well as the many other factors that can impact learning

Differentiated instruction, by definition, is an instruction that is designed to support individual students’ learning in a classroom of students with varied backgrounds and needs. For this reason, the same general principles that apply to differentiated instruction for native English speakers also apply to ELLs.

Strategies for ELL students:

  • Get to know as much as possible about each student — ELLs represent a wide range of academic skills, interests, languages, English language proficiency levels, and cultures. The more a teacher can learn about each student’s background, the better-prepared s/he is to provide appropriate instruction for that student.
  • Provide multiple types of assessment — matching assessment to students’ learning profiles and language proficiency ensures that every student has an opportunity to demonstrate what he/she knows.
  • Differentiate homework— If all students have the same homework assignments, some are doing busy work while others are struggling with work that they cannot possibly complete successfully.
  • Collaborate — Instruction is most successful when all of the professionals who work with ELLs work together.
  • Use flexible grouping — Small group instruction is a very effective way of making sure that all students can access important content, and keeping groups flexible allows teachers to match students with different peers for different types of activities.
  • Make content comprehensible for all students — Providing ELLs with alternative ways of accessing key content (e.g., charts, books written in their first language, simplified text written by the teacher, discussion, etc.) allows them to learn the same material as other students as they continue to develop their English language skills.

Differentiating for ADHD

Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) is a condition that can make it very difficult for a student to sit still, control their behavior, and pay attention. Students with ADD/ADHD are very capable of being successful in school given the right kind of environment. Teachers can make a world of difference for these students and help them achieve by implementing certain adaptations or interventions.

Strategies for ADHD students:

  • The use of multi-sensory activities can enhance any lesson for ADD/ADHD students. These students are often kinesthetic learners and any hands-on activity using manipulatives, computers, or audio/visual materials can help these learners process information more effectively.
  • Praise is so very important for students with ADD/ADHD and shouldn’t be understated. Praise can be an incredible motivator to help students focus and pay attention.
  • It is important to strategically position ADD/ADHD students in an area of the classroom where there will be minimal external stimuli. For example, try not to seat them near doorways or windows where they could be easily distracted. It is often very helpful to place these students next to someone who is a good role model.
  • Incentives often work well with ADD/ADHD students. These students are often very competitive and incentives can help to motivate them.
  • One way teachers can support ADD/ADHD students is to provide them with methods and tools to help them organize themselves such as the use of daily planners, assignment folders, or checklists. It is important to establish routines for object placement so that homework and assignments are completed and returned. This can also include helping these students maintain an uncluttered workspace.
  • Students with ADD/ADHD have a difficult time paying attention in a whole group, classroom setting. Therefore, when directions or instructions are provided to the class as a whole, they often only retain a portion of what is stated. By providing follow-up directions individually to these students, you can be assured they receive all of the information.

Flow Chart


Flow chart from: https://goo.gl/images/HDpE5e


  1. https://goo.gl/images/HDpE5e
  2. “Differentiated Instruction For English Language Learners | Colorín Colorado”. org. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
  3. “Strategies For Students With ADHD | Education.Com”. com. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

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