Differentiating Instruction: Ideas for individual differences

Whether you teach first grade or AP Calculus, your class is certain to have a variety of learners. Perhaps you have some ESL/ELL students, some learning support, some emotional support, some gifted, and some very “average.” TeachersFirst has resources to help you understand and adapt for student differences, including general ideas for any and all students and for specific student needs.

For Any and All Students:

  • Browse examples
    Many TeachersFirst resource reviews include differentiation suggestions and practical ways a resource can help you meet individual needs.
  • Consider Multiple Intelligences
    These Multiple Intelligences definitions and examples will help you understand and recognize multiple intelligences so you can plan activities to address student strengths, not just your own.
  • Customize your rubrics Use rubrics that include elements to include or delete for individual students. See downloadable examples of rubric starters that include individualized creativity elements from TeachersFirst’ Dimensions of Creativity. Learn more about rubrics and handy rubric tools from our Rubrics to the Rescue.
  • Help students master study skills
    TeachersFirst offers a collection of reviewed study skills tools and strategies to help students learn how to learn. Help students discover their individual "best practices" using the many options collected by our editors, all Thinking Teachers themselves.
  • Make a FREE teacher "public" page
    TeachersFirst members can differentiate resources (for FREE) by sharing their TeachersFirst Favorites for varied student ability levels and strengths on their TeachersFirst "public" page. As you mark Favorites within TeachersFirst, tag them with student names or add notes indicating which may be the most challenging reading or well-suited for all readers. Add a note such as "many images" as a tip to weaker readers or ESL/ELL students.  Your TeachersFirst public page can also share basic information on current class assignments so learning support teachers and parents can better help struggling students. Learn more about TeachersFirst's free member features.
  • Share Differentiation Successes
    If you use a TeachersFirst resource successfully to differentiate a lesson, use your free TeachersFirst membership to comment on the resource, sharing what worked with other teachers. Learn more about the advantages of commenting and other FREE TeachersFirst membership features


For Specific Student Needs:

Autism and Aspergers
Find resources and information to help you understand and work with this increasing population.


  • Adapt-a-Strategy for ESL/ELL
    Adapt your existing lesson plans using these simple strategies to help ESL students. Some of the same strategies may help with students with IEPs for speech and language or learning support.
  • Top Ten Tips for Working With ESL/ELL Students
    Teaching ESL/ELL students in your regular classroom can be a challenge. These tips will help you find appropriate ways to differentiate instruction and make minor adjustments ESL/ELL students in any class.


Special Ed
Special Ed regulations change frequently, and many are specific to your state. TeachersFirst continues to revise our Special Ed information. We are not, however, to be considered legal advisers on IDEA (federal regulations about special ed) and its many revisions.