Differentiated Instruction (Part 3)

Want to learn more about why I began developing differentiated passages? Read my story here! (Link to Post #4 below)

*Differentiated Passages for Quick Differentiation

Differentiated passages (also called “tiered texts” or “leveled texts”) make differentiation a breeze. The idea behind differentiated passages is that you can share the same rich information with every reader on every level in your class. All you have to do is match each reader up with his or her best fitting passage level and voila! Students will be able to learn the same information in a way that is most accessible to them as individuals.

***insert graphic from Differentiated Passages Snapshot that shows the gradient of passages, text complexity, vocab, etc.***


Each level…

Includes the same key content. Your high-flying readers might have access to a few extra “fun facts” or more specific dates, but the key content that is central to the text is the same for every reader. Your lower readers won’t miss any information that the high readers have access to.

Varies in overall length. Lower reading levels are often shortened to cut down the text to include the essential information. Think of it like teaching multiplication to third graders. High-flyers can be challenged by jumping into three-digit multiplication to meet their needs, while sweet-and-lows will be best served by sticking with single-digit multiplication at first. The end goal for all students is to learn how to multiply, but the paths that all of the different learners take are unique.

Varies in sentence structure and complexity. Higher level texts include longer, more complex sentences. Lower level texts include shorter sentences that are easier for students to comprehend in small, manageable chunks.

Varies in complexity of vocabulary. Key content-related terms are included and defined on each level, but the overall vocabulary for each passage level varies. Higher level passages include larger words and more sophisticated vocabulary, while lower level passages include smaller more common words.


*How to Use Differentiated Passages

• During Social Studies / Science Instruction to Teach New Information and Supplement / Enhance the Textbook
Textbooks can be such a great resource, but they can also be quite frustrating. They are filled with information, but they also have a few key flaws. First off, textbooks tend not to line up perfectly with standards. I found that my textbook added a lot of information to cover areas that I didn’t need, while it lacked in other essential areas. Additionally, textbooks only come in one level. I’d like to think that they were written for my on grade level readers, but I honestly think they best fit my higher readers.

Enter differentiated passages. They are perfect because they are short and to the point. Each passage has a narrowed focus on one topic so that you can easily choose only the most relevant topics to your standards or unit. You can also choose not to use passages that cover material that doesn’t fit in your curriculum or unit plan. Another idea is to use the passages to extend learning in the textbook. Often, students will find one or two things that the textbook skimmed over that they are really interested in learning more about. This is the point at which I can pull out a differentiated passage on the topic of interest and allow the student to learn more!

Additionally, you can use differentiated passages to add to or enhance what your textbook does cover. There are some sections of my textbook that I think did an excellent job of covering a certain topic. In these cases, I will just share the differentiated passages with my students to add onto what the textbook already covered. There is a very helpful resource included in each differentiated passage set that covers Common Core standard 2.9 in regards to comparing two or more texts on the same topic. Comparing the information in your textbook with the information from a differentiated passage topic is an easy, effective way to cover the content and practice key reading strategies.


• In Guided Reading Groups and for Close Reading Practice

One of the biggest benefits of the differentiated passages is that they allow for quick and easy integration. Learn the social studies or science content you have to cover and practice reading skills at the same time. What could be easier?! These passages are short and concise, usually being only around a page long, so they’re perfect for close reading practice as well.

• For Homework, Classwork, or Morning Work

Once you initially expose students to the format of the differentiated passages and model how to read/respond to them for the first time, students can easily work on them independently. You can assign the passages and questions as review for homework, for students to work on independently or in groups during class, or as morning work to start off the day.

I’ve had many teachers tell me that they assign the reading passages as weekly homework! The “High-Interest” passage sets are perfect for this if you plan to use content-area passages during class time. For example, you could work on Civil War passages in class together and then send home August History passages as additional reading practice. Check out the “High-Interest” passage series here! (Link here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Sweetest-Thing/Category/-High-Interest-Passages-228876)


• Center Rotations

Using center rotations is not just limited to the literacy or math block if you use a program like math/reading workshop or the Daily 5. Using center rotations with my students in social studies was one of my very favorite things to do - and theirs, too! And, including a differentiated passage as a center rotation was another one of my favorite things to do. I trained students which “shape” to look for and included several copies of the passage on each level in the center rotation bucket. (When I say shapes, I am referring to a discrete shape in the corner of each passage that indicates which level the passage is.) Students can all read the same content on their just-right levels and then work together to answer the same set of questions as a group or in partner sets.

If you want to see my center rotations in action or try them out for yourself, check out my social studies unit plans. (Link here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Sweetest-Thing/Category/-Social-Studies-Units-198221)


• Research Projects

It is so challenging to find on-grade level, content-rich texts for students to use when researching. Differentiated passages make an excellent reference for students when they are conducting research projects, creating booklets/pamphlets, etc.! 

• For Assessment, Unit Review, and Test Prep

You can easily use the differentiated passages for assessment because each individual passage includes a set of questions (usually around eight questions) with an answer key. You can pick and choose which questions you want the students to answer for each passage or have them answer them all.

Many teachers have also used these passage sets for unit review or to prepare for an end-of-year or end-of-course test. Again, because the passages are usually only around a page per topic, it’s easy to just grab the passages for topics you need to review and share them with the students.

For more information and guidance on differentiation and differentiated reading passages, check out this snapshot guide here! ***Link to Differentiated Passage Snapshot on TpT: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Differentiated-Passages-FREE-Resource-Snapshot-2373470***

To see a full listing of differentiated passages that you can begin using today to differentiate your instruction right away, click here! ***Link to all passages custom listing on TpT: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Sweetest-Thing/Category/-ALL-Passages-116932***