Customization: Streamlining Differentiation

Differentiation Workbook

Differentiation Workbook from Mindsteps, Inc

Differentiation has been an educational buzz word for several years now, but I recently learned a new way to streamline differentiation in the classroom.  Part of our back-t0-school professional development was a presentation based on The Differentiation Workbook by MindSteps Inc.

Here’s the gist of what I learned:

  • Students can be grouped into four basic learning categories.
  • Pre-assess and assign students to these categories.
  • Differentiate for the four different groups instead of on an individual basis.


All students fall into one of four basic learning categories:

  1. HCHP – High content, high processing. In the social studies world, this means that they are good at remembering basic facts, but they are also good at interpreting data in maps, graphs, charts, etc.
  2. LCHP – Students who struggle with recalling knowledge, but can follow processes to interpret data.
  3. HCLP – Students who remember things well but have a hard time interpreting text, graphs, etc.
  4. LCLP – Students who struggle in both categories.


I was intrigued with this concept, so I started off the year with a pre-assessment based on  content from the first nine weeks.  The questions used to gauge students’ “content” skills were basic knowledge questions about geography, colonial times and the American Revolution.  The questions used to gauge students’ “processing” skills were based on maps, charts and quotes.  I used the data to group the students into the four categories.


My results showed that about 50% of my students fell into the LCHP category.  These students are good at using graphs and maps, but they don’t remember a lot of the basic content even though they have been exposed to it numerous times throughout their educational career.  Approximately 25% of my students were LCLP including almost all special needs students.  These would be students who struggle with recalling facts but also need practice with interpretation skills.  15% were HCHP, and are the  students who would typically qualify for advanced courses.  10% were HCLP which means they struggle interpreting data but remember facts easily.

Customizing Instruction for Differentiation Based on Levels:

In the past, I have willy-nilly handed out homework assignments knowing that the work given may be over some students heads while it may be way too easy for others.  Now that I have students grouped based on learning needs, I can provide them with study tools for homework based on their individual level.  I plan to use for assigning homework this year, so I thought that would be a great way to CUSTOMIZE (differentiate) their assignments.  Instead of creating classes based on period, I created classes based on learning needs.  I’ve renamed them (of course) with names such as “Washington’s Wonders”, “Adams’ Aces”, “Madison’s Marvels”, and “Jefferson’s Geniuses.”  Students in the LCLP group will be getting extra flash cards, vocabulary drills and study guides.  Students in the HCHP will be engaging in problem solving activities, scavenger hunts, group discussions, etc.  Those in the middle will get a mix of the two.

Help a Sister Out!

Perhaps, you’ve got experience “chunking” differentiation in this way?  Please share your tips and strategies with me!  Differentiation is such an important part of teaching and it’s always refreshing to add new tools to the ol’ toolbelt!  Please comment below or email with ideas on how to customize lessons for students.

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