Differentiating for and Anticipating Student Needs



This is the link of a flowchart I created related to the blog.


As a teacher you have to differentiate every single lesson, deal with each situation throughout the day, be highly flexible and always take strategies on board that engages student learning individually. I would like to write about two students in my current class for whom it is very important to differentiate instruction for their learning.

  1. is a four -year old boy, who started school this year, and seems to be very shy. He has difficulties to step from one place to the next, seems to be scared to transition into other rooms or areas, and seems to need constant adult supervision. When teaching indoors, I have him with me most of the time, and always need to think about a strategy to get him involved into the lesson. So far, I have figured out his main interests numerals and letters. This is important to know as these allow him to feel safer during an activity. The strategy I use is quite simple: I hand over a number to him in the morning that he carries with him all the time. We have an agreement that this prompt goes into his pocket as soon as he needs his hands free for an activity, such as drawing and writing into his journal, or Mathematics related activities where he needs to use his hands. Also, when he gets emotional I prepare him for transitions ahead of time: together we go through the daily schedule, which is hung up on the wall, and shows transition times of the day. During outdoor learning he walks and stands close to me, and I give him simple instructions related to his learning level, such as to find one natural resource instead of five. In this way he shows engagement, as he started showing curiosity in the outdoor learning and picked up a leaf. “This-for Mommy”, he said and smiled.
  2. is also a four-year old boy who started school this academic year. He shows lots of interest everywhere, all the time, and in each learning environment. He is like a“busy bee”flying -moving around everywhere. He is not able to stay focused for a longer amount of time, and usually switches places after two minutes. Especially during circle time it is hard for him to listen to and follow instructions. I get his interest if I involve him into our daily routine, giving him little tasks, such as: be a helping hand, help go through the schedule, hold the calendar. Then he shows a lot of engagement and is able to focus much better. Also, I have been using a strategy that is a very helpful tool: each time he chooses a learning environment I tell him that he needs to stay there for a longer amount of time. He fetches the sand-timer, turns it and becomes his own “Time-keeper” and needs to stay in the room he has chosen during that time. I started with the 3 minutes sand-timer, and he already is getting better using the 5 minutes timer. I am aiming to have him stay focused for 10 minutes using the sand-timer for this amount of time. This strategy is important as it makes time ‘visible’ for the boy, and clearly gives him an instruction he is able to follow. Throughout this differentiation of classroom management he gets more learning input, and his concentration span will be developed by focusing on one specific learning activity. Also, I modify my teaching by sitting next to him on one-to-one correspondence, and repeat what is asked for in his Mother tongue, which is German. This is also an important strategy, as he understands tasks much better. For example, when asked to collect five different objects into a paper bag during the forest-project he could only show me two. The next day I went with him outside on the playground, and together we went on a“nature” hunt. He finally could manage to find the five different objects without my support, and collected: a little twig, an oval leaf, a maple leaf, a rock and a wood chip.

Related to the mind-map “How to support a student in class I created a longer time ago I like to mention that throughout a variety of strategies each child is able to be supported in class, for example:

set up achievable goals

offer strategies for support

communicate with the parents

related to a child’s learning give visible, auditory, kinesthetic input

get into contact with psychologists, health service at school ( such as school nurse)

Throughout this variety of teaching strategies I hope that the students will benefit from differentiation, and will be taken to a higher learning level.

Carola Deinet-Knittel


International School of Stuttgart



Atlas Curriculum


Link related to autism: