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Differentiating literacy centers can seem like a hard task. But with these five tips you will have a great set up to help all learners in your room grow.

We have a variety of students in our room. They all are so unique with different backgrounds, different learning styles, different personalities, and they are all at different levels in their educational journey. Nobody in your room is exactly alike and each year your students are going to be so different too.

Since there is such a variety of student levels it is important for teachers to differentiate. I know what you are thinking…


Yeah, I used to think so too. So here are my five recommendations fo differentiating your literacy centers.

Tip #1 Color Coded Folders

Color code your centers with different folders! Then assign students a color. When students arrive at the designated center they can just grab the activity out of their folder and work! I used these folders for independent close reading centers or independent work focusing on my small group mini-lesson.

Tip #2 Differentiate with Technology

If you include technology into your reading workshop you can easily differentiate those. Find apps or online programs that are self-paced. This way students are working on the skills they need but are still on the same program or app as everyone else.

Tip #3 Differentiate Small Group Instruction by Skill

Use your small group instruction wisely. Unlike whole group lessons take notes on what each of your students need to succeed. Group them together by skills they need. It doesn’t always have to be a low, middle, or high group. For example, let’s say Timmy, a high leveled reader, and Sammy, a still growing reader, and a couple other students are lacking in understanding r controlled vowels. Group them together to learn from each other and focus on the skill they need to be successful. Then when they go to independent work, allow them to have the same colored folder which focuses on r controlled vowel sounds.

Grouping students by ability only gets you so far. But when you group them by a certain skill you will have a variety of learners working together to understand the material.

Tip #4 Word Work

Another way to differentiate your literacy centers is by supplying students with different spelling words. Not all students need the same spelling words. You can easily differentiate those by picking different words for your students that still apply the same phonics skill. For example, Sammy needs words he can easily break apart. If the spelling skill for the week was short a words like cat, ham, rag would be best on Sammy’s list. For Jeryn who is a great speller multi syllable words like mankind, activity, apple etc. will challenge Jeryn while Sammy will be challenged using his own list.

Now differentiate doesn’t mean you just give them both the same words and cross off some for Sammy. That’s a modification. Differentiate means different and they need different words that will challenge them yet still focus on the same skill.

You might be thinking but I don’t want to give out different spelling tests! I didn’t either so I used SpellingCity which you can use free or paid. I loved this option because students were able to take however long they needed on their particular test, integrate keyboarding skills, a preview of what testing online is like, and I could print off the scores and add it to their file even with the free version.

Tip #5 Differentiate Writing by Utilizing Conferences

There are multiple ways to differentiate writing too. It can be as easy as co-writing a piece, giving students different sized paper and lines, meeting with students who need help with that beginning sentence.

In my classroom we had writing conferences every other week. I would meet with small groups (1-3) students and we would discuss what they needed to work on, I helped them develop their writing into something they were proud of. Also, these meetings were great for me to see what my students were missing. So they directed either my whole class writing lessons (depending on how many students needed it) or helped me group my students into small groups to focus on different skills.

Confused on where to start? Click here for differentiated resources to help you easily implement these tips and tricks.

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