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Differentiation: Getting to Know Your Students

Differentiation can not truly take place if a special education teacher does not know their students.   Many times we spend so much time focusing on academics and our students’ readiness levels in relation to grade level standards, that we forget to get to know what interests our students or how they learn best.   

Without this knowledge, we are not going to be able to keep our students engaged in learning, which can result in the achievement gap widening for many students with disabilities.  Since learning styles and interests are the areas which are frequently overlooked by school teams, I am going to share a few tools that can support you in getting to know your students in these areas.  

With this information, you will be able to create lessons that are not only truly differentiated, but also engaging for your students.

Learning Style

This learning style inventory not only gives you information about whether a student is an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners, it also provides the teacher and student with information about preferences in different areas such as memory, responding to new situations, and distractibility.  This inventory was based on work by O’Brien in 1985, but still is relevant for today’s teachers and students. It is longer, so may need to be chunked or read aloud for younger students

This learning style inventory by Stetson and Associates is similar to the previous one, but is geared towards elementary students.  


This is actually a career inventory that is used in Texas to start elementary students with thinking about post-secondary goals.  It is multiple pages and has a lot of great information and different activities for students to engage in around college and career readiness.  Although this is a bit more involved, there can be a lot of value in taking the time to complete this with students in either upper elementary or even middle school.  This would be especially useful for communities where post secondary goals may not be topic of conversation outside of school.

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