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Maybe I’m the Slow Kid

On the CAST web site they introduce Differentiated Instruction by stating:

Not all students are alike. Based on this knowledge, differentiated instruction applies an approach to teaching and learning so that students have multiple options for taking in information and making sense of ideas.

Teachers some times think they are being asked to “water” down the curriculum and that differentiated instruction is for the special education or slower students in the class. It is really for everyone. The recent cold weather brought me to a great example of differentiated instruction on a personal level. When I want to know the weather forecast for my city I always use the National Weather Service (NOAA) web site (www.weather.gov).

During may last visit to the site, I thought this is a great way to look at differentiated instruction. People like different representations of the weather. You may like one or more of the following four or more ways the weather is represented on the weather.gov site.

Method One:

Images and brief text:


This is a pretty typical way the weather is represented in the newspaper and on popular weather websites. It gives you a nice glance at the five day forecast.

Method Two:

More days, but all text.


Notice that you get a little more detail. It takes a little longer to read the forecast than to look at the images.

Method Three:

The big picture using radar and Satellite Images.

weather-3A bigger picture and more complicated. You have regional radar and wide satellite images and if you know weather patterns or watch the radar loop, you can see the movement of storms.

Method Four:

This is the forecast I use. It makes the most sense to me. You can find it under “Additional Forecast and Information” the third listing on the left, Hourly Weather Graph.


You will get these two graphs and five more. The two graphs shown here show an hour by hour view of the temperature, wind chill, dew point, wind speed, wind direction, and wind gust. The other five graphs show more data. I like it because I can view the change in the forecast over time.

How does this relate to differentiated instruction? If you read through this long-winded (pun intended) post, you most likely thought of the method you like best. You picked the one that gave you the information you needed to know and a way you can grasp what the weather forecast is for the next few days.

I happen to like Method Four. Then again, maybe I am just the slow kid in the class. Wouldn’t it be great if we took the power of technology to help represent information in different ways for different students? Instruction using audio, video, text, animations, pictures, or a combination of all of them. We don’t need to create all the content. Some is created and if we learn to share we can all create part of it.


PS Special thanks to Brian Montgomery from the National Weather Service for teaching me more about weather than any science teacher I ever had in school.


  1. Diane Santurri says:

    I love this example. I chose the one with the pictures!! 🙂 I am a visual learner!
    Our students need to have options to demonstrate learning and to use their varied learning styles and abilities. (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Read/Write) Perfect example of “individual-centered education”.

    We are unique in our personalities, abilties, processing techniques, and experiences. Why not offer these choices to our students so they know — we CARE and want them to succeed the way they can best do so!

    Thanks for this terrific example.

  2. What a clear example of something that we try to make complicated sometimes! I read the many days, text forecast. My husband always looks at the radar.

    I especially like your idea: “We don’t need to create all the content. Some is created and if we learn to share we can all create part of it.” It’s that learning to share that we don’t seem to be too good at!

    Thanks for the post.

  3. […] 27, 2009 by Nancy Another great post over at A New Adventure.  He talks about differentiating instruction and then gives the clearest example I have ever seen, […]

  4. Sue Hardin says:

    Jim – I LOVE the example. It’s a perfect illustration of differentiating instruction and one we can all relate to. Mind if I share it?

    p.s trust me, you’re not the slow kid! I’d say you’ve got it!

  5. Millard Pickney says:

    All of us in Fraser agree that Brian Montgomery is a top notch communicatior. After he made presentations for our elementary school students they would run up to get his autograph.

    Great post Jim. It really shows how the same information can be presented in a number of different ways.

  6. Theresa McGuire says:

    This great example also reminds us that at times we need the quick info and other times we need the more detailed. You’re still the best! Wish you well. Theresa

  7. Rita Hughes says:

    Thanks for the examples! May I use these ideas with an inservice I am planning? Glad Sue sent this so I can start reading your blog again!

  8. Hi Jim,

    This is a great post! Clearly explains what differentiated instruction is. You may want to send people to the following link to learn how to implement it in their classrooms, now that they understand what it is:


    Have a great day!

    Jennifer Filgate
    Etraffic Solutions

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