This page contains activities, assignments, readings, and resources for teaching and learning about differentiation, learning preferences, multiple intelligences, and students with special needs in world language education.

"Imagine going to work and not being able to do your job. Now imagine that you can't leave your job. Imagine having to do that every day. This is what life is like for children with learning disabilities" (Dr. David Urion, Director, Neurology and Learning Disabilities Program, Children's Hospital, Boston)

Today's Topic: Multiple Intelligences, Students with Special Needs, & Differentiation


  • Students will analyze some of the challenges faced by students with special needs based on personal experience gained through simulations.
  • Students will articulate how personality characteristics influence interpersonal relationships with students and colleagues.
  • Students will analyze the implications of various personality characteristics for classroom management.
  • Students will explore a variety of instructional strategies for differentiating instruction to meet the individual needs of their students.
  • Students will develop learning centers that differentiate instruction regarding a particular topic.


1) I can explain typical problems students with common disabilities experience in a world language class.
2) I can explain how attention to personality characteristics can guide teachers in selecting appropriate pedagogical strategies for meeting individual student needs.
3) I can select appropriate instructional strategies and accommodations to meet the needs of students with special needs.
4) I can use learning centers to differentiate instruction.


1) What are some of the challenges students with special needs may experience in the world language classroom?
2) How do personality characteristics influence interpersonal relationships in a school setting?
3) What implications do personality characteristics have for classroom management?
4) How might world language educators differentiate instruction to better meet the individual needs of their students?
5) What are learning centers? How do they work? Why are they especially effective in the world language classroom?




Technological Support for Differentiated Instruction


Why Differentiate?

1: Students with Special Needs: Simulations

2: Principles of Differentiation

1) Examine: Differentiation Concept Map
2) What activities do you remember participating in during your time in K-12 education which reflect the best practices identified on the map?

3: PowerPoint Presentation

1) Go to this page:
2) Click on the Dare to Diff 09.ppt link
3) View the PowerPoint presentation once it downloads
4) Discuss the presentation with your colleagues as you view it

4: Differentiation Strategies

1) Go to the Dare to Differentiate Wiki
2) Click on at least 3 of the links under "Strategies."
3) Open at least 3 of the documents on each page.
4) Discuss with your colleagues how you might use these ideas in a Spanish class.

5: Learning Preferences & Multiple Intelligences

True Colors (performed by John Legend)

True Colors Quiz - Print Version

True Colors Quiz - Online version (does not give numerical scores)

TrueColorsTraits.JPG - Pages 3-4 contain brief descriptions of how each color is likely to interact at home, at school, and with friends. Page

CoachingTips.JPG- Read this entire packet THOROUGHLY. EXCELLENT charts that indicate how to relate to, motivate, appreciate each color; Pages 3-6 compare how each color sees itself to how others may see each color. Very useful for thinking about why people might sometimes misunderstand you, as well as how you might accidentally misunderstand others reframing lists; symptoms of a bad day; and team member role cards. (See also Page 2 of this handout: TrueColorsCharacteristics.JPG )

WhatToLookForWhenYoureOutOfEsteem.JPG - You'll have to download and open this Word doc to read it. Page 1 contains a list of typical behaviors each color exhibits when having a bad day.


BluesOnYourTeam.JPG - Very well-designed handouts that highlight what each of the 4 colors brings to a collaborative situation, along with questions each color is likely to ask about the task at hand. Super helpful for you as members of different professional committees, and helpful for students as they engage in group work.

StrategiesForWorkingWithEachColor.JPG - Formatting is ugly, but info. is useful

IdentifyingAJobInterviewersTrueColors.JPG - Understanding your interviewer can help you know which strategies will help you communicate best

5) OPTIONAL: Just For Fun True Colors Materials

- This PDF document contains wordsearches for all 4 colors

WhatsYourDietStyleSurvey.JPG - Are you a diet feeler, planner, thinker, or player? This brief quiz may give you some insight into your eating habits. (Warning - this links to a commercial site)

PersonalityStyleShoppingQuiz.JPG - Read 4 different comic strips and decide which situation best depicts you, then read a brief description of how your dominant colors may be affecting your shopping habits. (Warning - this links to a commercial site)

TrueColorsByBumperSticker.JPG - Can you identify which color is most likely to own each of these bumper stickers?

Additional True Colors Resources

TrueColorsKeysToSuccessfulCommunication&Teamwork.JPG - Golds will find this PowerPoint presentation useful. It provides detailed, step-by-step instructions for the quiz, along with a more comprehensive approach to explaining it

6: Learning Centers: Making Differentiation Manageable


What is differentiation?

Differentiation is a big word that is often used in education to talk about the ways that teachers make the curriculum more accessible to their students. Typically, it involves adjustments to the content of the curriculum, the processes in which students engage with the curriculum and the teacher, and/or the products or assignments students produce. These changes are made in an attempt to make the curriculum better match the interests, learning preferences, and needs of individual students, special groups of students, or even entire classes. Although most teachers agree with the concept of differentiation in theory, many believe that it is difficult to implement successfully in schools where classes are large and the individual students in each class are very diverse, or not worth the time it might take.


Why differentiate instruction?

(PDF of the book)
(Video Transcript)

Not all students are ready to learn the same thing on the same day in the same way. Consequently, teachers can better serve their students by differentiating (or tailoring) instruction to their individual needs.

ACTFL Position Statement on Diversity & Inclusion in Language Programs

Adapting Materials & Strategies for Special Needs Students


How can teachers individualize instruction through differentiation when they teach large groups of very diverse students?

Before answering the how question, it is important to ask yourself, "What do my students NEED?" When you consider the answer to that question, be sure to consider learners who are culturally & linguistically diverse, students who are gifted, students with other special needs, and the learning preferences of all of your students. There are a number of different strategies that language teachers can use to differentiate instruction in order to better meet these needs. Some of them include:

  • Pre-assessments - These are essential to helping the teacher determine what students already know, what they need to learn, and what their learning preferences are. Once teachers have this information, it will be easier for them to select appropriate strategies for differentiation.

  • Choice of Activities (Game, Learning Center, Online Tutorial, Project, Textbook Activity, Video, Webquest, Worksheet, etc.)

  • Choice of Media/Materials (Colored pencils, Computer-generated, Crayons, Cut & Paste from Magazines, Markers, Paints, Pastels, Watercolors, etc.)

  • Choice of Products (Baby Book, Collage, Comic Strip, Diagram, Diorama, Game, Journal, Mobile, Mural, Pamphlet, Poem, Poster, PowerPoint Presentation, Research Paper, Skit, Song, Speech, Story, Timeline, Video, Webpage, etc.)

  • Choice of Resources (Apprenticeships, Library, Mentors, Online Resources, Visual Materials)

  • Choice of Software (Adobe Premier, Audacity, Excel, Google Docs, Inspiration, Jumpcut, Photoshop, PowerPoint, Publisher, Word, etc.)

  • Choice of Tasks (Assignment Bingo Grid, Multiple Format Options for Same Basic Project, Choose #/type of activities for grade you want)

  • Choice of Texts (Audio Text, Computer-based Text, Image-based Text, Multimedia Text, Print-based Text, Video-based Text, etc.; Children's Book, Essay, Newspaper Article, Short Story, Song, etc.)

  • Grouping Students (Individuals, Jigsaw Groups, Mentorships, Pairs, Small Groups, etc., based on students' abilities/aptitudes, interests, learning preferences, and readiness)

  • Level of Support (No help, open book—for last 5 minutes, prompts, use your neighbor for last 5 minutes, verb chart, word bank, etc.)

  • Level of Reading (Vary texts, supplementary materials, scaffolding, or homework by reading level) will help you to determine the reading level required in order for your students to read the things you write

  • Level of Thinking (How much thinking is required--based on Bloom's Taxonomy--changes depending on the capabilities, interests, and needs of the students)

  • Pacing & Timing (The speed with which students move through the material and/or the time allotted for each task varies based on the individual learning preferences, needs, preferences, and skills of individual students.)

  • Questions (The teacher poses different kinds of questions to students based on their interests, learning preferences, skills, and understandings)

  • Voice (Students have a say in what they do, how it is done, or how it is graded)

How does this information link to what we know about the purposes of assessment, planning, and feedback?

CAST: Teaching Every Student (Tools)

When "experts" talk about differentiation, they often refer to three different types of differentiation: differentiation by content, by process, and by product.


Contracts - Students work with the teacher to set individual learning goals, develop action plans for achieving them, determine how progress will be measured, and decide how students will be held accountable for their understanding.

Compacting - A pre-test is used to identify what students know and what skills or understandings students still need to acquire. Students are allowed to skip activities and assignments that are designed to practice what they already know, are given assignments designed to help them fill the gaps in their understanding, and are encouraged to use any free time they might have to pursue enrichment activities of interest to them.


Games - Links to downloadable game templates

Interactive Worksheets - Templates for turning worksheets into interactive activities

Songs - A variety of songs in different languages that can be used to teach various grammatical structures. Be sure to check the songs section of the page for the language that you teach too.


Do you ask students to learn in a variety of different ways in order to better address the special challenges, learning preferences, needs, and personalities of each one?

Learning Centers - The teacher prepares learning centers based on curricular goals, student interests and learning preferences, and unit themes. Students are allowed to decide which centers they will attend (but a minimum number of centers or tasks is required), which tasks they will complete at a given center, and/or, the peers with whom they will work.

Tiered Assignments - Although all students must cover similar content, the teacher develops a continuum of assignments that allow students to explore the key elements of the topic under study at increasingly broader, deeper, more challenging, or more complex levels of coverage, depending on their skills and understandings.

Structuring Discussions
  • Carrousel Brainstorming - Post large pieces of chart paper around the room. Put a topic or question at the top of each sheet. Divide students into groups and give each group's "recorder" a different colored marker. Give each group 30 seconds to 2 minutes to brainstorm a list of items or answers related to the topic or question. When the time ends, have each group move to a new piece of chart paper and continue the process.
  • Focus Questions - Give each small group a list of questions and ask them to choose at least 3 to discuss.
  • Jigsaw - Divide students into groups (1, 2, 3, 4). Give each group a different set of paragraphs to read, a skill or process to learn, etc. When time is called, regroup students so that each new group is comprised of at least one member of the original groups (each group should have a 1, a 2, a 3, and a 4 in it) so that the representative of the original group can teach the information, skill, or process to the new mixed group.
  • Key Ideas - Ask students to identify 3-7 sentences containing key ideas regarding the topic of study.
  • Key Words - Ask students to extract 3-7 key words that summarize the topic of study and devise a graphic organizer that will help others remember them.
  • Prioritization - Give each student a red dot, a green or blue dot, and a yellow dot or Post-it flag. Post a list of ideas, topics, or activities on chart paper around the room and have students "vote" on the topics using their dots. (Red dots=high priority, green/blue dots=moderate priority, yellow dots = low priority). Have students "defend" their choices or attempt to come to consensus on the choices.
  • Read & Retell - Give students something to read, then have them retell it to a partner, adding a personal experience or connection in the process.
  • Round Robin - Seat students in small groups. Call out a controversial question or statement and allow students to express their opinions--but students are only allowed to talk one at a time, according to the order in which they are seated around a round table. Consequently, if they wish to respond to something someone else has said, they must make a note of that so that they can remember the comment they wish to make until it is their turn. When it is their turn, they are only allowed to make one comment and/or ask one question. In this way, all students (including those who are reluctant to speak), get a turn.
  • Talking Chips - Give each student in a group 4 chips of a different color. Students may make comments or ask questions at any time during the small group or whole class discussion, but each time they do, they must "pay" a chip. When they are out of chips, they cannot speak again until everyone has used their chips. Conversely, for each chip the student spends, s/he may earn a point toward some privilege or reward.

Structured Opportunities to Move & Talk

  • Affinity Diagram - Have students jot down key ideas or concerns about a given topic individually on separate Post-it notes, then ask them to work together to organize the ideas or concepts into meaningful sets. Have them label each set.
  • Carrousel - Post chart paper on the wall, write a question on each page, divide participants into groups, give a different colored marker to each group, send a group to each paper, give them one minute to jot down answers to the question, then have them move to the next page.
  • Focus Groups - Divide the tasks into 4 pieces, send a "facilitator" to guide each small group through their piece of the task, pull the whole group back together for the finished product.
  • Four Corners - Provide a variety of readings or topics, form groups by favorites, participants discuss, each person shares the most valuable idea they are taking away from their group's discussion, no comments from others are allowed until everyone has spoken.
  • Grab a Word - Listen to, read, or watch a piece of "text" (an audio clip, statement, or video clip), and then from the center of the table, grab the word that you associate most closely with what you heard, read, or saw.
  • Human Graphing - Once participants have completed a multiple-choice survey, personality quiz, etc., and tallied their results, send them to different locations in the room based on their scores so that everyone can see the visual distribution/clustering of the people in the class.
  • Inside/Outside Circles - Have participants make 2 circles facing one another. Give the people in the inside circle a question, and have the outside circle answer them.
  • Popcorn - Stand and say one word that you associate with the topic.
  • Story Squares - Sketch something in each box related to the topic. Trade papers with a partner. Point to a square on your partner's paper that seems interesting to you and listen to them tell you the story.
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When asking students to show what they know, do you give them a variety of choices for doing so?

Comics & Graphic Novels - Links to information about using comics in education, free comic creation sites, sources for online comics, and other resources and materials related to comics and graphic novels.

Project Ideas - A list of project ideas with downloadable assignment sheets

Teens, Toys, Talkin', & Tech - A lengthy list of technology-related projects (with downloadable materials) that students can use to demonstrate their language skills

21st Century Technologies: Tools for Transforming Language Teaching & Learning - This electronic newsletter from the National Foreign Language Resource Center provides links to a wide variety of ways that students can use new technologies to demonstrate their understanding (especially in the section that begins with Designing . . .)

Robillard, Veronica. (1997). 15 reproducible Spanish write-and-read books: Instant patterns for easy predictable books your studetns help write! NY: Scholastic Professional Books. ISBN 0-439-05176-2. Contains a host of templates designed to scaffold the writing teachers might wish to assign to language learners in elementary school. Most of these would not be cognitively engaging enough to be appropriate for secondary students.

Champion, Jonelle. (1992). Storybook Puppets. (Greensboro, NC 27425: Carson-Dellosa Publishing Co., Inc.) This booklet provides master patterns for paper bag puppet characters.

Gravois, Michael. (1998). 35 ready-to-go ways to publish students' research & writing. NY: Scholastic Professional Books. ISBN 0-590-05014-1. This excellent book contains reproducible templates for a variety of student projects such as data disks, flap books, super trioramas, story cubes, story wheels, etc., which can be adapted to any subject area.

Spann, Mary Beth. (2001). 29 spanish alphabet mini-books: Easy-to-make reproducible books that promote literacy. NY: Scholastic Professional Books. ISBN 0-439-24442-0. Students can use these templates to make and personalize their own mini-book for each letter of the Spanish alphabet.

Irvine, Joan. (1996). How to make holiday pop-ups. NY: Beechtree Paperback Books. ISBN 0-688-13610-9.
This book contains instructions, ideas, and examples of pop-up cards that can serve as inspiration for student projects.

Moore, Helen, H., & Jaime Lucero. (1994). 25 bilingual mini-books: Easy-to-make books for emergent readers, in English and Spanish. New York: Scholastic Professional Books. ISBN 0-590-49802-9. This book contains a set of reproducible mini-books on a variety of topics. They would be perfect for elementary Spanish students, but most of them are too simplistic for high school students (although the English could be whited out as a means of making some of the stories more useable). However, the book is worth purchasing due to the variety of formats it uses for the mini-books which high school students could replicate when making their own mini-books.


Learning Center Lesson Plan Assignment


ACTFL Position Statement on Diversity & Inclusion in Language Programs



What are some of the resources teachers could use to learn more about differentiating instruction for their students?


Gregory, Gayle H., & Chapman, Carolyn. (2002). Differentiated instructional strategies: One size doesn't fit all. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc. ISBN 0-76199-4551-2. This teacher-friendly book outlines key principles related to differentiating instruction for students at the individual, assignment, and curricular levels. It explains the relationship between differentiated instruction and assessment, classroom climate, instructional strategies, and learning preferences. It also contains a variety of extremely useful and practical charts, diagrams, ideas, templates, and tools for supporting teachers in experimenting with these principles. Image source: (excerpts from the book can also be viewed at this link.)

Hall, Tracey, Strangman, Nicole, & Meyer, Anne. (2006). Differentiated instruction and implications for UDL development. CAST: Universal Design for Learning. Retrieved March 28, 2006, from This report explains how principles of Universal Design for Learning can support teachers' efforts to differentiate instruction while simultaneously meeting the needs of students with special needs.

DifInstHeacox.jpgHeacox, Diane. (2002). Differentiating instruction in the regular classroom: How to reach and teach all learners, grades 3-12. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. ISBN 1-57542-105-4. This outstanding book offers a useful introduction to differentiated instruction, information on learning preferences and curriculum mapping, super examples of strategies for differentiating instruction (including flexible grouping, tiered assignments, project-based differentiation, and ideas for early finishers), techniques for managing differentiated instruction and grading, and an entire chapter on differentiating for students with special needs. The appendices contain sample letters for families, ideas for differentiating classroom discussions, and other helpful materials. Image source:

Mixed Ability Classrooms

DiffInstMixedAbil.jpg Tomlinson, Carol Ann. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-
ability classrooms. (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. ISBN 0-87120-512-2.

This book:
  • defines differentiated instruction (in conjunction with helpful examples),
  • offers an excellent rationale for using differentiated instruction in mixed-ability classrooms,
  • provides techniques for preparing students and parents for a differentiated approach to instruction,
  • discusses the role of the environment, the teacher, and grading in a differentiated classroom,
  • outlines helpful classroom management strategies, and
  • explains how to differentiate content, process, products.

It will be especially helpful to teachers and professional developers who are seeking to deepen their conceptual understanding of differentiated instruction and effective approaches implementing it. Image source: (Sample chapters from the book and study questions can be viewed here also.