illustration showing Easel features like the pen tool and a movable shape.

Providing differentiation for students is a critical instructional practice backed by learning science. But supporting differentiated instruction can become time-consuming for educators, which is one area where digital solutions can help. That’s why Easel by TpT™ was built with effective instructional practices in mind — based on a review of relevant peer-reviewed research, interviews with educators, and industry reports. This easy-to-use suite of digital tools for teachers supports differentiated instruction and integrates additional instructional best practices that learning science recommends.

Defining Differentiation in Today’s Instruction 

Supporting differentiated instruction in today’s tech-integrated learning environments is vastly different than it used to be when instruction was solely delivered in the traditional in-person classroom environment. So let’s quickly review the definition of “differentiation.”

“In the context of education, we define differentiation as a teacher’s reacting responsively to a learner’s needs. A teacher who is differentiating understands a student’s needs to express humor, or work with a group, or have additional teaching on a particular skill, or delve more deeply into a particular topic, or have guided help with a reading passage…differentiation is simply attending to the learning needs of a particular student or small group of students rather than the more typical pattern of teaching the class as though all individuals in it were basically alike.” 

(Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Learning science shows us that adapting instruction to meet individual needs through differentiation leads to benefits including enhanced learning opportunities (Tomlinson et al., 2003) and improved student achievement (Reis et al., 2011; Rock et al., 2008). So how can teachers put differentiation into practice in today’s increasingly digital learning environments? Unsurprisingly, many teachers have innovated to deliver new methods of differentiating by using a range of online tools. However, using this vast array of digital solutions can create additional work and cause tech fatigue. That’s where Easel can simplify and streamline the experience for educators.

Using Easel for Delivering Differentiated Instruction   

With Easel’s suite of intuitive digital tools, providing differentiated instruction becomes easier for educators. It’s as simple as creating or customizing personalized, interactive resources in order to meet the needs of individual students, small groups, or the whole class.

Plus, using Easel for differentiation changes how teachers approach lesson planning, delivery, and grading by keeping activities within a single interactive platform that can be accessed from any digital device — making it a seamless learning experience whether you’re in-person, hybrid, or remote. Students can access assignments via Google Classroom™ or through an assignment link and they can then complete and turn in their assignments right on Easel, where teachers can respond to and return student work. 

Easel Features to Support Differentiated Instruction

Edit pages: With the ability to customize pages within an Easel Activity, teachers can:

  • Remove a page of practice questions that might not be relevant to students’ needs.
  • Add your own page of practice questions that are tailored to the needs or interests of your students. 
  • Create different versions of a given resource to suit different students’ abilities.

Movable pieces: Easel provides the ability to add movable shapes and movable text so teachers can:

  • Support visual or kinesthetic learners with virtual manipulatives for sorting, labeling exercises, and more.
  • Provide students with multiple ways to demonstrate their learning: e.g., students can show their thinking in math using movable counters as well as written text explanations. Or students could draw, write a poem, or create a poster — all within Easel — to demonstrate their learning.
  • Hide content that isn’t on level.

Text and pen tools: Using the answer box, text, and pen tools, teachers are able to:

  • Provide scaffolding by adding extra instructions, writing key words and definitions at the beginning of a lesson, circling and underlining important ideas, and more.
  • Encourage students to draw, mark up text, make comments, and add their own questions to demonstrate learning.
  • Add challenge questions — such as higher-order, and open-ended questions — or expand upon content.
  • Add interest surveys about related topics to gather additional differentiating information.

Highlighter: Using the highlighting tool, teachers can: 

  • Point out key words, phrases, and concepts to students.
  • Empower students to indicate supporting evidence for their answers or make note of key content they’ve found.

Link sharing: Teachers can generate discrete activity links and codes to:

  • Assign activities to specific groups or individuals via Google Classroom.
  • Customize and assign different versions of the same Easel Activity to meet students where they are.

Learn more about the learning science behind Easel and incorporating instructional best practices in our research report.*

How Are You Using Easel to Differentiate?

Do you have tips on how to use Easel to differentiate? We’d love to hear them! Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook and tag #EaselByTpT to share your ideas. And keep an eye out, as we may feature your ideas on social media or our blog!

Learn More About Easel

Still getting the hang of Easel? Find some quick how-to’s here, or try this interactive tutorial to walk through the basic tools and functionality.

Start creating interactive lessons, just how you want, with Easel by TpT. And if you have a TpT School Access subscription, get started with Easel here.

Easel by TpT is also available with TpT School Access — the school-funded subscription that gives educators access to nearly 4 million teacher-created resources, without paying out of pocket. Refer your principal and share this report with them.

Research Citations

Differentiating Instruction in Response to Student Readiness, Interest, and Learning Profile in Academically Diverse Classrooms: A Review of Literature

Leadership for Differentiating Schools & Classrooms

The Effects of Differentiated Instruction and Enrichment Pedagogy on Reading Achievement in Five Elementary Schools

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