A good readiness match extends a student’s knowledge, understanding and skills a bit beyond what the student can do independently and then provides support in bridging the gap.

Carol Ann Tomlinson

How To Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms, 2nd ed. ASCD. 2001

Readiness refers to what students already know, understand and are able to do. Before beginning to teach something new we need to determine an individual student’s readiness for the new learning in order to create appropriate learning activities and experiences. When instruction is tied to readiness we are more likely to have success moving students ahead. The key is getting to know our students well.


Readiness is influenced by a number of factors including prior learning, life experiences, and attitudes about school. Readiness can vary widely over time, and in different contexts. The more we knowledge we have, the better our insight into what they know and how we can help them learn.

Factors that affect readiness include :

  • prior knowledge

  • interest

  • mother tongue

  • early experiences with language and reading

  • social skills/behaviour

  • economic factors

  • home situations



Use a variety of ways to find out what students know before introducing new learning, such as :

  • observations

  • checklists

  • learning logs/journals

  • discussions

  • quizzes

  • student interest surveys

  • Decide what skills or background knowledge need to be taught in order for students to make sense of what they are learning.

  • Identify key points where students are likely to fall behind or develop misunderstandings and plan instruction accordingly.

  • Continue to monitor learning to check for understanding.

When presenting content...

  • Use a variety of ways to present new information to students.

  • Provide reading material at different levels so as to match readiness to appropriately challenging/interesting texts

  • Bookmark websites that match student readiness and interests.

  • Use small group or individualized instruction to close gaps in background knowledge or reteach skills.

When students are working on sense-making activities (process)...

Adjust the levels of complexity, abstraction and degree of structure to match students’ readiness levels.

For example :

  • provide graphic organizers that vary in degree of difficulty/complexity

  • break activities into smaller parts

  • provide more structured directions for those who need them

  • plan questions that challenge students at different levels

  • use tiered activities based upon students’ levels of understanding and prior knowledge.

  • provide anchor activities that students can work on independently as needed throughout the process

  • use flexible groupings

When planning for the final product...

  • Provide some resource material in a student’s mother tongue.

  • Allow students to use technology, e.g. a spell-check program.

  • Provide structure in terms of timelines, check-in times, etc. for completing various components of a product.

  • Provide models of effective student work at different levels of complexity to match students’ readiness levels.

  • When possible allow students some choice of possible products based on their readiness levels.

  • Allow students to complete the product in different ways.


Edutopia offers 15+ Readiness Resources for Driving Student Success with many helpful and easy to implement suggestions.


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