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Process refers to the way students come to understand essential knowledge and ideas. Carol Ann Tomlinson (2004), one of the most respected voices in differentiation, uses the term "sense making" to describe what happens as students begin to process what they are learning and make it their own.




Planning the Process: Getting Started

  • Decide which concepts, essential knowledge and ideas do students need to know and understand at the end of the learning process.
  • Determine the kinds of activities that will allow students to explore and make sense of these concepts.
  • Plan questions that will encourage students to think, e.g. open-ended and higher order questions.
  • Assess student readiness and design tasks that are just a bit beyond what they can do on their own.
  • Consider using scaffolding to support students. 

Sense Making Activities

Differentiation occurs when the teacher offers a variety of ways for students to make sense of what they are learning. When this is combined with different degrees of complexity and appropriate support more students are able to arrive at new understanding.

Students make or do something...

for example:

  • work on a project
  • solve a problem
  • research a topic
  • add description to a piece of writing
  • have a discussion
  • contribute to the success of a group
In a variety of ways...

for example, 

  • through talk, role-play, reading, writing, media, hands-on productions,
  • in groups, pairs and independently
At different levels of complexity or sophistication...

for example, in a literature circle:

  • some students may talk about plot and main character in a story
  • while others, discuss the way an author uses symbolism in her/his writing
With different degrees of support from teacher and/or peers...

through strategies such as:

Using essential skills and information...


  • collaborating
  • creating
  • analyzing
  • thinking critically
  • problem solving
  • communicating
  • reflecting
  • evaluating


It is essential that all students have opportunities to engage in relevant, authentic, meaningful tasks that push them a bit beyond what they find comfortable. Teachers differentiate process to match the readiness, interest and learning profiles of their students.

The following strategies help students process information and ideas in ways that work best for them.

Learning logs Jigsaw Exit Cards
Graphic organizers Think-Pair-Share Dramatization
Learning centres  Mind mapping Anchor Activities
Literature Circles Tiered Activities Journal Prompts